• xo Robyn

The power of knowing your FUTURE self and eliminating abstraction to reach your goals

Updated: Aug 8, 2019

In a book I'm reading called, "Leaders Eat Last" by Simon Sinek I'm learning about the power that humans can, do and should have to help change and improve each other. I'm learning about WHY leadership exists and how to be a leader motivated by love for bettering humanity.

In the book, Mr. Sinek recounts an alarming series of test performed in the 1960's under the direction of Dr Milgram. According to the telling in the book, there was a German war general who escaped prosecution for his part in the systematic genocide of Jews and other unwanted persons during the World War II years. He was discovered in the late 1950's living in Argentina, and was finally brought to trial and convicted. However, psychiatric doctors and researchers had been debating on HOW such a systematic genocide on such a large scale in such a short amount of time had even come about. It had to have been done by MORE than the few main leaders. There had to have been a large network of thousands enabling it to happen. So beyond the trial of this German general, they questioned him on these matters wondering at the shere number of individuals WILLING to be part of such a scheme. They asked him the question we ALL would ask,

"BUT WHY? HOW could you do it? HOW could you sign papers effectually ending thousands of lives- men, women and children- all innocent- every day for years? Had you NO feeling? You KNEW what you were doing, right?"

And his answer astounded them. And the answers of the interrogated leaders from those black years before astounded us.... but they were essentially the same:

"I was just following orders."

Say what?

That's it?

What's the age-old image we tell our children when they don't give a logical answer to why they did something dumb with their friends...."Well... {Jimmy} made me do it...." to which we reply, "So if Jimmy told you to jump off a cliff, would you do it?" To which the child usually responds, "Well, no. I wouldn't....." and we get to make our point that just because someone else tells you to, you do NOT have to do it. You always have a choice.


Isn't that the truth?

So what was up with these German generals?

Did their parents miss this important lesson? Now, I do know that there was an entire generation of German boys that were conditioned from a young age, that Hitler was the only authority. No doubt this had tremendous mental impact on the choices these boys made for this holocaust to take place. But what about the THOUSANDS of others who weren't conditioned to do so?

The answer came when Dr Milgram was SO astonished at this answer, he devised a scientific experiment to prove or disprove that humans could be SO effected by another human's apparent authority that they would go against their own moral code to the point of killing another human being.

The overall experiment was pretty simple. There was a Learner and a Teacher, and a man in a lab coat directing the Teacher's actions as the authority over the experiment. The Learner was to sit in a chair and be given praise when he got answers right, and an electric shock when he got answers wrong, administered by the Teacher. The volunteers brought in were told that they were to draw out of a hat whether they were to be the Teacher or the Learner. What the volunteers didn't know, was that the other supposed volunteer in the room was actually a fellow scientist fully in the know of the experiment and his role in it and the papers in the hat, both said Teacher. The volunteer was then, the Teacher of the experiment regardless of the paper he chose. The volunteers were told this was an important scientific study on memory ability.

"The “learner” (Mr. Wallace) was strapped to a chair with electrodes. After he has learned a list of word pairs given him to learn, the "teacher" tests him by naming a word and asking the learner to recall its partner/pair from a list of four possible choices.

The teacher is told to administer an electric shock every time the learner makes a mistake, increasing the level of shock each time. There were 30 switches on the shock generator marked from 15 volts (slight shock) to 450 (danger – severe shock).

The learner gave mainly wrong answers (on purpose), and for each of these, the teacher gave him an electric shock. [The learner would exhibit pain and discomfort when the shocks got worse. What the Teacher didn't know, was that the shocks were only ever minimal, and the scientist acting as the learner would act out in pain and pleas for the shocks to stop.]

When the teacher refused to administer a shock, the experimenter was to give a series of orders/prods to ensure they continued. There were four prods and if one was not obeyed, then the experimenter, the Authority, (Mr. Williams) read out the next prod, and so on.

Prod 1: Please continue. Prod 2: The experiment requires you to continue. Prod 3: It is absolutely essential that you continue. Prod 4: You have no other choice but to continue.


65% (two-thirds) of participants (i.e., teachers) continued to the highest level of 450 volts, [to assumed near death or death when the student was placed in another room, and the teacher could not see the pain he was inflicting, only could hear pounding on the walls]. All the participants continued to 300 volts [inflicting enormous pain, even when the learner was visibly in pain.]

Milgram did more than one experiment – he carried out 18 variations of his study.  All he did was alter the situation [how visible or audible the pain was to the teacher and how the experimenter dressed] to see how this affected obedience (DV).


Ordinary people are likely to follow orders given by an authority figure, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being.  Obedience to authority is ingrained in us all from the way we are brought up.

People tend to obey orders from other people if they recognize their authority as morally right and/or legally based. This response to legitimate authority is learned in a variety of situations, for example in the family, school, and workplace.

Milgram summed up in the article “The Perils of Obedience” (Milgram 1974), writing:

'The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous import, but they say very little about how most people behave in concrete situations.  I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist. Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ [participants’] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ [participants’] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.'"


The test results found that the more abstract the results of the shocks were from the Teacher administering them, the further the Teacher would go in administering the shocks, until death.

In other words, when the Learner was right in front of the Teacher and the Teacher had to place the Learners hand on the shock table, they would refuse to go on with the experiment early on. But when the Learner was removed by a wall, and the Teacher could only hear the screams and pleas to stop he went further down the line of more harmful shocks. But only when the Learner was removed to another room and the Teacher could only hear bangs on the walls did they actually administer the shocks until death. So the more abstract, or removed from reality the Teacher was from the Learner's apparent pain and pleas for them to stop, the easier and more quickly was the Teacher able to obey the apparent authority with greater ease of conscience. 65% of the volunteers went all the way to the highest shocks possible and really THOUGHT they had killed someone! A volunteer! Not a war Nazi General. A simple man out of a normal city who just wanted to make a buck by being part of an experiment for humanity and psychology.

I was appalled and astonished at this test. Not only because I feel it is definitely unethical in a few ways, but the findings! Are we so blind to our agency as humans? What is it in our cultures that has us believing so strongly in people's authority besides ourselves? What is it in our brains that will not prick our conscience enough to solicit a change in action when known consequences are in the balance? (Think recycling, diet change due to health struggles, parenting patterns, etc) In successive years, this test was run among many cultures through the 1980's with strikingly similar results.

While this series of experiments warrants a lot of different tangents of thinking and successive tests to see why we do this and how we can change as a people so our feeling of self power- our very real ability to be agents unto ourselves is greater than this experiment suggests- there is one comparison I want to make in this article.

I want to compare this experiment in this way:

The Learner is you and I in the future.

The Teacher is you and I in the present.

The Authority conducting the experiment is also You and I. It is our BRIAN patterns governing the execution of our belief systems.

The comparison suggests that our FUTURE is so far ahead and cannot be totally predictable due to millions of variables in the moving pieces that are our fellow humans each possessing agency of action, that it becomes the abstract result we cannot see our actions severely affecting.

I find that people are either haunted by the truth that how they feel is completely up to them, or empowered by it. I find that my friends are either excited by the prospect that they CAN in part predict the future by their actions today full of hope and self esteem, or they are depressed by it due to past perceived failure and from filling their minds with self talk that is negative and/or from being around someone who has fed their mind with self defeating beliefs about themselves AKA an emotionally abusive relationship.

WHY Does this matter to me and my mission to help families get healthier to be enabled to live more fulfilling and JOY filled lives?

I know from deep and life altering experience the effect that continual action from continual subscription to authority and our subsequent obedience has on our belief system. When we consistently act or react a certain way either in obedience to our own conscience or an authority we believe has superior morality or legality, it builds a belief system in our brain that can become a governing moral value when consistent enough over time. The action starts as a brain translation from a single feeling, translated into emotion based on experience, that then comes out as choices we believe we should make and then literal action taken. That was deep. But TRUE. Read it again if you must. Until you follow.

Why do you think Life Coaches, Business Coaches, Performance Coaches, and coaches in every genre you can think of are the "booming" thing right now? Because we finally are being aware of that truth I laid out above. It's the voices you are listening to the most that will move the needle. And a good coach, consistently listened to, will help your INNER voice become a voice of authority to get you where you want to go. We are learning just how powerful the actions and words from the humans surrounding us are. We are learning just how powerful the belief system is toward guiding actions. There is no longer and mystery as to why some people can lose weight and others cannot. It's who they are surrounded by, the voices they are listening to, and the consequent actions from the consistent messaging and new beliefs built. There is no longer mystery as to why some people are wealthy and others are not. It is who they are surrounded by and what beliefs they've built, causing different actions. There is no longer mystery as to why some people are happy and joyful and others are not. The answer is that it is quite literally, "All in our heads." But how it gets in the head, is this piece of what authority we are listening to and the consequent viable choices we create for ourselves, and then ACTIONS we take.

I say choices we create for ourselves instead of choices we have, because that is an important distinction to understand. The choices we believe we have, are made by our thought patterns, our authority, NOT OUR CIRCUMSTANCES. Milgram proved that in his study. The teacher believed he had to continue on. He thought he had no other choice. When in reality, they never said that he couldn't stop. Let that truth sink in my friends.

The choices that you believe you have are created by YOUR own brain patterns from a belief system you created from a thinking pattern you've had for a long period of time from subscribing to something you believe holds authority over you. All the volunteers viewed the scientist conducting experiment as a form of higher authority than even themselves from years of cultural conditioning to believe so.

Changing your choices, to change your actions, to change your outcomes in life, starts with your thinking processes and your chosen voice of authority. The good news is that we now know (we didn't just 40 years ago) just how malleable our thought chains actually are. Changing our brain patterns IS 100% doable. Just ask the parents of a child that was diagnosed to never be able to communicate or walk, but then DID through the right therapies and patterns introduced daily. Just ask someone who was told they'd likely never be able to run a company due to their lack in some ability, who DID through getting the right mentors, reading the right books, and taking imperfect action. Just ask........... me. :) I know the power of our thoughts and I know the intense experience of changing thought patterns to change life habits and life outcomes and even rebuilding belief systems and moral values so that my actions produce the result I can conceive in my mind. I know the power of whose voice I listen to, whose books I read, and what media I will ingest through my ears and eyes. These voices, these messages, these images are shaping my future thoughts and actions. The more consistently I listen or watch or read, the more I will build a belief system around it, which will then shape my actions and bring about physical results in my life.


The bottom line is this: this experiment proved something about a humans moral code to obey authority they believe to holds a higher or better legal or moral power than them to the extreme, no matter his station in life or current belief system. Subsequent variants on the experiment continually proved that the more abstract the results, the more the human inflicting the actions producing the results will obey even to the point of murder. And later with more studies being done, we see that with consistent exposure to any idea or scenario humans start to build belief systems around their ability or disability to do or not do or believe or not believe whatever it is that they are being exposed to. Resulting in actions from those beliefs whether in virtual reality OR physical reality. {The affects virtual reality and media have on our choices and brain/emotional patterns plays a huge role here too. But that will have to be another article.}

Books like "Think and Grow Rich" by Napoleon Hill come to mind. :) This notion from the 1930's that you could simply FOCUS on wealth, generosity, creativity, and your abilities to lead that would in fact lead you to the end result of actually achieving whatever it is you want and bringing whatever wealth to your life you desired. The idea of the Universe moving in accordance with your very thought patterns in the 1990's with the movement of "The Secret" and many more similar books and media promoting the Law of Attraction now all over the place 30 years later.

At its CORE though, is this truth that we act on whatever belief systems we have in place. And that those beliefs are HEAVILY influenced by what we are filling our minds with consistently. What fills your mind, becomes your governing authority. Milgram proved, we are fiercely obedient to whatever authority we subscribe to. So take great care my friends in who you are surrounding yourself with. Take great care in what media you are soaking up day to day.

And more exciting=====> is that knowledge that when you DO change your voice of authority, when you DO work to change your beliefs, you can be assured that your actions WILL change and your future self WILL be different and CAN be anything you can dream of.

I've seen this at work for the 6+ years I've been a health coach. Whatever my clients believe is possible motivates them to start a change in habits, but it is ultimately who they listen to and who they spend time with the most that makes or breaks their progress. When they are in touch with me daily, report their actions to the group daily, are intentional with their time, the take responsibility for their surroundings and are reading inspiring and mind challenging material daily, they always see progress. 100%. But when they are distant from the group, rarely connect with me, and continue to be reactive to the relationships around them, read and watch material that isn't inspiring (or nothing), they are frustrated with their progress as it is always very slow.

I saw it in the 8 years I was a music teacher. If the child's parent was feeding belief and confidence in the child's ability, and the child believed that parent to be an authority to them- they would practice and try hard to progress. And then there was the child that was mindlessly put into lessons to either simply give the child "something to do" or as an out for the parent's sanity. Either way, the child knew which one it was and would act accordingly.

I see it DAILY as a parent. My kids know who the authority is when it comes to their usage of the house and household items like the TV, the trampoline, transportation needs, etc. and who provides their foods and clothing. We are helping them daily to recognize their inner authority over their moral code and build their self esteem as they lean on our authority and our regard for them as they grow in their personal feelings and what they choose to subscribe to and consequently act on.

How we speak to others matters. Who we choose to spend the majority of our time with matters. What school you put your kids into matters. They spend a LOT of time there. What are they hearing? How are they being spoken to? Where do YOU spend your time? What books are you reading? What movies are you watching? What friends do you continually spend time with? Do they lift you up and encourage you to be better? Or do they allow you to wallow in self pity and join your complain fest and even join you in self sabotaging behavior like over eating and over spending? Is your spouse helping or hindering your inner voice of authority over your actions and consequent future self and future health? What about YOUR inner voice who speaks to you every minute of every day? How are YOU doing at being the authority over your actions and emotions? The answers to these questions will reveal WHY you are where you are right at this moment.

You will innately be obedient to whatever authority you are subscribing to the most consistently.

When I changed who my authority was over my actions by feeding myself with good books and other progressive media, and learned how to create my own choices through higher self esteem and then consistently worked at it, I finally saw my goals in ALL areas starting to happen.

This was a DEEP article.

I hope it made you think. :)

I also know that if you are in a place to accept this message, you are wondering what you can do to start changing NOW.

So here are my top 5 ACTION steps:

1) Get real with your goals. Get CLEAR on what you want to see happen in your life. Define a time, I suggest 3-5 years in the future and bring that abstract future self of yours from behind the wall. LOOK your future self in the eyes and declare what you want to see and WRITE IT OUT. How will you look? Will you have lost weight? Will you be out of debt? How will you feel when you wake up 3 years from now? What will have changed in your relationships? Where will you be at in your business or career? How will your days flow? Who will you talk to? What will you eat?

2) Define who your BEST voices are to listen to. Who is the person that inspires you to be better? Who is that person that always has your back and encourages you to be BETTER? Not the same. Who is the voice that always has you feeling empowered and wanting to try again and again? If you don't have many of these, its time to seek some out! Life coaches, business coaches, and therapists can be amazing voice to get you from here to there. I'd love to be a positive voice for you if you need one for health change. And if you have defeating voices around, it's time to let them go.

3) Make an action plan toward one of your future goals and do something toward it each day. If you want to lose weight? Exercise once a day. Eat one salad a day. Want to have a better inner voice? Read 10 pages of an inspiring book each day. Want stronger faith? Study a source of literature or listen to a speaker from your faith each day.

4) Examine your environment. What surrounds you? Do you have inspiring quotes on the walls? Do you have photos of happy moments and bright images pleasing to your senses? Do you have good lighting and natural sunlight in your space daily? Your environment helps or hinders your focus for progress. Change what you can in the next few weeks. Add a plant! Open that window! Get outside in nature! Buy that inspiring sign you loved at Hobby Lobby last week. :)

5) Start changing your inner voice by saying affirmations out loud describing the person you need to believe you are or reading a goal list and visualizing it coming to reality DAILY. Put this list next to your bed and read or speak it every morning before you get out of bed.

Lot's to think about!

I'm rooting for humanity to change as we all learn these truths about HOW we can change ourselves!

One person, one family, one generation at a time.

Let it be YOU that starts the change.

All my love and belief



PS. If you are ready for change, I'd love to have you in one of my health groups I coach! Fill out this form and we'll be in touch to go over details and get you on your way! We'll definitely go through all 5 action steps as we work through health change. I believe health is the low hanging fruit to ALL change, as it helps you feel STRONG enough to tackle the deeper changes that must be made to change your future. :)

8 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All