Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Contemplation about the Past, Present and Future

Learn from the past, live in today and look forward to the future!

Time is continually moving forward. How much time separates, "the future," from, "the present," (if any) and what do we mean today when we talk about, "the future." Are we marking the passage of time? And what does the current thinking about the relationship between the past, present, and future, say about us as an individual, a business or a society? What are those interesting and insightful quotes in manifesting the past, the present and the future?

The cognitive view of time: The way the brain processes past (memory) present (experience colored by memory) and future, (memory stimulated by imagination) results in the ability to "mental time travel." So to the traveler, there is no difference depending on the intensity with which each phase is experienced. If you have intense memory and acute imagination, then past and future can be as real as each other. To those with less developed, or consciously suppressed faculties, only the present is real. That's the cognitive view.

The historical & philosophical view of time: People always say you shouldn't live in the past. But there are valuable lessons to draw on in one's past from time to time. The past holds comforting thoughts in times of great stress or pain. So in some ways, the past is always present. It has value. However, the positive and forward-looking view of life is more about thinking ahead, to prepare and face the challenges and uncertainty on the way to the future. The philosophical view is more problematic, especially when thinking forward, because the consequences of legacy - not owning, but holding in trust for future generations - brings a question of harm to the future in decision and planning. The further away the future impact, the harder it is for those living in today to see any reason to care.

The business view of organizational life cycle: The life cycle of business today grows shorter and shorter because analysts and investors need a reason to drive share price up or down: You see a conjunction of cognitive and philosophical thinking with a decidedly short term model where the present extends to an annual forecast and the future is no more than a year or two. It takes truly strategic thinking and foresight to run a business, learn from its historical root (past), keep the light on (today) and make a long term plan for the future.

The insightful quotes about the past, present, and future:
  • We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow. - Fulton Oursler
  • In today already walks tomorrow. - Friedrich von Schiller
  • The future is an opaque mirror. Anyone who tries to look into it sees nothing but the dim outlines of an old and worried face. - Jim Bishop
  • One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living.
  • We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon, instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today. - Dale Carnegie
  • We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there. - Charles F Kettering
  • The past can't see you, but the future is listening. - Destin Figuier
  • And in today already walks tomorrow. - Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • A preoccupation with the future not only prevents us from seeing the present as it is but often prompts us to rearrange the past. - Eric Hoffer
  • The course of life is unpredictable... no one can write his autobiography in advance. - Abraham Joshua Heschel

The past is a time beyond reach. The future is the time being created. The present is when you have the time to think about them all. So learn from the past, enjoy today and look forward to the future.


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