Pre-enactment: A Way to Create the Future You Want

I am a big advocate of working forward rather than backward. I’ve transformed my life into one of meaning and fulfillment and joy by using several methods of envisioning what I wanted to create in my life, rather than focusing my efforts on what I did NOT want in my life.

As such, I’ve journaled, created vision boards, set HEART goals, and created accountability systems to ensure that I acted unfailingly on those dreams. And, without doubt, it has worked.

Yet, as powerful as those techniques are, none are nearly as amazing as a way of envisioning (and then creating) a better future than one I learned from Joanna Taft, director of the Harrison Center for the Arts  and visionary community leader. (You can see her Ted Talk on Cultural Entrepreneurship here.)

Her question is this. Rather than reenact, why not pre-enact?

Here is the concept. A reenactment is the recreation of an era in the past, in as authentic of a way as possible. People are in costume. The surroundings are true to the period. The activities that ensue and the food that is consumed are replicas of the experience of that time. Reenactments are a multi-sensory way to step back into time – a suspension of the current day and a walk into the past.

Why not pre-enact?

Joanna’s question was why not pre-enact? She wondered what would happen if we created a transitory, but tangible, environment that was the embodiment of the future that we’d like to create. Where people got into character. Where the environment was created through creative staging. Where things were transformed, even for a brief time, offering a glimpse into what might be.

Her pre-enactment theater project is a community based one. The core question this project centers around is: “What would it be like to reimagine the Monon 16 neighborhood as it ought to be–equitable, vibrant and just?” The current state of the Monon 16 neighborhood is one with 19% unemployment, 32.7% living below the poverty level, abandoned houses and vacant commercial space.”

Pre-enactment is described here, from the project web site:

Our stage will be the entire three block commercial stretch of Monon 16. Set designers and property owners will make both temporary and permanent improvements to the physical structures to depict a healthy neighborhood. These physical structures will serve as the setting for actors and neighbors to engage in site specific and interactive performance, to help the community envision a healthy neighborhood. We will work for 12 months with local actors and set designers from large and small theater companies, and collaborate with visual artists, community stakeholders and three schools to perform visioning exercises. This work will help neighbors plan for the future by re-envisioning the Monon 16 area “the way it ought to be”. Instead of economic development at the cost of displacement, Pre-Enactment envisions a just, equitable and vibrant neighborhood where everyone is included in economic prosperity.

While yet a few months away, I suspect that pre-enactment for Monon 16 already has profoundly changed the neighborhood. It has created conversations of possibilities. It has pulled people together to dream and envision. It has opened eyes to potential rather than problems.

Pre-enacting in Your Life

And so I’m intrigued by ways to repurpose this concept of pre-enactment, of envisioning and then creating a stage and acting into the future you want to create. I wonder if we might pre-enact:

  • The customer experience you would like to create
  • What your business will be like 5 years from now
  • A healthy, vibrant team culture
  • An ideal family day
  • The successful outcome of a team project
  • An amazing work day
  • The future for your community group
  • An ideal day in your dream career

For pre-enactment moves us from mere thought to pure action. It creates community as we hear others visions. An environment arises where we step into the future with our full senses engaged, seeing what could be and gaining confidence that so much is possible. And that we, working together, can create that future we so vividly pre-enacted.

What do you think? Where might you pre-enact something?


Evergreen Leadership is excited to announce we are accepting nominations for the second annual Community Builders Award. The Community Builders Award recognizes and connects emerging leaders (between ages of 25 and 40) across the state of Indiana who are actively working to improve their leadership and the communities they live in.

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