Wisdom Facing Forward What It Means to Have Heightened Future Consciousness: A Psychologist Explores the Ways in Which Awareness of the Future Connects with Wisdom

By Lombardo, Tom | The Futurist, September-October 2010 | Go to article overview

Wisdom Facing Forward What It Means to Have Heightened Future Consciousness: A Psychologist Explores the Ways in Which Awareness of the Future Connects with Wisdom


Lombardo, Tom, The Futurist


In recent years, I have explored the nature of future consciousness--its psychological dimensions, its historical evolution, and its future possibilities--as well as ways to enhance future consciousness through education and self-development practices. Meanwhile, I have also explored the nature of wisdom--its connection to the ideals and goals of education, its impact on the quality of life, and its relationship to future consciousness.

I have come to the conclusion that wisdom is the ideal toward which we should aspire as we develop our awareness and understanding of the future. Heightened future consciousness and wisdom go hand in hand.

Everyone possesses some level of awareness of the future, but the capacity can be greatly empowered or enhanced. In formulating an ideal prescription for the development of future consciousness, I discovered a number of parallels between heightened future consciousness and the descriptions of wisdom by contemporary psychologists and philosophers.

What Is Wisdom?

Wisdom is a complex human capacity open to varying interpretations, but the following definition captures some of its most salient features as understood within contemporary psychological research and philosophical inquiry:

  Wisdom is the continually evolving understanding of and fascination
  with the big picture of life and what is important, ethical, and
  meaningful; it includes the desire and ability to apply this
  understanding to enhance the well-being of life, both for oneself and
  for others.

It's worth noting that wisdom is not a static state, but is ever evolving. One pursues wisdom rather than achieving it. This quality of continual learning is captured in French writer Andre Gide's dictum, "Believe those who are seeking the truth; doubt those who find it."

Our definition also reflects wisdom's motivational-emotional components: a fascination with learning about the world and a desire to help others.

Wisdom involves a holistic and integrative understanding of the world around us. Wisdom is not narrow or specialized knowledge but a broad and deep knowledge that is expansive and encompassing. Wisdom sees the forest and not simply the trees. It searches to the horizon and beyond, and identifies what is really significant in life. And by bringing together the inner world of our minds and the outer world that surrounds us, wisdom combines knowledge with practical application. Consequently, wisdom is useful and not just theoretical. Lastly, wisdom has an ethical dimension: It is not simply self-serving, but is applied to the benefit of others.

What Is Future Consciousness?

A simple definition:

  Future consciousness is part of our general awareness of time, our
  consciousness of past, present, and future. It is the human capacity
  to have thoughts, feelings, and goals about the future. It is the
  total integrative set of psychological abilities, processes, and
  experiences that humans use to understand and deal with the future.
  Future consciousness covers everything in human psychology that
  pertains to the future.

All of the major dimensions of human psychology, from cognitive and behavioral to emotional and personal, are involved in future consciousness. We imagine and we think about the future; we have feelings and desires regarding it; we act with purpose and goals concerning the future; and we define the nature of who we are with respect to our personal trajectory and self-narrative through time.

Heightened future consciousness includes an expansive sense of time, of past and future linked together; an evolutionary or progressive optimism about the future; an expansive and informed sense of contemporary trends and challenges; creativity, imagination, and curiosity regarding future possibilities; courage and enthusiasm in the face of the adventure and uncertainty of the future; a strong sense of ongoing personal growth and purpose involving long-term, goal-directed thinking and behavior and a future-oriented self-narrative; and a strong element of self-efficacy and self-responsibility in determining one's future.

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