Have you ever noticed how many movies, tv shows, books, and other media tell stories about a catastrophic, apocalyptic, or otherwise negative future? Whether it's environmental catastrophe, meteors hitting the earth, zombies eating everyone, or our simply causing our own economies to implode, this type of story really seems to sell (just try watching the news for a few minutes some time).
Fear sells. It also motivates. Something about us loves to be able to anticipate bad things before they happen, which is why we want to see them ahead of time. But seeing all of these negative stories play out - especially stories that show us how powerless we are to stop these negative stories - is taking a toll on us. It makes us feel like a negative version of the future is inevitable.
But is it?
These are, after all, only predictions. And, as Yogi Berra is believed to have said, "it is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future." If we look at some of our grandest predictions throughout history, we come face to face with a rather abysmal track record. If you think about it, this can actually be a very positive thing. The fact that we don't know whether the future is bad or not means we ought not to automatically believe that it will be. And, more importantly, the fact that it isn't here yet, ought to remind us that the future... depends on what we do today.
When it comes to the future, there are two kinds of people; those who see the future as something that can be bright and beautiful and those who see the future as something that can only be dark and depressing. This is a matter of focus. In some sense, both will be true at the same time. Those who focus on stories about our own powerlessness in the face of an impending doom, tend to give up on the future. They will find something to do until the future arrives (and it won't be pretty). They will make very different decisions in life from the other kind of person. If they think this way, they will probably help bring that kind of future.
The other type of person is one who believes that the future can be good. This isn't a guarantee, of course - and that is part of what makes the difference. They believe that their thoughts, actions, and decisions matter - that they can actually help determine what the future will be like. They focus on stories about a bright and beautiful future and then they help make it that way. They look for solutions to problems, which makes them more likely to find solutions that those who don't bother.
Stories helps us imagine the future in a powerful way. They help us visualize what we can do to build the future - they help us cause good or bad things to happen. Without these blueprints, we won't know what to build.
So next time you're reading, watching or listening to something, think about the future. Watch how it affects you in the days and weeks after. And then think about what you would want the youngest of us to think about and learn from stories and how it will affect them. What story do you want them to create?