The Habit of
Predicting the Future

It’s as if we use a predictive text feature in our brain. It’s challenging to see how things will play out without any assumptions or judgments of what’s coming next. But if we release the assumptions and judgements we may find that our future looks much brighter.

Lindsay Mumma headshot

By Dr. Lindsay Mumma, DC

It all started with one of my patients telling the future.


She said something along the lines of, “I’ll feel fine until I workout, and then it’ll start hurting again.”


I jokingly asked if she had a crystal ball.


She face-palmed, realizing what she’d just said. We’d discussed this topic before, and she was embarrassed that she’d just predicted her future in an unfavorable way.


I assured her that it was common to slip into old habits, but our ability to become aware of those habits gives us more choice in how we move forward.


I hear (and subsequently call out) future predictions so frequently that I feel a little naggy by pointing them out. But I’d much rather be annoying than allow an opportunity for awareness to slip by.

This particular patient wanted her future to look different than her current situation. She came to my office as a referral from a psychiatrist. She’d been in pain for quite a while; so long that it had become “normal”. She didn’t want to be in pain any longer, but she spoke as if she would be.


Many of us claim to want certain things, but our word choices tell a different story.


It’s a bit like the predictive text feature that’s most likely enabled on your phone. It’ll guess what’s coming next to save you some time in forming a response.


Your brain does the same thing. Our brains try to eliminate overstimulation of the infinite potential of what lies in the next moment. It does this by making assumptions of what’s coming next.


Sometimes, that’s helpful. Driving to work without directly thinking about the route is often a nice auto-pilot feature of your brain. But when your life goes on auto-pilot altogether, it’s easy to get stuck in places – physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually – and keep repeating the same routes.


Motherhood can often feel like that. But if we take a look at only the present moment rather than predicting what happens next, it can free us from repeating unwanted patterns.

Many of us claim to want certain things, but our word choices tell a different story.

Exhausted mothers often report, “He’ll only sleep for 45 minutes.” But think about this: if you said that last sentence, then you’re saying “‘he WILL’ only sleep” as if it’s something that’s going to happen. Do you know that to be true? Is it possible he’ll sleep for longer? Or even shorter?


No matter how old your child is, he can hear you. His brain picks up on messages going on around him. And so does yours. As bedtime or naptime approaches, you may start to get a little agitated. Your autonomic nervous system detects a threat and your stress response activates accordingly. Your son’s brain hears what’s going to happen and responds accordingly as well.


But what if you just changed that same sentence to the past tense and made it absolutely true?


“This week, he has only napped for 45 minutes at a time.”


That sentence is true. And it doesn’t predict the future.


We don’t know what the future holds. But if we stop making room for potential new experiences, it’s pretty easy to get wrapped up in the old ones.


Maybe try turning off the predictive text feature in your brain for a day. See how things play out without any assumptions or judgments of what’s coming next.

Dr. Mumma received her BA from Kent State University in Kent, OH, and her Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, IA, where she was named the Clinical Excellence Award winner for her graduating class. In addition to the academic requirements of the DC program, Dr. Mumma has also completed over 600 continuing education credit hours in areas such as rehabilitation, developmental kinesiology, pediatrics, pregnancy, nutrition, pain management, sports injuries, TMJ disorder treatment, disc pain, and neurology. She owns and manages Triangle Chiropractic and Rehabilitation in Raleigh, NC.

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