How Shifting Your Timeline Makes You More Present and Productive

Ack! I’ve lost my future timeline! So last week I was bee bopping along, being a curious NLP practitioner. You know, I was trying something new. Everything was fine until I accidentally changed my timeline – forever. Insert scary music here.

For years my mind has adopted a linear timeline as its sense of time. It has used this timeline to orient me in time and space and assist the planner part of me with project timelines. It has been very useful.

To back up in time, I have always been future-oriented (LOL). “What is in the past is in the past” is one of my mottos. No crying over spilt milk here. This sentiment has helped me move quickly through adversity, and toward all things desirable. This has been a great strategy for me and I’ve used it most of my life.

Back when I “didn’t cry over the past”, I seemed tough as nails. But in mm late thirties I learned I lacked a depth in skill for dealing with a lot of my emotions. Even if I shed tears, I had a way of using my practical, analytical mind to extract logic from the situation and plan my next move.

Where’s the Feeling?

Now, just to be fair to myself, I did feel. I just didn’t spend much time feeling. Why? When I did feel something, I felt it so deeply that it physically hurt. Tell me, who wants to stay in that? So it makes sense to me that my strategy for going into logic was born from a desire to stay out of deep pain.

If you think about it, it’s a brilliant adaptation. Our strategies often are. What this meant for me was that I could move toward new things faster. I was competitive and loved achieving goals, so being able to get up and dust myself off quickly was a big help. I loved being called resilient, which helped me inspire others to move bravely along with me.

The Power of Timelines

So by the time I learned about timelines in my NLP course, I had achieved many of my goals. I was excited to achieve more and knew NLP would help. I was happy with all I was learning and I loved, loved, loved playing with timelines.

It was great to harness “mapping” of time in my head! I learned that my timeline had my past behind me (good!) and my future was out in front of me. I could face either direction and “see” what I wanted. It was so empowering.

Tyler, Texas by JLUWith the ability to move back and forth through time, I was feeling happy and hopeful. I have to say, back then I wasn’t so good at staying in the present moment unless I was working on something “in the zone”. But it didn’t seem to be a problem because most of my career revolved around future compliance goals and kids moving through school. So exploring the past and the future could be done as often as I wanted without harming “the system.”

Changing Timelines

Many years have passed since I first learned about timelines. I’ve evolved in “how” and “how often” I use them. In recent years, I’ve dived deeper and deeper into the present moment, but even so, my timeline has pretty much stayed the same.

I’ve used my linear timeline, with past behind me and future in front, to help me create new goals.  I am always up for exploring the past to see what I might of missed or could’ve done better. When I feel brave, I play with my timeline as a spiral, where the top is the future and the past is at the bottom. That is most fun for seeing past, present and future all at once, and will give you quite a head rush!

Pushing the Limits of Time

So all is well with my timeline when, gasp, I shatter it! I was performing a simple meditation. I thought I’d try out a new view of time. It was inspired by an article I had read. I thought it would be interesting to have a different point of view.

The goal was simple: Imagine God or Spirit was driving the bus, faced backwards. Then join them in moving toward the future on the bus facing backward. With back facing the future, one would be looking at what had already been created, a.k.a. “the past.” Easy enough, right?

Oh boy! As I oriented myself with my back to the future, the void as they call it, I felt woozy. Now I know this can happen when we explore new neurology and is normal. Even though I was panicked, I felt I would be ok. But then something shifted in a huge way for me.

In one moment, all of my life flashed before my eyes and, with the future behind me, (as a big empty space), I was thrown into present moment in the most violent way. I didn’t know what to do. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t get my “normal” future timeline back. It was gone.

Ne estas bone.

Where Am I Now?

I just sat there and breathed. I kept opening my eyes and closing them. Then I mourned for my future timeline. I couldn’t get it back. And then a part of me panicked. This panic continued working itself through my body and emotions for the next few days. Let’s just say, there were many, many moments of upset and confusion. But mostly, a part of me was scared. The planner part of me was furious at not having the future timeline to work with. Remember, she was the one that benefited most from it. How were we going to achieve goals now?

An Unhappy Planner

“How is ANYTHING going to get done NOW?”, the planner in me cried. And then I heard, “Great, just great. Way to go people! Now we are going to be one of those (flighty) people who can’t get anything accomplished!” I think the planner was mostly pissed because in an instant and without warning, (i.e. no plan), she had lost her job. That’s why she plans for Pete’s sake!

It was rough. But after many hours and a few very strange dreams, I am happy to report that my mind has stabilized. While I can remember what my future timeline used to look like, I don’t quite move the same way.

What I know about the present moment now:

  • the present moment is the only time that exists
  • the past and the future do not exist
  • timeline work informs the present moment
  • the more present we are in each moment the more we affect our “future”

Believing that the farthest anyone’s ever gotten into the future is this present moment also helps me stay oriented.

The Benefits of Working with Timelines

I don’t want to discount timeline work, though. I believe it is a powerful way to inform ourselves so we make the most of each moment. So these concepts of time can remain an important ally in helping us get what we want. This is why I will still use timeline work with my clients, with a more explicit emphasis on “now.”

It’s been a few days, and now that things have settled, I know it’s all been for the best. And I know more about the power of present moment. And it doesn’t hurt that I’ve been studying it for years, haven’t we all? So while my perspective is new, I am informed by my past experience that being present allows the universe to surprise me in magical ways.

Is this Thing On?

Ehem. Hello? And what about The Planner? Oh, she is still here. Right. Well, all is well, (or will be). She has a new job. She’s been promoted. She is now the “Planner of the Moment”. I’m sure it will take her a while to get use to her new office, but I am confident she will find herself relieved to know she can still get things done.

(Psst…don’t tell her yet, but she’ll be doing things in a more non-linear way.)

Oh, she’ll still be able to create lists and organize information, but she won’t be able to hold us to the future as much. As I type these words she makes her presence known through the queasiness in my stomach.

There, there, that’ll do, little planner. That’ll do. You are safe and still productive.”  

We just wrote a blog post in these moments. See? It was unplanned but inspired by what we saw on the drive over here. And see how easy it was to write this?

That’s the power of the present plan. And you helped make this organized blog happen.

Ah, productivity, the feeling of warm milk in my stomach.


Posted in Blog, Mind-Body Communication