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 www.personalfutures.net .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:
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, www.personalfutures.net and information on It’s YOUR Future… Make it a good One! and other writings at www.vernewheelwright.com . Follow me: @urfuturist.