Future Pacing

Knowing what you want helps you in more ways than most of us realise.

One way of  figuring out what you really want, not just what you think you want, is to use a future pacing exercise. Future pacing is often part of the ‘trail of tools and techniques’ that makes up a good NLP course.

We have used it extensively with individuals and teams and it works in most instances to provide a clarity that was previously hard to achieve.

The idea is relatively simple.

You imagine your life stretching out in front of you. You can do this mentally or for real.

You start at the beginning ‘now’ and walk out into your future. When you feel you have reached a spot where your life will be all you hope for, you stop again. You sit down and soak into the experience, visualizing all the great things that are happening in this future. You take stock of the future you are visualizing and make some notes.

When you have absorbed enough, you stand up and begin to walk back towards now. As you walk back, you look for the important moments that led to this future. Each time you notice one, you sit down and notice what you did and what happened to provide the next step towards the future you visualized. Make some notes about key moments that took place to create this future and continue on back to now.

You end up with a reverse engineered success plan that you have seen leading to the future you want.

It is an incredible experience and worth playing with and practising. Some use future pacing to investigate what their future will be and others use it to plan the future they want. Either way, they produce a list of what must happen to create this future. You can use it to get some new ideas, to give you more information or to boost your belief and confidence in what is possible.

In practice

At one event we ran this exercise as part of an ‘away from it all’ week at a country farm.

The event was designed to provide an opportunity for delegates to stop, look, evaluate their situation, and to go on and reenergise their plan for the future. We asked delegates to do five things:

  1. Stand on the edge of the field and look out in whatever direction they wanted. We asked them to imagine a line out across the grass from where they stood (now) out to their foreseeable futures.
  2. When ready, walk out along the line to a point where all their dreams had come true.
  3. Sit down and experience with all their senses what this future really looked, felt, smelt and sounded like.
  4. Make some notes about what they had achieved and what pleased them about their futures.
  5. When ready, walk back slowly across the field to the starting point, noticing all the events that led to the future they had just seen.


The delegates all did the exercise differently.

Some delegates would spend a long time before striding out across the field; others would set off almost immediately.

Some walked a long way, 100 meters plus, while others only walked 20 meters or so before they sat down. Some walked directly ahead and some walked off at angles, one guy even walked backwards.

Eventually they all found a spot in their future and sat down. Some spent a long time in this spot; others were very quick.

Then they all began walking back. Again, some took a long time sitting frequently to make notes, while others did it far faster and sat only once or twice.

The first time we  do this exercise with a group of our customers’ delegates, more than one trainer worries what will happen. It is amazing to watch. People wander about on the side of the field until suddenly something clicks. They stop and look across the field towards their future and then they start to walk. Sometimes they go straight there, sometimes they slow down and even stop before starting on again. Eventually they get to a place and sit down.

The first time you see it happen, you can’t really believe it.

They sit for a while writing and then they get up and make their way back sitting every now and again to write down something they feel is key. They reverse engineer their own success and visualizing their future, increases their confidence in their ability to create the future they want.

Every time we do this exercise, the universal feedback from our delegates is that their confidence in their own future soars.

The technique works.

Most delegates experience a new and more real impression of the future they could have and wanted. Their notes gave them a series of steps they needed to take to create the future they had seen. Perhaps, most importantly, many believed what they had seen was possible, could happen, and was within their capability. Evidence from their managers showed they returned to work more focussed and generally more excited about their futures and what they could do to make it happen.

On your own

You can do this on your own. Simply find your own space and follow the ‘in practice’ instructions above. You’ll need a note book and take your time. Its a great thing to do regularly for the first few weeks.

With your monkey ?

It seems that what ever we experience or do the Monkey watches and notices. So just doing it by yourself helps but once you relationship starts to evolve you can formally do this future pacing together; either physically walking in a field or mentally in your head. This exercise has been developed within teh challenge format.

Challenge exercises

Once we have moved through the exercises in the first few weeks of the challenge, we can use what we learn from these exercises to complete future pacing exercises mentally with our Monkeys. From our special view point, we use a contemplative relaxation. recording to gain a new and rewarding clarity and confidence that helps us stay aligned.

If you have read the book and yet struggle to do this future pacing on your own then check out these advanced recordings available separately or as part of the challenge package.