New Year Solutions: Creating the Future


Happy New Year!

As we begin the new year, I want to acknowledge with deep gratitude the clients, colleagues, and close friends who contributed to my growth this past year, both personally and professionally. You know who you are. Thank you for being part of my personal journey and the Synerlogic story! I look forward to continuing our conversations and collaborations in the year ahead.

Randy Evans
CEO/Principal Consultant


Letting go of the past, accepting the present, creating the future

In this time of increasing complexity and widespread uncertainty, perhaps this New Year might serve as an opportunity to let go of the past, embrace the present, and intentionally create a future that aligns with your purpose, core values, and shared commitments.

In turning the page to a new year on the calendar, we seem to acknowledge—perhaps more acutely than at other times—the close connections among the present moment and the past and future.

Edmund Burke is credited with the idea that we have a duty to the past, the present, and the future. A deeper read of Burke suggests a more nuanced view, acknowledging the importance of past events while also recognizing that change is inevitable and that individuals and societies must adapt, giving weight to what came before while also considering the needs of our present moment and future generations.

In a similar vein, writing in the late 1960s, John McHale, an early-era technology futurist and author, wrote the following:

Future of the past lies in the future
Future of the present lies in the past
Future of the future lies in the present.


The future of the past lies in the future

Our brains seem to be hardwired to view our current understanding of our identity and the world around us as something that is fixed and unchangeable. This is true both for individuals and organizations. We make plans and develop strategies as if we will be the same individuals and the same organizations in one or two or three years, even though we acknowledge we are very different from who we were one or two or three years in the past.

Psychologists refer to this as the End of History Illusion, a well-documented subconscious belief in the constancy of the world as it is today. This cognitive bias causes us to underestimate how much things may change in the future even while we acknowledge just how much things have changed in the past.

Much has been written about the events of the past year (and the years that preceded it). This is what we do as humans. We seek to understand, and to make sense of the world in which we find ourselves. Regardless of the actual events that transpired, though, the events themselves have no intrinsic meaning. We give meaning to the events. Our tendency to wrap together an arbitrary number of past events and tie them together with a solitary label (e.g., success, failure, hardship, etc.) is a cognitive trap that keeps us from seeing new opportunities on the road ahead.

In a similar vein, our collective understanding of past events will continue to evolve well into the future. No matter how much we may try, we will not be the final arbiters of what past events mean. Future generations (and future versions of our selves) will create their own meaning of the past.

So, as we venture into the new year, feel free to look in the rear view mirror and take stock of the past (more on this below). As you do this, it might also help to acknowledge that the view from the rear view mirror will be quite different another mile or two down the road. And anything more than a quick glance in the rear view mirror may keep you from seeing a fork or bend in the road ahead.


The future of the present lies in the past

While the End of History Illusion can trap us in our present-day interpretation of past events, the opposite risk is to deny or minimize the impact that the past has on our present-day options and opportunities.

The built environments that shape our present-day experience—the human-made structures, institutions, and networks that direct the physical elements and energy of living, working, playing, and other forms of human activity—are inextricably connected to the material, spatial, and cultural products of the past. While we may have a wide range of choices available to us in the present moment, those choices are largely determined by and constrained by choices made in the past.

This is the value in taking stock of the past. By recognizing how past events, actions, and decisions inform and shape our present-day realities, we can better appreciate and accept the present as it is, not as we wish it to be. This also can open our awareness of how our present choices and actions shape future options and opportunities.


The future of the future lies in the present

The choices that will be available to us in the future—both individually and collectively—will be shaped by and in many ways constrained by the choices that we make in the present moment. The seeds we plant today determine the harvest that is reaped in the future.

In today’s world, many organizational leaders face seemingly impossible challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic and other social, economic, and political factors—together with rapid technological and scientific developments—have greatly complicated business realities, family dynamics, and the lives of individuals.
In a time of volatility and great uncertainty, it is even more critical to adopt a mindset of radical acceptance, embracing the present as being exactly as it is in this moment.

A client, the CEO of a technology company, recently shared about the deep divisions between the executive and the company’s board of directors. The executive felt stuck, to the point that the only option appeared to be an immediate exit from the company.

Through a process of open dialogue, the executive began to develop a new appreciation that there were many ways to interpret the present situation and preceding events. This led to an awareness of additional options and solutions. This included a way to work through the current challenges as well as a longer-term exit strategy that would be less disruptive to the company and more advantageous to the executive. This kind of open awareness can only emerge when we accept the present as it exists, not as we wish it to be.

There seems to be a widespread misunderstanding of acceptance, one that conflates acceptance with resignation. In many respects, these are opposite positions.

Resignation stems from a place of powerlessness, a feeling that nothing can be done to impact the direction of future outcomes.

Acceptance flows from a place of observation and open awareness, noting the connections between past events and our present situation without judgment and without wishing things were different. This embrace of the present moment allows us to center ourselves within our core values and deeper sense of purpose, and then we can ask what is possible in this moment to advance our objectives and commitments.


From New Year’s Resolutions to New Solutions

The dictionary defines resolution to mean the act or process of resolving. The term resolve can mean either find an answer or solution (i.e., to solve), or make a definite and serious decision to do something. When we talk about New Year’s Resolutions, we typically mean this second definition (make a serious decision). Perhaps it might serve us better to reference the first definition (i.e., focus on solutions).

The etymology of the word resolve suggests a process of melting, dissolving, separating into component parts. It derives from the word elements re-, referring to “back” + solvere, meaning to loosen, untie, release.

Perhaps this New Year might be an opportunity to release the past, loosen our attachment to our present-day understanding of events, and then ask what is possible in this present moment that might best advance our deeper sense purpose, our core values, and shared commitments.

Wishing you the very best in the year ahead!

Share the post