Here’s how to start 2023 off right — not with some far off imaginary nonsense, but with a concrete design for the here-and-now.
Today we’re venturing outside of Wardley Mapping to a complementary planning method called the “Ideal Present,” which comes from the PhD work of Jabe Bloom (please cite him if you use the below in your work).
Design a better now.
In short, the Ideal Present asks, “How do you design your actions towards a better now, instead of getting lost trying to reach some far-off ideal future?”
Here’s how to do it. Follow along with a pencil and paper.
1. Present Mess (a.k.a. the Current State): What’s today like? The good, the bad, and the ugly. (But we mostly want to pay attention to the bad and ugly.) What is problematic about the way things are today?
Ex: Today I hardly exercise. I feel weak, and I’m worried!
2. Future Mess (a.k.a. the Default Future): What’s the future we can imagine our Present Mess producing by default? It’s the undesirable future we’ll eventually crash into if nothing changes. What disaster lay ahead?
Ex: I will have higher risk for blood clots or heart problems, not to mention the fatigue of being out of shape. Ack!
3. Ideal Future: What’s something better we can hope for someday? Rather than making up something fantastical, keep it down-to-earth by emphasizing how it’ll be different from the Present Mess and different from the Future Mess, too.
Ex: I want to feel strong, by exercising every day (different from Current State), and in good health according to my doctor (different from Default Future).
4. Ideal Present: Now, this is the good part. How would things ideally be today if…
…we were already solving the problems with the Present Mess,
…we were already cutting off the path to the Future Mess, and
…we were already taking our first steps towards the Ideal Future.
Imagine an alternate reality or parallel universe where we are already doing those things. That’s the Ideal Present!
Ex: Today I would have already installed my chin-up bar and done my first stairs exercise (cardio).
Your Ideal Present is now the goal. Go, go, go!
Instead of targeting some far off future, we target a better today. We seek to create the Ideal Present… the very thing that will produce our future(s).
(Wouldn’t it feel really good to take action right now?)
Jabe has always been careful to tell me that this process is a loop. As soon as we take steps towards the Ideal Present, we will discover new information that can change everything!
For instance, say we find out that our Ideal Future isn’t possible… a total fantasy. What do we do then? Well, it’s no big deal. Because this process only lets us onto the Ideal Future lightly, there aren’t any huge drawbacks to predicting the wrong future. We just run the Ideal Present process again!
Or, imagine instead that we actually achieve our Ideal Present. First of all, yay! But that also means our Current State has changed. And our Default Future, too! Heck, our Ideal Future may have changed as well. Since it cascades, we just need to repeat the full process again.
In fact, we can keep running it again and again, every time there’s new information. (I’ve even done this as a weekly planning process.) Loop, loop, loop!
“Always be now-ing.”—Jabe Bloom, probably (at least I’m pretty sure I didn’t imagine him saying this)
Want to do this process with me? I made a walkthrough video for you! You’ll be moving towards the Ideal Present in no time!
Super huge thanks to Jabe for teaching me about the Ideal Present. Please cite him if you use this in your work!