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.

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