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Looking forward by looking back

Hong Kong, 2016

Hong Kong, 2016

We are the animals who always like prediction. When buying we think of whether the products are suitable and durable. We investigate if each option brings with us benefits or losses. We try to project the brighter or worse future with current trends. We think if our future life will be stable. For future’s safety we tend to focus on prediction and planning, even though we don’t have the capacity, since we believe it is always better than nothing.

But we spend too much energy and time on the future rather than looking at the moment and even looking back. Besides focusing on predictions and planning, do we think what kind of future we would like to see? What do we like to be? What have we been in the past and present?

The author of Thinking, Fast and Slow stated that we have two selfs: experiencing self and remembering self. The difference between two selfs is that people can't remember all the experience they had in the past except the happiness and the sadness. Nothing special will be the first to be forgotten. Thus what we only have is the fragmented pieces about the past, and some of them can be left as an impression in our mind, not the real fact. Our future is based on our decision which follows the impression.

Apart from the psychological explanation, personal experiences and social institutions play an important role. People who are small in age are always driven by curiosity like to explore things surrounding them, but they will end up with their own ‘experiences’ developed when growing up: judge before learning. The change has taken place so slowly that we can’t easily notice since childhood. We start complaining those who are younger than us. We start new innovations and thoughts with understanding them. We start being afraid of failure and losses. We won’t regard those as problems but try to make excuses by saying like ‘we are adults who have a lot of life experiences’, ‘we are parents who know what to do’ and ‘we are authorities’ in order to justify they are right. As a result we become conservatives.

One of my friends asked me if I will become those adults in my 40 to 50s.

Yes, I worried a lot, more than whether I will be poor. Losing curiosity means rejecting any kinds of possibilities including business opportunities.

We always think about our future in an emotional way rather than the rational. We also forgets how we think in the past, especially when we were able to make decisions easily. We don’t remember why we become hesitate now. We don’t realize we have more burdens and not enough money is not the real factor.

I suggest writing a diary with both everyday events and personal ideas/thoughts. Looking back is the main reasons for a diary, which allows you to review what have happened long time ago, how you thought and how you have become your self nowadays. You will see the better picture of yours from the past to the present. You can better understand yourself. Most important, you will not only prevent risks, but also become more mature and have a clearer idea about the future.

If you are busy, just write a few lines every day. If you require yourself to write too long, you will give up shortly.

我們常會推測未來,從買東西會想到將來是否合用甚至耐用,從各個選項來看它是否為我帶來益處/損失,從現在的趨勢去看將來會更好還是更差,想想將來自己的生活是否安枕無憂。為了未來的安全,我們傾向預測,傾向計劃,即使我們根本沒有這個能力。因為我們相信,這種與預測有關的思考,終究比什麼都不想更好。

可是,我們花了大部分的精力和時間在處理未來可能發生的事,比較少預留在當下甚至回望過去。雖然我們會主動預測和計劃未來,但是我們有沒有想過我們想要一個怎樣的未來?我們需要邁向一個怎樣的自己?現在和過去的自己又是什麼的樣子?

去年十二月讀過一本叫Thinking, Fast and Slow(中譯《快思慢想》)的書,作者提到一個人有兩面:一個是正在經歷當下的自己(experiencing self),另一個是回憶了什麼的自己(remembering self)。經歷當下所有大大小小事情和情緒,並不代表將來能記住全部,因為我們只能選擇某些較為愉快(或較傷心)的事情作為回憶的一部分。平平淡淡且順利的,通常都會先被忘記。因此,即使我們聲稱記得過去的經歷,至少不是完整的,甚至可能是錯誤的。而我們帶著這些零碎的過去,決定了我們的未來,決定了未來的我們。

除了上述的心理學解釋外,還有人生經歷、社會制度。人在年紀輕輕時會對不少事情感到新鮮好奇,會覺得很多事物都很重要,但隨著人生經歷增加,讓我們去調整和篩選,決定什麼事情為重要和不重要,什麼事情為有益的或是有害的。所謂的「經驗」(尤其是避險、避免重蹈覆轍)開始主導了我們的思考,甚至取代了昔日的好奇心、觀察和探索的心。這種變化其實是每天一點一滴的而不能憑肉眼所觀察,且從小開始發生。不知不覺的會埋怨比自己年輕的人,不知不覺在未經了解而拒絕新玩意和新想法,不知不覺害怕失敗和失去。當發現了,會以「人生經驗豐富」、「輩份」、「權威」來解釋這一切。固步自封就是這樣得來。

友人問我:你覺得自己在四、五十多歲時會否變得像他們一樣?

比起將來會否不能養活自己,我也會擔心自己思想會否變得迂腐,而那種迂腐的想法,反過來拒絕了本來可能發生在自己的可能性而不自知,最終讓自己更窮。我想,人害怕基本生存是正常的,但也要正視金錢與其他事情的連結,尤其當人們篤信什麼都以金錢為先的時候。

我們每時每刻都在思考著自己的未來,那個思考往往都來得很直覺,由當下的情緒作為主導,常常忘了自己過去是怎樣思考的,尤其忘了當時自己為什麼很輕易下一個決定,忘了問自己為什麼現在這麼猶豫,忘了原來是包袱而非自己本身的資源不足。

日記是其中一種方法,除了記下當天客觀的事件,還可以是自己當下主觀感受。日記的重要性在於回顧,回看自己原來發生過那些事情,回看自己怎樣思考,回看自己多年來是怎樣走過來,即使不是有計劃過,現在看起來都是有關連的。你不會再只憑腦海中的印象,而且還有過去的脈絡。當對自己有更宏觀理解的時候,也許對於未來不只是單純的避險,而是更成熟、更廣闊的想像和想法。

如果你很忙,可以只在每天寫數行字。若要求自己寫太長,總會很快放棄。

LifeAlvin C