“What you think, you become.

What you feel, you attract.

What you imagine, you create.”


Despite an incalculable myriad of differences in backgrounds, experiences, and opportunities, every living human shares one common truth: We must all move into the future from the spot we presently occupy.

Wherever you are at this moment is your launching point for the future, and nothing can change that. We take our next step from the piece of ground we now stand upon.

“Everyone has three selves: a past-based self, a future-based self, and a present-based self. The past-based self is the person an individual thinks he or she used to be. This self-concept is influenced by powerful memories. The future-based self is the person the individual imagines he or she is going to be. This is influenced by powerful goals (or the absence thereof). The present-based self is a combination of the other two selves, with either the past self-concept or the future self-concept dominating.”

—Dan Sullivan

An essential component of self-awareness is recognizing whether or not our thoughts are led by the future or the past.

I have learned this lesson the hard way many times, most recently through my voice condition. In 2010 I acquired spasmodic dysphonia (SD), a rare neurological voice disorder that makes speaking difficult. At its worst it feels like a seat belt has been tightened around my throat when I talk. The condition is particularly restrictive in group settings, on the telephone, and anywhere there is background noise.

In 2018, after living with SD for nearly a decade, I began seeing a hypnotherapist by the name of Maggie Clement. Once a month I would travel into Portland and meet with her in a small first-floor brownstone office near Maine Medical Center. The first half of each session was an open discussion where Maggie would ask me questions and listen as I described my emotions and experiences with respect to SD.

“How often do you think about your voice?” Maggie asked me one day. “And when you think about it, are your thoughts positive or negative?”

These two questions would come to mark the turning point in my ability to navigate and transcend my affliction.

I left her office that afternoon and drove home in a reflective silence.

The following day I began counting every time I thought about my voice. Additionally, I noted whether the thought was positive or negative.

I realized that I thought about my voice more than one hundred times a day, and each time, it was negative. I was constantly thinking about the difficulties I had encountered in the past and then projecting an expectation for continued difficulty in the future.

For example, if I was going to a restaurant that evening I would momentarily think of it dozens of times that day, with the expectation that the chatter and clatter would overwhelm me.

It turned out I was unaware of both the frequency and fragility of my thoughts. I did not know, until Maggie called me out, that I was constantly worrying about how my voice would perform in the future based on my experiences from the past.

After months and months of training Maggie helped me to break this self-fulfilling prophecy. Today, thanks to my heightened self-awareness, I recognize a negative thought about my voice as soon as it arrives.

“Ha, I’ve caught you!” I now say to myself when such moments manifest. “Now, go away. You are nothing but a self-contrived negative thought about the future based on past experiences.”

Today I deliberately put positive thoughts in my mind with respect to my voice. I envision it performing. I imagine myself healing.

The difference in my vocal performance has been dramatic. I still have a shaky voice at times, but it no longer dominates my thinking or expectations. As a result, I’ve improved a condition that the medical community defines as incurable.

This was one of many lessons I learned regarding the limiting powers of a past-based mind. Thankfully Maggie taught me that this was my mind we were talking about, and as such, I had the ability to fill it intentionally with future-based optimism.

“The future-based person achieves freedom from the past.”

—Dan Sullivan

(Note: Dan Sullivan is the creator and author of the book and audio series HOW THE BEST GET BETTER: THE ART AND SCIENCE OF ENTREPRENEURIAL SUCCESS.)

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Thank you for considering my thoughts. In return I honor yours. Every voice matters. Between our differences lies our future.


This is the seventh in a series of short essays to be posted by Kevin to www.thebusinessofsharedleadership.com in 2021. Kevin is dedicating these writings in honor of Black Elk, the Oglala Sioux holy man who was escorted as a child on a sacred vision quest by the 48 horses of the four directions to visit the six Grandfathers. My horses, prancing they are coming. They will dance; may you behold them. On that journey Black Elk understood the sacred power that dwelled within him and lives within us all. He also recognized that this power could be used for good or bad. Intentional we must be about the path we walk. To invite others to join The Business of Shared Leadership and receive these posts, just pass this link along. The more who join, the deeper the energy field of engagement will become! Thank you!