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Future Memories of Success

by | May 8, 2024

Memories. By the very definition of the word it immediately conjures up events from the past. We think about our past in the form of memories, good ones and bad ones, as they form a bit of a backdrop in our thought processes throughout the day.  How we’ve done and what has occurred in our past often shapes what we believe our future will be like. 

But what if you had a memory of something that has not happened yet? What would you want that memory to look like? The possibilities are endless! Your future is wide open to however and whatever you want to envision it to be. What awesome memories that can make!

So how can we cultivate these future memories of success? Enter Positive Psychology! Popularized by Martin Seligman in the 1990s positive psychology focuses on what we can do to bring about our own sense of happiness. Seligman created the PERMA Theory of Well Being:

  • P – Positive Emotion
  • E – Engagement
  • R – Relationships
  • M – Meaning
  • A – Accomplishment

While many forms of psychotherapy have focused on problems in a root-cause analysis fashion, positive psychology endeavors to cultivate a more optimistic approach focusing on the positive strengths within an individual.

Charles Snyder’s Hope Theory is one prime example of positive psychology. Here through the science of biology, when we spend time considering future memories of our own success our brains begin to reinforce and find additional pathways to our goals. Additionally our agency, or self efficacy, is also strengthened when we consider our future hopes realized. This in turn allows us to find additional pathways toward our goals whenever one pathway is blocked.

More Than A Miracle

Solution Focused Brief Therapy, an evidence-based methodology rooted in positive psychology, traditionally has used a technique known as The Miracle Question. In this method the client is asked to consider if a miracle occurred while they were sleeping such that when they woke up the problems that brought them into therapy had been miraculously resolved. With the problem removed the client would then describe what their life would look like in this post-problematic world. As the client has been preoccupied with the problem it may have been difficult for them to persevere through it because they could not envision themselves in a world where it no longer existed. With the burden of the problem now lifted positive futures become possible.

Modern Solution Focused Brief Therapy has evolved the Miracle Question. Now rather than considering the absence of the problem the client is asked to consider the presence of something. This is a subtle but significant shift. The client engages in painting a detailed picture of the presence of their desired outcome. By painstakingly detailing this future memory of success through identifying everything from sights, sounds, and smells to thoughts and feelings of the client as well as others, as they walk through a day in the life of their future selves, the client is able to visualize this as a near-term future reality.

What’s Past is Prologue….Or Is It?

This often cited quote from Shakespeare’s The Tempest postulates that history sets the context for the present. That either the past has been a set of events that have led to a current unavoidable destiny or everything from the past has led to this point, but our destiny is ours to choose.

When we’re struggling in our lives or our relationships it becomes easy to look back to other times we were struggling and conclude that we may always have difficulties.  We may feel trapped and sense that we can never be successful due to failures in the past. This negative thought pattern can feed on itself and spiral into a state of depression.

However, all hope is not lost! Another technique of modern Solution Focused Brief Therapy is to walk through past memories of success. This is an exercise that takes concerted effort. It’s much easier for us to remember past failures when we’re not feeling hopeful about our future. However, this is a very critical time to do just this. Just as when we took time to consider our future memories of success it’s equally important to review and scour the past for even the smallest examples of our success. Once again we go into very fine detail about those positive memories, no matter how small or fleeting. What were we doing? Who was there? When was it? What else was happening when that was happening?

As we walk through these details we will find small ingredients to our recipe for success. It takes a bit of detective work but ingredients are there if you look for them. For example, I’d been trying to lose 10 pounds and not finding a diet and exercise plan that worked for me. I was searching for something new but little did I know I had something from my past that I had simply overlooked. Asking myself what on the surface seemed like a silly question – “When was the last time I lost weight and how did I do it?” I struggled to come up with an answer initially. Humorously I noted that when I was sick with the flu I lost several pounds. Now no one wants to get sick in order to lose weight but upon further examination I remembered that at that time when I was sick I could hardly eat anything. The only things I could keep down for two weeks was broth and saltines. Wait! What? Broth and saltines. Details! Right there were two ingredients in my recipe for success in losing weight. I didn’t need to be sick but I could take a diet of only eating broth and saltines for two weeks. It worked for me before so there is a high probability it can work for me again. 

Remember, if something is not working, try something else. If something is working, do more of it!

Building Your Future Memories of Success

So how can you start to build your own future memories of success? Try these steps:

STEP 1: Find a nice quiet, comfortable place where you will not be disturbed. Sit in a comfortable position.

STEP 2: Put yourself into a self induced hypnotic state. A state where you will be more open to suggestion. There are a wide variety of ways of doing this. For some it’s as simple as three long deep breaths where with each successive breath they tell themselves to clear their mind of everything other than this very moment. For others repeating a mantra can be helpful. Find what works best for you.

Step 3: Consider something you would like to see happening in your life or a personal goal. Bear in mind this should be the presence of something rather than the absence of something. If you find yourself thinking of something you would like to NOT happen ask yourself what you would like to see happening INSTEAD. 

Step 4: Now imagine the presence of that something is already happening in your life. In this state paint as many fine level details about this future memory as you can. What does this success look like? What are the sights, sounds, tastes, and smells of it? What are the feelings you are getting from this? What are other people doing? Who else is there? How are they reacting to this? When this future memory is happening in your life what other things are also happening? How did you make this happen? What does it say about you that you could make this happen? Details, details, and more details. 

Step 5: Stay in this detailed future memory as long as you feel comfortable to do so. When you are ready take three deep breaths to help file this future memory of success deep in your mind, body, and soul.

Learning to envision your positive future as well as scouring your past for your successful moments together can be a powerful combination for self esteem, self efficacy, and happiness. I hope you’re as excited for your future as I am!

If you’re ready to dive deeper the team at Holistic Wellness Practice have training in solution focused positive psychology, cognitive behavioral therapy, and mindfulness training that can help take steps toward your future self.

References

  • The Generic and Classic Self-Hypnosis Outcome Generator – Creating Future Memories (Eason, 2017)
  • Creating Memories of the Future – A Journey of Hope (Emery, 2018)
  • Memory For The Future (Suddendorf, Corballlis, 2007)
  • Positive Psychology and Positive Interventions (Seligman, 2010)

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We offer in-person and virtual services – contact us today to learn more!

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