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.