Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Future is about change

The reason we are interested in the future is because we know that things will be different. We want to know what will change.

In our lives, there are several things that bring about change. The dominant force of change is simply getting older. Every day. As we get older, we change. Think about the differences from childhood to adolescence. Profound change. Lots of physical growth; upward, filling out. Hormonal and emotional change. And changes related to becoming independent.
The changes brought about by maturing and aging may seem most obvious during adolescence, but there are other times of life, such as menopause and very late in life, that the physical changes are also important. There is a pattern of life stages and normal change that has been understood since the time of Hippocrates, and understanding these stages and patterns can provide considerable insight into changes that you can anticipate in your future.
But there are other forces in our lives that are also changing throughout life. One of the most obvious forces of change is simply the things we do. As children it’s our games, our learning. Then we start school and begin formal learning. The games change to sports and organized activities. And the learning becomes more detailed and complex, then suddenly formal learning is over and careers start.

There are also social and cultural patterns in our lives. These can vary from one country to another, between religions and between political systems. Migration from one social system to another can result in enormous changes in any person’s life. There are also differences between families. One family may have a culture of love, communication, gentleness, understanding, while another family may have a culture of confrontation, argument, distrust or other characteristics. These differences become apparent when two people with different family cultures marry, because some change is inevitable.

Many changes in our lives involve our own decisions. These are changes that we make ourselves rather than those changes that are pushed on us by outside forces. Some of these decisions change the direction of our lives. Choosing a career, deciding to marry, deciding to have children or deciding to divorce are all decisions that change the direction of our lives. These are sometimes referred to as “turning point” events.

What makes a change event important in your life? Two characteristics that you should consider are impact and probability. How likely is an event to happen? If an event happens in your life, what will be the impact upon your life?

Futurists use probability and impact as key criteria when planning for future events. Events that are both highly probable and carry a high impact are the events that should be planned for. Strategic planning in large organizations is generally based on high impact, high probability events. These concepts carry over well into our personal lives, so we should plan first for those events that have high probability of occurring and will carry a high impact when they do occur.

Like what?

Let’s start with retirement. That’s an event that Boomers are starting to think about. There’s lots of advice in the media about how to save for retirement, so most people are aware of financial planning for retirement. But when you actually stop working, what will you do? Travel? Play golf? Watch TV?

You’ll probably be retired for at least twenty years, so you what activities will keep you interested over two or more decades? What will be your role in your family and your community? Where you will live? Downsize and stay in the same area? Move to the tropics?

And what about your health? What will you do to maintain or improve your health?

Those are just a few thoughts for one high probability, high impact event in life. But I think that’s enough to get you thinking about events that are likely to occur in your life in the near future.

Monday, December 3, 2007

What is a “Vision” and why is it important?

Futurists frequently talk about or refer to “Visions of the future.” But sometimes we (futurists) assume that everyone understands what we mean ...but they don’t. The question I hear most frequently from audiences is “How do I create a vision?” And they want a step by step answer. So here’s how.

First, what is a vision of the future? This is important, because a vision of your personal future is the first step in actually planning for your future. A vision of the future is the image in your mind of what the future can or should be like at a given time in the future, say 10 years.
Why is that important? Because that is where you want to go. Your destination. If you don’t have a destination in mind, how will you get there? If you don’t know what you want in life, you’ll have to settle for what you get.

The big question is “How do I create or even decide on a vision of my future?” I suggest you build your vision in small parts. Six parts actually. And you can break down into smaller parts if you want, but start with these six domains or areas of change in your life:

1. Activities. All the things you do. School, career, religion, sports, hobbies, travel, etc.
2. Finances. Everything related money in your life. Income, assets, investments, liabilities, debt, risks, insurance, etc.
3. Health. Everything related to your physical and mental health and care. Your present health status, personal hygiene, medications, diet, exercise, medical and dental care, etc.
4. Housing. Everything related to your home and where you live. House, apartment, hut, community, region, climate, etc.
5. Social. Everything to do with people. Your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, community, advisors, organizations, etc.
6. Transportation. All your modes of transportation, starting with walking. Personal and public transport, local and long distance.

Now look at one of these domains in your life and ask yourself two questions:

1-What is my status in this domain now? Or… What is the quality of my life in this domain?

2-Where do I want my life in this domain to be in ten years?

Consider each of these six domains and make decisions about what you want your life to be like in ten years. Do your choices in each domain work together with choices in other domains or is there conflict? Once you resolve any conflicts, you will have a good of what you want in your future. All that remains is to bring your six decisions about the future together to build one complete image, or vision, of the future you want ten years in the future.
Not terribly complex, is it? You’ll find a little more detail on my web site,

But there is one more important point about visions. This is your vision, so you can change it at any time. You are not locked in. It’s like taking a trip. You can pick a destination, but you can change your mind, even after you’ve started on your journey. In both cases, whatever seemed important at one time can change, so you can change your destination, or your vision. As well as your future.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Long term thinking

I strongly believe in futures methods, the methods futurists use. More, I believe these methods can help individuals acquire the ability to think long term. I also believe that long term thinkers take responsibility—in their lives and in their careers. They also make good leaders.
Last Spring, Jeff Gold (Lecturer at Leeds Metropolitan University School of Business and Law) and I presented a paper on Personal Futures at the AHRD (Academy of Human Resources Development) convention in Indianapolis. Our approach dealt with using Personal Futures concepts in helping employees develop career paths. We were surprised. Very.
After our presentation, we were each approached at different times by individuals who liked our concepts, but thought we should direct our approach toward executive education and development. Teaching long term thinking and long-term perspectives to people who would become leaders in different areas of their organizations. This caught both of us by surprise.
But it makes sense. The ability to think many years ahead is an important leadership skill. Much like chess. Leaders and chess players need to know where they are going and what moves they must make to get them there.
Of course the same applies in our personal lives. And our children’s lives. Looking ahead. Planning the moves that we must make to take us to our vision of the future.
And there is a word that futurists use a lot…Vision. Organizations spend a lot of time thinking about their vision of the future. Executives attend multi-day seminars or workshops on how to develop-create-design a vision of their organization’s future. As individuals, we can also benefit from a little time thinking about our future. Developing a vision.
And it’s not hard. The next addition to this blog (approximately next week) will be about creating a vision of your future. A vision of where you want your life to be ten years from now. In detail..