The Psychology of the Future and the Future of Psychology
Over the last few months I have been piloting a new course and book "The Psychology of the Future" at Sun City Grand in Surprise, Arizona.
I begin the course with a question: How can one better understand and strengthen all those psychological traits and abilities essential for developing a more informed, empowered, creative, and wise approach to the future? More succinctly put: How can one heighten one's future consciousness in order to realize the good life, now and into the future?
I answer this question by first developing a realistically grounded theory of the good life--literally of "what is good." Since reality is dynamical and evolutionary, the good life (or the good) must be set within a dynamic context. The good life cannot be static. I propose that the good is "to flourish," which necessarily involves helping others to flourish as well.
Hence, heightening future consciousness--that is, developing a creative, constructive, and informed approach to the future--should lead to flourishing.
Heightening future consciousness, according to my theory, involves developing a key set of character virtues, including self-control and self-responsibility, hope and optimism, courage, discipline, and the love of learning and thinking. These character virtues empower one's capacities for creating a positive future. In essence, one realizes the good life through the development and exercise of a set of future-focused character virtues.
Next, I propose that wisdom, as the central character virtue, synthesizes all the key virtues of heightened future consciousness; indeed it is the highest expression of future consciousness and self-development. Ultimately it is through the pursuit, development, and exercise of wisdom that one best realizes the good life (flourishing) in the future.
In succession, through the course, I examine the psychology of environmental and social influences, self-control, emotion, motivation, purposeful behavior, learning and memory, thinking and understanding, consciousness, and self-identity, and for each of these areas I highlight the key virtues that enhance one's capacities for future consciousness and flourishing. The course ends with wisdom, pulling together all the different capacities and character virtues.
One important theme in the course is how our personal narrative (the story we tell ourselves about our life and self-identity) structures our consciousness and determines our sense of self--who we believe we are. The theory is that we live the story we tell ourselves, and our future, indeed, is a significant consequence of our future self-narrative. Our self narrative for the future may inspire or depress us; it may empower or deflate us. Regardless, narratives become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Self-narratives can be rewritten, though, for we are the authors of our stories. Re-writing our narrative, infusing it more strongly with those character virtues connected with heightened future consciousness and flourishing, will maximize the chances for a positive future.
Humans are natural story tellers. We use stories to give our lives meaning and direction, and our consciousness and behavior manifest the stories we carry in our heads in positive as well as negative ways. Besides personal narratives, we also carry within us grand narratives: stories of the big picture of things, connecting past, present, and future. We see ourselves (our personal narratives) in the context of our grand narratives. Our grand narratives both inform and inspire our personal lives and sense of self. Hence, how we see ourselves moving into the future reflects how we see the world at large (or even the cosmos) moving into the future.
In this context I want to especially highlight the intimate connection between our personal narratives of the future and our narratives of the future of humanity. What direction is the human mind heading? The human personality, individually and collectively? How may humanity evolve or not evolve in the future? What do we believe and why? Are we getting smarter or dumber? Are we becoming more empowered through technological evolution or, through increasing dependency on our machines, more enfeebled? We can feel either lost, confused, and pessimistic, or empowered, informed, and optimistic regarding our personal future depending upon the strength, credibility, and vitality of our particular grand narrative for the future of humanity.
Hence, in coming to the concluding section ("Wisdom, Enlightenment, and Transcendence") of the course "The Psychology of the Future," it dawned on me that this first course naturally and inevitably leads to a second course: "The Future of Psychology." What are the possibilities, the probabilities, and the preferred directions for the evolution of the human mind and human nature in the future? What is the great journey--past, present, and future--of the collective human psyche in which all of our individual journeys are participating?
Beginning this fall semester, I will be teaching this new course ("The Psychology of the Future") at Sun City Grand. See the course description in this newsletter below. Stay tuned to later newsletters for days and times.