From Postalgia to Purpose

How to overcome the inertia of the present to prepare for the future.

It’s hard to look ahead when we are trying to survive the present. It’s hard to imagine standing outside in the refreshing summer rain when it’s cold and windy outside. It’s hard to think about what the world could – and more importantly should – be like when we eventually emerge from the all-encompassing cocoon that has enveloped the world in 2020.

Postalgia is a term coined by the science fiction writer William Gibson. It is similar to nostalgia, only while nostalgia is a longing for the distant and disappearing past, postalgia is a resignation to the present.

Postalgia sets in when we start to believe that this, the here and now, is as good as it gets. It is inherently pessimist. “All through the 20th century, we constantly saw the 21st century invoked. How often do you hear anyone invoke the 22nd century? Even saying it is unfamiliar to us. We’ve come to not have a future,” said Gibson in an interview with the BBC.

The world is in the midst of a pandemic, for many the first one they’ve experienced in their lifetime. It is understandable that during a time of crisis, as a defence mechanism, for human beings to feel pessimistic about their futures and to focus on surviving the present. We have evolved to prioritise bad news. Princeton University psychologist and economist Daniel Kahneman in his 2011 book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” wrote “Organisms that treat threats as more urgent than opportunities have a better chance to survive and reproduce.”

Societies plagued with postalgia turn to escapism – be that through substance abuse, doomscrolling on social media, or virtual reality – rather than on conscious future plans for progress. Postalgia can affect individuals who lose faith in their own futures; businesses who seek to extract short-term value rather than investing in long-term returns, and nation states that perpetually steal from the future to placate the needs and demands of the present population.

In other words, postalgia can be seen to set in when we lose our purpose; that is, when we no longer have anything worth progressing towards.

Postalgia is dangerous in that it is essentially nihilist. If you believe that tomorrow will be no better, or worse, worse than today, there is no point in planning for the future, and no point in living for anything other than short-term amusement.

Instead of being paralysed by a state of despair about the future, we have two choices: we can get stuck in today, in the endless present, caught up in continual daily problems and end up victims of a future that we did not plan, participate in or choose. Or we can look to the future with purpose and arrive there on our own terms, motivated and driven to build the business and nation we want to work and live in. The choice is ours. Postalgia or purpose?

In order to break this cycle of the endless treadmill of the infinite now Flux Trends has teamed up with The Enrichment Project to put together an Open Session on the 25th of November 2020 “From Postalgia to Purpose – How to Motivate Your Team and Turn Trends into Purposeful Strategic Direction in a World in Flux” for businesses, teams, entrepreneurs and leaders to help you overcome the inertia of postalgia in your organisation and your own life as a leader and look to the future with purpose.

For further information on how Flux Trends can assist you visit www.fluxtrends.co.za