Define your day by the way you invest (not spend) its first moments. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO, careful to turn off her cellphone when she goes to sleep says: "I check my e-mail the first thing in the morning, and the last thing at night." Like many of us, Sheryl squanders the first moments of each day, moments that are pregnant with the embryo of undefined opportunity.
Using the first moments of the day to check emails takes your attention away from what is emerging in the future and focuses it on what is receeding into the past: things that have already happened. "Energy follows attention," as C. Otto Scharmer, co-author of Leading from the Emerging Future, writes, and so by applying your attention to your emails, which are all about things that have already happened, you are giving energy to what has been rather than to what could be. In so doing, you curb potential and instantly abort the unborn embryo of unlimited opportunity.
The past has an energy that tends to keep us rooted in it. However, the future, already emerging, also has an energy that is capable of pulling us towards it if we unlock it. The reason we are more naturally and forcefully pulled back to the past than attracted to the future is because we give more attention to the past. A simple example of this past-directed attention happens every time you might say to a child "stop being disrespectful!" or to an employee "why are you always late?" In both examples you are focused on past behaviors and are giving energy to the past. This adds to the force of inertia and makes change so challenging. You can elicit the force of the future by saying instead, "Please be more respectful in future," or "In future, please make an effort to be punctual."
In Scharmer's metaphor of the letter-U, time has three components: The downward stroke of the left vertical representing the receding past and everything outside of you that has been created by this past, the upward stroke of the right vertical representing the emerging future and the horizontal space in between them which represents the present moment powered both by the forces of the past and those of a new emergent reality. You need to detach yourself somewhat from the receding past to presense (a word brilliantly coined by Scharmer made up both of the idea of being present and of pre-sensing something that is still embryonic) the newly emerging, but as yet unknown, future. Once you allow yourself to presense the emergent future and give it attention, you also give it the energy to pull you towards it.
Scharmer describes the process of presencing:
"...the experience called "presencing" often carries with it ideas for meeting challenges and for bringing into being an otherwise impossible future... Presencing is a journey with five movements: We move down one side of the U (connecting us to the world that is outside of our institutional bubble) to the bottom of the U (connecting us to the world that emerges from within) and up the other side of the U (bringing forth the new into the world). On that journey, at the bottom of the U, lies an inner gate that requires us to drop everything that isn't essential. This process of letting-go (of our old ego and self) and letting-come (our highest future possibility: our Self) establishes a subtle connection to a deeper source of knowing. The essence of presencing is that these two selves - our current self and our best future Self - meet at the bottom of the U and begin to listen and resonate with each other. Once a group crosses this threshold, nothing remains the same. Individual members and the group as a whole begin to operate with a heightened level of energy and sense of future possibility. Often they then begin to function as an intentional vehicle for an emerging future. "
As we wake up each morning, we are at the bottom of the U. We can take a few moments to let go and let come. We can use the first moments of the day to imagine how by living our higher selves, we could make something of today that is different from the behaviors and reactions of yesterday. By choosing the ways we act, we can change the ways others will react. By thinking of our overarching life-purpose and the value-drivers that make our choices authentically unique we can give new energy to the person or leader we want to be in the future rather than the recycled individual formed only by the past. We can create our day and influence its outcomes rather than fill it with our habitual reactions to what has already occurred.
When you awaken each day, pause at the bottom of the U before you turn on your phone and do not allow it to pull all of your attention into the past and leave no head and heart space for the future. The future is only a moment away but it is illusive if you don't focus on it. Try not to abort the embryo of undefined opportunity before it is born. Allow it to reach its full term. Only then take a look at your email and respond to them from the future that you have presensed and that you want to actualize.
Lapin International's Lead By Greatness™ coaches are expert at helping clients develop the art of presenseing their own future greatness, activating it, and making choices from the place of that greatness rather than from their repetitive patterns of habitual behavior. Feel free to contact one of them directly or through firstname.lastname@example.org.