Back to the Future

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By Beth Demme

Screen Shot of BTF by Beth Demme

Screen Shot of Time Machine Date Board (By Beth Demme)


The day I have waited for since 1985 has finally arrived: October 21, 2015.

Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) zoomed ahead to this day at the end of the first Back To The Future movie. Initially, Marty accidentally went to the past (1955), but at the close of the movie, Doc (Dr. Emmett Brown played by Christopher Lloyd) tells Marty he has to come to the future: “Marty, both you and Jennifer turn out fine. It’s your kids, Marty, something has got to be done about your kids!”

If you’re as fresh on 30-year old movies as I am, you’ll remember this comes just before Doc’s most iconic line: “Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.”

The arrival of this specific date on the calendar reminds me I am living in the future.

When I knew I wanted to launch a blog, I hired a writing coach. I had developed strong legal writing skills in my years practicing law, but I didn’t want my blog posts to read like a pleading or a brief. Trust me, they can be boring.

My writing coach, Allison Vesterfelt, had me write myself a letter as though twenty years had passed. What would the 2033 Beth Demme say to the 2013 Beth Demme?

It was powerful because it gave me a chance to capture all of my fears on a piece of paper. I forecasted how those fears would get in my way and how I could overcome them. I visualized myself as a writer and a speaker.

Writing myself a letter from the future transformed my goals from impossible dreams into probable realities.

Thinking about the future puts the present into perspective. Perspective changes everything.[Twitter Link]

I was surprised at how much the letter from my future-self impacted me. When I finished it, I felt emotionally uplifted and I had a renewed “can-do” attitude.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. One of my primary parenting strategies when my children were toddlers was to ask myself “will this matter in five minutes?” and then “will this matter in five months?” and, finally, “will this matter in five years?”

I struggled with anger a lot when my children were little. Everything felt out of control and hard. I would ask myself this series of questions to remind myself not to get angry about every little thing.

First I might angrily think (or say):
The toys are all over the place! This room is a wreck! I don’t have the energy to clean this up again.

But then I would ask myself:
If I’m too tired to clean this up right now, will it matter in five minutes?
Yes, because I’ll still be looking at a mess.

In five months?
No, I’ll probably get it cleaned up before then.

In five years?
No, by then they won’t even be playing with these toys. Let them enjoy this moment. The mess doesn’t matter.

I’m so glad I learned this strategy when they were toddlers because it has helped me in every phase since.

Maintaining perspective helps me avoid wasting time and emotion on something that won’t matter in a few minutes, months, or years.

It might sound like I’m focused on only the future, but it’s actually the opposite. Thinking about the future gives me perspective on how to live today.

As a Christian, it can be tempting to let my perspective shift to my eternal future.

For me, a view of eternity that dismisses the present is too short-sighted.[Twitter Link]

When a wealthy young man asked Jesus about an eternal future, Jesus brought it back to the present. (Matthew 19:16-22, Mark 10:17-22, Luke 18:18-23)

Here’s what happened. A wealthy young man ran up and knelt before Jesus. I picture him out of breath, having just summoned up the courage to approach Jesus and the entourage of disciples. Whether the young man understood Jesus was God, a prophet of God, or a teacher, it still took courage for the young man to run up to Jesus unintroduced and blurt out his burning question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus told the young man to keep the commandments, specifically the ones about how to treat other people (no adultery, murder, stealing, lying, or dishonoring your parents). The young man replied, “I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus didn’t argue with the young man or pause to point out his sins. Instead, Jesus said, there’s just one more thing–sell everything and follow me.

Jesus brought a question about eternal life back to a decision and an action in the present moment.

The future and the present are interconnected. Today is an opportunity to live in a way that will make for a great tomorrow.

If I pull a Marty McFly and travel thirty years into the future, what will I see? What will my life, my family, and my community look like in thirty years? Will the reverberations of the love and commitment I strive to show today be evident? What can I do to make those vibrations run deeper? What can I do that will matter in five minutes, five months, five years, and beyond?

There is no future without the present, no tomorrow without today.

What are you doing today to bring about the future you hope for? Have you ever written yourself a letter? If you received a letter from 2025 or 2035, what do you think it would say? What steps are you taking today to create the future you want? Tell me about it in the comments, in an e-mail, on Facebook or Twitter.

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