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Three Bold and Optimistic Predictions for the 2020s

The closing out of a decade always prompts “best of” and “worst of” listicles— as well as plenty of crystal gazing about what’s to come. And while predictions can be fun, I’ve learned to be careful about the ones I take in. Because when the mind accepts an idea to focus on, it unleashes a torrent of power that leads us to the next things we see and do, and ultimately experience. Cognitive framing is real and we’re smart to stay attentive to how it shapes both our perceptions and our experience. So, instead of relying on what “experts,” pundits, or psychics predict, I’d rather be the one wielding that power, wouldn’t you?

Thinking about how our collective future will unfold can be a tragicomic exercise these days. But I played a game with myself when composing this post. I decided to explore broad topics portrayed in the news as a $%&!show: healthcare; the shrinking middle class; and the state of leadership. I challenged myself to turn conventional thinking on its head, focusing instead on three bold, optimistic predictions for the coming decade.

1. New discoveries will underscore and amplify our ability to heal ourselves from disease.

We are so used to viewing “healthcare” as an expensive, barely-functioning system in desperate need of reform. And that it is — if we only examine it through a familiar lens. But if we pull focus on a different set of evidence, we might see a trend that helps us shift our view away from this broken system, toward our own personal power. Plenty is changing for the better:

  1. Via the internet and mobile apps, people have access to deep information that can help us tune into our bodies and our health. It can feed our curiosity and guide us to shift behavior before serious health issues develop. (This assumes we are discerning when sifting through content, because self-diagnosing can have dangerous side-effects!) The fact that we can access powerful information at our fingertips is part of a growing trend to stop relying solely on doctors and big pharma for answers.

  2. New cutting-edge research is pointing to our own cells and DNA for better treatment and cures. Whether it’s tumor DNA sequencing to determine the best course of treatment, stem cell therapy to treat various diseases and conditions, or new research about our own gut bacteria holding the key to health — we are learning that there is tremendous power in each individual’s own physical body to achieve optimal health.

  3. The mindfulness movement is perhaps the most exciting thing that puts us on a path to more personal power in health, by fueling the known mind-body connection we all have. Our enormous potential to de-stress and reduce inflammation in the body is only just beginning to be understood. And there’s plenty more on the verge of discovery about the power of placebo. I believe this area alone has the potential to shift us into an extraordinary new paradigm around healing.

Bottom line: we are tapping into the power of our own mental and physical “healthcare system,” and the more we do it, the more power we’ll discover. This doesn’t mean doctors or drugs will disappear, nor should they. But the relationship between doctor and patient will continue to morph from the transactional “Doctor, tell me what’s wrong and give me a pill,” to a more balanced one of cooperation. Coupled with new medical and metaphysical discoveries, I can see a future where we source groundbreaking ideas for much-needed reform toward a high-functioning healthcare system in the US.

2. The value of expensive “stuff” will decrease.

And I don’t mean that plummeting costs will make it easy for everyone to don diamonds and drive Porsches! I mean exactly the opposite. Sure, my Portland purview means I’m immersed in a land of fleece and Priuses, but remember that “Westward Ho” has often defined grand movements of change and new ways of being. Besides, these noted predictive trends know no borders:

  1. Emboldened youth are leading the way toward much-needed change regarding global warming, gun sense, and the blatant human inequities they see. And the drum they’re beating is getting louder, waking us ALL up to what is truly important. The attraction of brand names and status symbols is giving way to a social currency that expresses “save the planet.” We’re becoming more aware of the origins of our products and the impact of our purchases. Whether it’s palm oil leading to deforestation and killing animals, or the child labor behind inexpensive clothing, more people are saying “enough.”

  2. Income inequality will continue to mean that the vast majority of people are unable to purchase expensive status symbols. The top 10% of the population owns over 70% of the wealth, leaving the bottom 90% of the population often barely able to scrape by. This widening gap means rich folk will increasingly be on an island unto themselves. Hard to feel good about your designer clothes when you walk among the homeless.

  3. A family’s “surplus” (those lucky enough to have one) will get socked away to educate their children and/or buy experiences rather than “stuff.” After meeting basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, etc.) people will prioritize on their legacy and how they want to live life, rather than what they want to own in their lifetimes.

With these trends, I anticipate “rich people stuff” losing much of its allure over the coming decade. Due to peer pressure, an empty purse or other factors, the stuff we have won’t define our power. Instead, our growing awareness will push us in a different direction from what previous generations expected (for example, with fashion). One might argue this is not exactly an optimistic view, but I stand firm: moving away from “shiny object status symbols” frees us up to become better people who find value in better “things.”

3. Integrity in leadership will become the new normal in ways never before seen.

Yeah, I know this is especially bold and might seem naive, given that every week (or every day!) there’s a new revelation of political corruption, criminality or just plain cruelty. (These links are recent examples, but countless others prove the point.)

  1. Consider the surfeit of such horror stories as a great purging. And it’s not over yet. In fact, a sub-prediction for next year: the revelation of some incredibly scary, ugly things will test us to the limit. But I hold these views in the spirit of “it’s darkest before the dawn.” I expect this big purge will clear our mental landscape for something new and better.

  2. In terms of leadership, the world has taken a bizarre, paradoxical turn. Many heads of state around the globe outwardly or covertly promote an anti-democracy agenda. But at the same time, this has flipped-on a switch in the masses, many of whom are standing up. Whether that’s in Hong Kong, Chile, or here in the US (where early this year record numbers of women and minorities were sworn into Congress). The more that autocratic “leaders” try to squash those without power, the more it inspires people to rise.

  3. Youth are coming of voting age, and if my kids and their friends are any indication, they will not stand for the hypocrisy and inaction they’re seeing from current leaders (per my #2 prediction). As the oldest voting bloc exits the scene, the incoming one is determined to end the environmental and societal degradation that their elders put up with for way too long.

My vision of “integrity in leadership” starting to dominate in the 2020s isn’t one where those in power suddenly see the light and change. It’s one where *we* the people step into our power, and this will happen as more of us become inspired to speak up and step up. It will also come from a sense of sheer survival, in order to save the planet that sustains us.

I often picture humanity as a beautiful ballerina dancing on the edge of a sword. One side of the blade is a dystopian future conjured up by Hollywood: think The Matrix, The Handmaid’s Tale, or even Idiocracy. All we have to do is fuel our thoughts with global warming and we easily glide toward the dark side of the sword.

On the other side of that blade lies an unknown realm of potential positive futures for our collective choosing. This is the power of exploring hopeful predictions (not naive ones) as a way of realizing what originally inspired this Becoming Better People blog: “To point our shared compass toward a better future: one based on intention about where we want to go, rather than simply where we end up.”

I’m here to remind us (myself included!) that we are not mere spectators waiting to see how history unfolds. Ultimately, we drive this ship. And this ship goes in the direction in which we aim our focus. With a clearer vision in “20/20” let’s ask ourselves, “Where do we want to go in the next ten years?” And when our prognostications or those of others start to pull us down the darker side of the sword, let’s help each other to tilt the blade toward the light.

I found a really cool, top-rated nonprofit that focuses on disseminating ideas for a positive future. Learn more about Yes! Media and their solutions journalism in my next post.

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