Picture this: You are in a room with your extended family. It might be a celebratory lunch, a special birthday, Christmas dinner, or some other festive occasion. And yet, it is not quite as exhilarating, and definitely not like it ‘used’ to be. The children are all young adults now, forging out careers and living independent lives with their chosen partners. Of course, it’s always nice to catch up, but the excitement of young children and the connectedness you once had have morphed into something new and different.
So what can you do? You can feel sadness and mourn the closeness that once was—always knowing that the foundations and closeness you built over many years are ready to be tapped into when needed. Or you can start a journey of discovery and explore what your ‘picture of the future’ might be. Sometimes, letting go of the past can make way for the joy and excitement of what is to come.
When working with people in human services, Wayne McCashen, author of The Strengths Approach (expanded second edition 2017) discusses developing a ‘Picture of the Future’.
‘Developing a picture of the future helps people get in touch with and describe their aspirations. It consists of two inter-related processes:
- Exploring future possibilities and ways of being (exploring aspirations, hopes and dreams)
- Developing concrete description of what people will be doing/what will be happening when the problem no longer exists (setting goals).
The picture of the future is people’s vision of what they want things to be like. It is a description of what will be happening when the issues are resolved, including how they will be feeling and what they will be doing. This provides a meaningful context for change efforts. The picture of the future (people’s values and aspirations) becomes a point of reference or theme for setting goals. Goal setting is the process of describing (and recording), in specific and concrete terms, the desired outcomes that arise from the picture of the future.
Questions for developing a picture of the future
Questions that assume positive change are characteristic of questions that help develop a picture of the future. Some questions for developing a picture of the future might include:
- What do you want to be different?
- What do you want to be happening instead?
- How will that make a difference?
- What are your hopes?
- What do you want for yourself and your life?
- What do you really value in life?
- How would you be feeling if these issues were not in your life?
- What would you be doing that would help you to feel this way?
- What would others be doing?
- If you could change one thing what would it be?
- If there were a miracle and things were different what would you be doing?’ (pp 126, 127)
Going back to the ‘picture this’ scenario we started with, maybe asking yourself even a few of the questions above can help in moving through this, or any other, phase of your life. Strengths-based practitioners know that focussing on the picture of the future is a valuable approach when working with others, but it is helpful to remember that a strengths approach to our own life’s stages and foibles can work for us as well.
The Strengths Approach book (second edition) and Picture This photographic cards, together, can provide a practice framework and a practical tool to help all of us discover our ‘picture of the future’.