Is Your Past, Present or Future Driving You?

I spend an hour each morning in prayer and contemplation. Why? Because it is very hard for me to stay in the Present; I tend to live life thinking only about the Future. Thinking about the Future makes me fairly driven to getting things done. If I don’t slow down, stop and take time I almost forget there is a Present. On the other hand, I have never had a problem living in the Past. Though I reflect on the lessons I learned and the blessings I’ve had, I spend little time thinking about the Past. What about you? Is your Past, Present or Future driving you?

I am learning answers to this question since I recently began a book group on “Bridges Out of Poverty” © 2001 by Ruby K. Payne, PhD, Philip E. DeVol & Terie Dreussi Smith. It is clear from this book that it is NOT the Past, Present or Future that drives us. It is our narratives, our self-talk, our closely held beliefs that predict our Past, Present and Future. Our beliefs are at the heart of our own narratives.

In “Bridges”, the authors present the strategies for helping those individuals living in poverty* to move beyond it. The key to helping lies in understanding and sharing the unwritten rules of those living in poverty, middle-class and wealth, as well as, the key structures of language. The unwritten rules cover issues of possessions, money, personality, social emphasis, food, clothing, time, education, destiny, language, family structure, world view, love, driving forces and humor. Below I included a snap shot of a table they present on “Hidden Rules Among Classes” that is quite enlightening, and guides us in explaining our personal narratives.

One thing that America has historically done well is to help set up the conditions for increasingly more people to achieve a life beyond survival with limited resources. Keep in mind however that the middle-class is shrinking and those slipping into poverty is growing. Despite our past efforts at growing a large middle-class, the reality today is that more people are surviving on limited resources and slipping into poverty.

This matters personally to each of us for two reasons: 1) our narratives are cemented in the unwritten rules of the culture/economic class in which we were raised and drives how we think, behave and experience life; and 2) as leaders we need to understand how we may reach people under our leadership from each economic class, most importantly those in poverty. As “Bridges” points out, the importance of mentors cannot be over-stressed, particularly in the workplace.

I ask again, what drives you? What narratives do you have that put you where you are today and will lead you where you are going? Are those narratives helping you or holding you back? Are you using them to help others or hold them back?

Poverty Middle Class Wealth
POSSESSIONS People Things One-of-a-kind objects, legacies, pedigrees
MONEY To be used, spent To be managed To be conserved, invested
PERSONALITY For entertainment. Sense of humor is highly valued. For acquisition & stability. Achievement is highly valued For connections. Financial, political, social connections are highly valued
SOCIAL EMPHASIS Inclusion of those you like Emphasis is on self-governance & self-sufficiency Emphasis is on social exclusion
FOOD Quantity Quality Presentation
TIME Present; decisions made for the moment based on feelings or survival Future; decisions made against future ramifications Traditions & history; decisions made partly on basis of tradition & decorum.

* Poverty is defined as the “extent to which an individual goes without resources” including financial, emotional, mental, spiritual, physical, support systems, relationships/role models, knowledge of hidden rules, and coping strategies.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *