PLAY THE MOVIE. It makes right now so very relevant.
A few years ago I read 9 Things You Simply Must Do. The book’s truths contstantly bubble to the surface while editing my daily life and they’ve proven effective every time I have applied them.
Two summers ago I was given the opportunity to shoot a work-related project in Israel. Without thinking or consulting my wife, I naturally (right?) said I'd go. It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip and, I reasoned, of course my wife would want me to go. Never mind we'd have a three-year old and three-week old at the time of departure that left on, um, Christmas Day. Not only did I not consider my wife’s perspective in my knee-jerk yes, but I wasn’t thinking about the trip's impact on our family. I made a pretty big decision with zero input. For several months the decision weighed on me and our marriage. I hadn’t played out the movie.
Dr. Henry Cloud explains this third principle of his book:
Playing the movie means never to see any individual action as a singular thing in and of itself:
Any one thing you do is only a scene in a larger movie. To understand that action, you have to play it out all the way to the end of the movie.
After viewing the entire film, you can decide whether you really want a particular scene in the movie of your life. If it alters the plot of your story, or takes you to other scenes that you do not want to live out, or even causes the movie itself to have a different ending than you had plotted, then you do not want it. No matter how inviting the scene itself is, you do not want it.
Conversely, if it alters the plot of your story in a direction that you would want to go; if it creates later scenes that you would want to live out, then you might indeed want to add that scene. No matter how hard the scene itself is, you might want to choose it.
Play now, pay later. Pay now, play later. We teach this to six-year-olds. How much better our adult lives would be if we would always live it out ourselves. (pp. 72-73)
Where do we start?
Start by painting a mental picture of who you want to be at the end of your life.
Cloud says to "Plot a movie, a vision of your starring character, your relationships, your spiritual life, your career, your health, your finances.” Write this down, keep it in a visible place and use it as a plum line while making decisions - small or big.
Let's say I want to be a wildly successful boy band manager. Then, let's say in that identity crisis, I visit my therapist. After he slaps me, he helps me create an (obviously much) more realistic vision: becoming a best-selling author. Every single decision will henceforth be vetted against my goal, the final scene of my movie of becoming that person - a bestselling author. For example, I decide to give up movies for a year and use that time to write the next great American novel I’ve had in my back pocket since I was six.
The principle can be applied to many areas of life. Cloud gives a more poignant example:
You are married, but you find a certain woman (or man) you work with attractive and attentive. You slowly begin to spend more and more time around him at work, and eventually the two of you find ways to spend time together outside the office. Those meetings have no legitimate business connection. You begin to fantasize about what it would be like to be with her sexually.
Stop and play the movie. Watch the upcoming scenes where you see yourself as a duplicitous person, looking your wife in the eye and lying. Play it forward further. Watch the scene where she finds out, which usually happens, and see her - and a few friends and your parents - confronting you. Look at your children's faces as they find out that their home is coming to an end. (p. 89)
This isn’t about trying to control life, rather changing what we can (editing life) and charting a course toward a desired outcome to the extent we're able - from this moment on. It makes right now extremely important, doesn’t it? We have to run from the lie that it's too late or that we have plenty of time!
I didn’t go to Israel, but I really wanted to. Leaving my wife and two kids on Christmas Day for a two-week work trip didn't line up with my picture (or the film or book I want to have completed at the end of my life) of putting my family before work and being present as a father in the most (and least) important moments. I could have saved hours of conversation, frustration and regret had I practiced this important principle.
Do you have a vision for who you want to be? What is it and have you thought about how you’ll get there?
Making editorial decisions in the moment requires some thought on the final scene! PLAY THE MOVIE!