I Feel, Therefore I Am, The Affect Revolution.
How to use feelings on purpose to motivate you, monitor and negotiate the future you want to evolve into.
Can you feel the future? No, don’t be silly the future doesn’t exist yet, so how can you feel it? Feelings are, after all the mental experiences of body states, and the body lives in the present.
All true, but… yes there is a but. You, as a human being, come with the amazing gift of self-projection also known as mental time-travel. With your time-travelling gift, you can simulate possible futures by creating a mental image of yourself in the future. This is referred to as prospection in psychology.
So, take a moment to use your time-travelling gift by imagining that you are at your next or preferred holiday destination. Are you there? Yes… ta-da you’ve just prospected yourself, wonderful!.
Now, keep that image of your next holiday in mind. Make it as vivid as you can. How does it make you feel? With feeling I mean a sensation in your body: warmth, contentment, happiness, relaxation, gratefulness… Can you enter into any of these feeling or all at the same time? Bingo, you’ve just practised felt-prospection. You felt the future or at least evoked a feeling of a simulation of a possible future scenario.
Feelings, according to neurobiologist and author of a.o. “The strange order of things,” Antonio Damasio, have three primary functions: to motivate, monitor and negotiate.
In the process of evolving on purpose, you can use feelings purposefully for exactly these functions. You can use feelings
- to motivate yourself to evolve on purpose,
- to help you monitor your progress, but also
- to help you negotiate (decide and make) the necessary changes when your evolution isn’t what you expected, or when you’re doing great to do even better and evolve further on your path.
Use #feelings to #motivate you to #evolve, #monitor your #progress and help you making the necessary changes when needed or step it up a notch. #evolvingonpurpose #futurizeyourselfTweet
To give you a personal example, I’ve used the three feeling functions this week when I was feeling a bit down. In these strange weeks where I can’t work at my osteopathy practise – and I’m obliged to stay at home like so many other people here in Belgium and around the world – yes, I felt at one moment a bit under the weather.
Yes, even when futurized to fear and doubt do still overcome me, but I’ve learned that they are part of a normal learning process. The future is unpredictable, stays and always will be a big unknown, and it is difficult to prepare for all scenario's. Just look at the scenario that is playing out today. Although I did see the TED talk by Microsoft founder Bill Gates - who warned us in 2015 that the next greatest risk of global catastrophe was not war but a highly infectious virus - it was not in any of my personal future scenario’s. It was just inconceivable, so I did not and am not prepared for this.
However, by using felt-prospection as a strategy I was able to quickly and effectively change and reaset (return to ease) my moody blues into realistic optimism and to realign myself with a deeper sense of meaning and purpose.
How I used it is fairly straightforward. In my moment of weakness I wrote down the feelings I know I want to feel on an ideal day. These feelings I defined when I futurize myself 20 years ago (motivated me to become who I am today) and haven’t changed since. These feelings are: feeling happy, fulfilled, content, grateful, meaningful and energetic. I scored each feeling on a level of zero to ten (monitor). Every score below five, I then gave an action plan (negotiate) that I could do during the day to make sure I felt better at the end of the day.
For example I gave ‘meaningful’ a 2. Yes, I wasn’t feeling very meaningful sitting at home and not being allowed to work with patients. Instead, I was working behind my computer, reading articles for this post and writing the draft which was doing something meaningful for me at that moment but with so much misery out there I didn’t feel very meaningful to others. Suddenly I was overwhelmed and sad with how little I was contributing to the world outside.
So when I became aware of this by writing (monitoring) it down I was thinking (negotiating) how can I change this feeling within the constraints of the moment? My solution I wrote next to the 2 was ‘do something for someone else’. Plain and simple. How I was going to do that I didn’t know, but I knew that during the day I had to be meaningful for at least one other person.
Then a friend called, to talk about a podcast I want to create around the theme of this blog and book (shhh, it’s still a secret don’t tell anyone). During our inspiring conversation, I shared my feeling, and she reminded me that I was being meaningful by staying at home as I was protecting health services and saving lives by not contaminating anybody. My feeling immediately changed and was really grateful for that reminder.
That afternoon I also went for a walk, and on my walk I picked up trash (Since I’ve met and watched Jean-Paul Meus give a talk on his 10 minutes litter pick up routine I walk equipped with gloves and a bag) which also made me feel better. Picking up litter (trash) is a service to the community so a very meaningful activity.
PS. JP has now more than 1426 days where picked up trash for minimum 10 minutes a day. He’s very much a HERO in my eyes.
So I did two things that day that lifted my mood and gave me a better feeling about myself.
That said felt-prospection has been part of my futurizing process since the beginning. Although I didn’t realise it at the time.
In the year 2000, when I was asked to describe a perfect day in ten years time by Eline (read the full story in Futurize Yourself – Design you life on Purpose) I imagined a life based on my potential would result in feeling more fulfilled and happy (see photo below).
I could feel that imagined future scenario even though at that time, I was deeply depressed and suicidal.
Over the years I’ve been asking myself how I managed to overcome so many of the obstacles. Although three questions saved my life, it was that one phrase that you can see in the picture above (I’m a therapist…) and the feelings it gave me that provided me with the motivation to evolve on purpose to become who I was born to be and am today.
I felt and believed that I could feel more happy and fulfilled if I was living a life on as a therapist, communicator, teacher, researcher and traveller. Although far-fetched (I was running a gourmet deli at the time), It felt right somehow. I can’t explain why, but it did.
Today, I can tell you that my imagined feeling has become reality.
Now, try this technique for yourself and use for example the image of a perfect day after the coronavirus crisis, when we have entered a ‘new normal’ situation.
Make yourself comfortable and relax. Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing and try to slow it down to 6 breaths a minute. As you are settling yourself into the easiness of your breath imagine - whatever your situation today - an ideal day in the future. You feel content with yourself as you just had the most amazing fulfilling day. You have a big smile on your face and your eyes sparkle and your whole body feels vibrant. Yes, I can see you… you are shining, you look amazing. Your body feels vibrant and light. Now hold that feeling within, focus on your breath again and open your eyes.
How do you feel?
Now, if you haven’t done so already, find your potential and design your life on purpose and do the same exercise as above imagining an ideal day where you are expressing your potential.
Feel the future, today.
Next on ‘Evolving on Purpose’ is reconnecting the dots with my previous blog post DON’t start with why!
Stay tuned 😉🙏🏻
- T. Meyers (2018). Futurize Yourself – Design your life on Purpose
- A. Damasio (2018). The strange order of things : life, feeling, and the making of cultures. Kindle Edition.