Friday, December 9, 2011

The Second Step Toward Your Personal Future

The second step toward your personal future involves exploring multiple alternative futures. This is the scenario method, in my opinion the heart of futuring.

In the first step, you did the research on your life; your life stage, your stakeholders, the forces in your life, high probability/ high impact events, and values. If you haven’t already, I suggest you download the Personal Futures Workbook. It’s a free PDF download at .What I show you here is a little different than the workbook, but is what you’ll find in the next version (soon!) of the workbook and in my book; It’s YOUR Future… Make it a Good One!

Your first scenario will contain information that will be used in all your personal scenarios. We’ll call this baseline scenario,”Continuation of the present into the future.” This scenario assumes very little unexpected change in your life over the next ten years. You and your stakeholders will all be ten years older and in new stages of your lives. The high probability/high impact events commonly associated with those life stages will be included. The forces in your life, your personal domains, will be calm with no major unexpected change, and the world around you will be generally stable. This is your future absent unanticipated change.

The rest of your scenarios will have change superimposed upon this baseline scenario.

The next scenario is a positive scenario, the “Best Plausible” scenario. Note I’m saying “plausible” not “possible” because this is a scenario that is reasonable to anticipate. No miracles (i.e. winning the lottery), just a combination of good forces moving in your favor.

Now, look at each of your personal domains:

·         Activities

·         Finances

·         Health

·         Housing

·         Social

·         Transportation

In each domain, what are the best things that could reasonably happen in your life over the next ten years? (There are charts in the workbook to help with this.) Simply add those positive events and the forces that lead up to them into a copy of your baseline scenario. Now you have all of the elements of a positive scenario.

Now, reverse your direction to create your “Worst Plausible” scenario. For each domain, what are the worst plausible events that could happen in your life over the next ten years? Add those negative events into a baseline scenario to create your negative scenario.

Traditionally, the next scenario is a “Wild Card” scenario, driven by one or more low probability/high impact events. Winning the lottery and natural disasters all fall into this category. I live near the Gulf Coast of Texas, so hurricanes seem like a natural wild card.

But there is something new in Wild Card events, and that is the “Aspirational Scenario’ introduced by futurist Clem Bezold. In this scenario, the driving force at work is the will of the subject of the scenario to achieve something that others consider unachievable. In It’s YOUR Future… Make it a good One! the twenty- year-old example character aspires to write a best-selling novel before age thirty (It’s been done. Ken Kesey comes to mind—he wrote two!).

At this point, you have all the elements of four or five personal scenarios, but having the elements or concepts is not enough. It is important to write out a short (or long) story for each scenario that shows how your life might unfold over the next ten years if you lived in that scenario. Don’t be intimidated by the idea of writing out your scenarios. You need a beginning, a middle and an end that describes what happens in your life in this scenario, how it unfolds and why.

In workshops, people sometimes hesitate at writing scenarios, but once they have the finished story in front of them, they are proud of their achievement. Why is this step of writing the scenario so important? In the future, you will be able to recall or read your scenarios and relate them to how your life is actually unfolding, and you will understand which scenario you are actually living and why.

There is more information about personal scenarios and futuring on my web site, and information on It’s YOUR Future… Make it a good One! and other writings at . Follow me: @urfuturist.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

So—What Are You Going To Do About It?

You’ve read about the future, heard people speak about the future, watched videos about the future, and more.

So what?

What have you done about the future? Particularly, what have you done about your own future?

This is a challenge. Take a little time and think about your future, then do something about it. Now. Whether you are a big-company CEO or looking for work, there is a lot you can know about your future. There is a lot you should know.  Most important, there is a lot you can do about your future.

How do you do that? Here’s a start— go to, then go to the “Free Downloads” page. Download The Personal Futures Workbook, then download the spreadsheet near the bottom of the “Free Downloads” page. If you have a small business, you may be interested in the Small Business Foresight download as well. Now, look at some of the pages on this site that explain a little about planning your own future. If you want more detailed information, my book It’s Your Future… Make it a Good One! is available in paperback or eBook on this site, as well as at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Apple sites. But you don't have to buy the book( Sure, I hope you do, but you can do this with the free workbook and the materials on the web site). The book simply provides more information and examples that will help you think about your future.

Fill out the workbook. This will require you to actually think about your future— what it may be and what it can be. In the process, you will be using exactly the same methods used around the world by professional futurists and large organizations. The only difference is that the methods are scaled down to fit your life. If you’re skeptical, this approach has been published widely in journals and in the Futurist. The book and workbooks are used as textbooks at several colleges and universities. The book and the workbooks have gone all over the world.

But the book and the workbook simply provide a system; a system for thinking about and taking action toward your future. This is not a book to simply read and feel good about. This is a book and workbook system that requires thought and action.

Does it work? The emails I have received are pretty emphatic that it does. I have been told several times that a workbook or workshop “…changed my life!” I’ve seen the results in the lives of several people. So I would say yes.

Try this system. It may change your future. It will teach you about futures tools and methods. It may give you a long term perspective (very important!). If you have questions as you go through the personal futuring process, send me an email. I’ll answer.

Follow me on Twitter: @urfuturist

Friday, September 30, 2011

The First Step Toward Your Future

Personal Futures is simply a system for applying futures (or futurist’s) methods to individual lives. These methods have been used (quite successfully) by corporations and governments around the world for decades. It’s just a matter of scale. And simplicity.
When I started my research, scaling down was THE challenge. Not so much for the futures methods, they scale easily. The problem was the research. The basic information about each individual’s life. Where does an individual (you)start? What are the driving forces? What are plausible and probable events in your future?
In building a systematic approach to personal futures, I arrived at three major steps:
                1-Understanding your life (research).
                2-Exploring alternate futures (personal scenario s).
                3- Creating a vision, strategies and plans for the future (personal strategic planning).
Which brings us to that first step, “Understanding your life”. Where are you in life now (age, health, education, family, etc.)? What are the forces of change in your life? What are the high probability events in your future? What are the patterns? What are the universals? What are your values?
One “universal” is biology, the human life cycle, which breaks down into stages. Life stages were identified centuries ago and can be found in the writings of the ancient Greeks. Psychologists today still recognize life stages. For an individual, each life stage can represent a planning period, and each change from one life stage to another represents important change in any individual’s life. If one understands  or has mental images of the future stages of life, they provide a frame upon which planning can begin.
Another universal lies in six personal domains. Each domain represents a category of forces that exist in every person’s life from birth to death. Recognizing these domains and the forces within them is an important part of understanding your future, because these are the forces that bring about change in your life. The six personal domains include:

                Activities- the things we do, including education, career, sports, religion, hobbies, etc.
                Finances- everything to do with money, assets, liabilities, and risk.
                Health- your health, both physical and mental and any care or medications you receive.
                Housing- your home, community, country, climate. All about where you live.
                Social- family, friends, neighbors, co-workers. All the people in your life.
Transportation- relates to all modes and aspects of transportation including walking and distance. 

Generally, during any life stage, forces from at least two domains will be dominant during that stage. So, understanding the domains and the forces can help you understand how changes in the forces can produce changes in your life. By projecting how each of the domains, and particularly the dominant domains might behave in the future, it is possible to anticipate changes in your future. For example, if you think of your career as a force of change, how will your career change over the next ten years? How will those changes impact your life?
When something specific happens in your life, we call it an event. Each event in life is part of one of your six domains. Also, each event will occur during one of your life stages. During your lifetime many events occur, and they have two common characteristics that make them of interest to your future:

Although some events are highly probable in your life, many have very little impact on your life. Birthdays for example.  Very predictable, but not much impact. As you think about the future, your greatest consideration should be for those events that have both high probability and high impact. These are the events for which you will want to create strategies and plans for your future. These are events that you will have in your personal scenarios and your strategic plan.
Another factor to consider in your personal life is your values. What’s important in your life? Family? Ethics? Career? Money? Power? Which is most important of all? What’s next?
Why should you be concerned with your values? Because your values are your rudder, steering you through your life. If you understand what your values really are, you’ll be more likely to choose the right value when you’re under pressure.
These four areas, life stages, personal domains, life events and personal values contain enough information about your life to help you start looking at your future. Preparing for it. Planning for it. Going beyond wishing and starting to work toward the future you want.

There are some worksheets and workbooks (free downloads) on my web site that will help you with all this:  Details about my new book It’s YOUR Future… Make it a Good One! are on my personal web site, The first chapter is available as a free PDF download.
In my next blog, we’ll explore your alternate personal futures with personal scenarios. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter @urfuturist.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Next Generation of Futurists

For the past three years, I’ve had the pleasure and opportunity to chair a committee for the Association of Professional Futurists the, Student Recognition Project. This project has given me the opportunity to correspond with futures educators around the world, and to read papers from the brightest and the best of the next generation of futurists. The quality level of some of these papers is amazing. I know that word is overused, but it’s the best description I can think of.

When I was a student in Studies of the Future at the University of Houston Clear Lake (1998-1999) I was impressed with the quality of students that I was competing/collaborating with at that time. Most of them are professional futurists now. But the quality level of the work being done today, all around the globe, should help elevate the entire profession.

One thing troubles me though. And that is that I’m only seeing a fraction of the work that is being done by students of Foresight and Futures Studies. We are only receiving the papers that are written or translated into English. That means that many of the schools that conduct foresight classes in another language are not participating; for which I take some responsibility. In our first year of the project, we paid for translations of student papers. Only one school submitted papers for translation, but the expense surprised me. It also surprised the Board of APF, because it represented an open-ended risk. One Board member, Stephen Aguilar-Milan, argued strongly for offering full translation, but, although I and most of the Board agreed with his point of view, the risk was too high.

So the second and third years, we asked for papers in English. I offered software translation, but no takers. So we will be looking for a solution that will make the Student program more inclusive.

We have received all the student entries from school year 2010 in mid-January, and our chief judge, Jim Mathews is getting ready to send the papers out to the judges who will read the papers and pick the best. Not an easy job, but it certainly gives perspective on the next generation of futurists!

As those papers are being read, we on the APF committee will start to think about the Student Recognition Project for 2011. What can we do to improve the Project? How can we make it more inclusive? How can we resolve the translation problem?

If you have suggestions or ideas for improving this project, please email me at

In closing, I would like to invite you to visit my web sites, (with free downloads including the Personal Futures Workbook, 4th edition) (my books and other writing—read the first chapter of It’s YOUR Future… Make it a Good One!) The Personal Futures Network has a page on Facebook (new). Come be a fan! Finally you can follow me on Twitter @urfuturist . I’ll be sending updates from Mumbai during February.


Friday, January 7, 2011

A New Edition of The Personal Futures Workbook

It was something of a surprise to me to realize that the new version of the Personal Futures Workbook that I’ve been working on is the Fourth Edition. The first was a 30 page workbook that was actually an appendix to my dissertation, which was formally approved in very early 2006. The next year, I expanded the Workbook to over 90 pages so it would be useful in workshops. It was well received.

In early 2008, I slimmed the workbook down to 50+ pages, produced it in Acrobat PDF, and posted it on my web site. This (3rd edition) was very well received, because people could bring their notebook computers to a workshop after downloading the Workbook. Especially well received, because the download was free! Soon the website was getting traffic from all over the world. Fifty or sixty different countries every month.

Then friends in different countries translated the workbook, and I added the Spanish and German versions to the web site, also as free downloads. In the meantime, I was writing It’s YOUR Future… Make it a Good One!

I knew I needed to update the workbook to match the chapters in It’s YOUR Future…, but writing, publishing and releasing the book just gobbled up all my time. Over the holidays I was able to catch up on a number of things, including updating my skills on Acrobat, so the new version of the Workbook is pretty much complete and in the hands of reviewers. It will be posted at by January 15, and if I need to make corrections I can continue to do so.

What’s new or different? First, I realigned the chapters in the Workbook to match It’s YOUR Future…, adding a few worksheets as well. Then I added some color and more photos, making collages for each life stage and for each of the forces of change, the Personal Domains.

This edition of the Workbook will continue to be a free download with a Creative Commons license, so the Workbook will be available and shareable anywhere that people can access the Internet.

It’s YOUR Future… Make it a Good One! is now available at online bookstores in much of the world and on my web site, . The list price is $17.50 for the paperback edition and $8.99 US for electronic versions. Amazon offers It’s YOUR Future… for Kindle, and Apple’s iBookstore should have it available for the iPad during January.

I have had inquiries from publishers in a number of countries that have expressed an interest in translating and publishing It’s YOUR Future… but no decisions have been made yet. So 2010 has been a busy but gratifying year. I even signed up for a Facebook fan page for the Personal Futures Network and am on Twitter (@urfuturist).

I’ll be traveling to Mumbai next month to speak to the World HRD Congress, and to receive an award. I will speak about Leadership and the Long Term Perspective.