A young actor had to play a scene in which he walked into his apartment after an enjoyable party and was confronted by a gun-wielding thug. When he put the key in the lock, the director yelled, "Cut! You just came from a great party...look happy. That guy inside doesn't exist for you...not yet."
<?xml:namespace prefix = o /> From that, the actor learned the wisdom of an old theatrical saying, "Never play the result." Too many of us spend our lives playing the result! We are so busy planning for and dreaming about some far-away "tomorrow" that we forget to live for "today." Did you ever know someone who lives "one step beyond?" He is the high school sophomore who is already wondering what his major will be in college; the college freshman who has already begun thinking about whether she will become a brain surgeon in ten years, or get married and have children (and in what order); the corporate apprentice who, having landed his first job, is already wondering where his office will be when he becomes a corporate five years! In social circles, it’s the people with whom you spend an evening who are busy planning the next time they will see you.
 Many of us have encountered these people and have thought, "All he thinks about is the future; he never takes time to stop and smell the roses." Still other individuals live primarily in the past or present. These qualities have to do with the way people represent time internally. The ways people represent time--past, present future--provide the basis for their skills and limitations. As a result, it is difficult for them to remedy some difficulties until they change their way of representing time. Some people talk about having a dim future or no future at all! The future on their timelines is dim.
 Time is a very basic element in organizing our experience. Most of us have some way of sorting experience with respect to time. This greatly influences the outcomes we consider important; and the skills we learn along the way. Living with a dim future can make each "today" just another drudgery to get through; one more mental notch closer to a poorly-defined future goal. However, you can make the present more satisfying without sacrificing the lure of the future. The trick is to examine the ways in which you represent present and future, making them into complimentary forces.
 Instead of dreaming about the future, clarify it. What is one of your long-range goals in life? Make it specific, don't just say, "to be successful. What does that mean to you? Is it money and power, love and good relationships, a reputation for excellence in your field? Create a precise experience. This is where timelines becomes important.
 Think of an experience in either your past or present and its elements or "sub-modalities" (e.g., size, brightness, clarity, color, location, movement, sound, feeling, etc.). Now while holding that experience, think of something in your future that you wish to clarify. Examine its elements. How do these two experiences differ? Can you try to make the elements of the "future" experience like those of the other? Take all the time you need, this is not an easy exercise, although it is but a beginning. More complex work with timelines often requires therapeutic endeavor. The more specifically you can define that murky long- range goal, the more you can turn it into a present plan instead of a vague dream. Once you know, look again at the present. If the elements match, you will likely experience the "future" as clearly as the "present." Then you can progress toward your goal in the present by developing a plan containing a series of shorter- range goals, then of sub-goals to those, and even sub- sub-goals. In this way, each day's activity becomes an important link in the chain. It's at this lowest level that you begin. Don't play the result by focusing too far ahead. Give each day, each task, its special importance. The "means" will begin to matter in and for themselves! You may become more relaxed, more efficient...and more likely to do the kind of thorough work that may bring your goal to realization.