It's YOUR Future... Make it a Good One!
Learn how to explore and plan for YOUR future
What is a personal future? As we look at personal futures here, they are explorations of the future of one individual--- you--- and the futures that directly involve you and your family.
The approach you will take consists of three steps:
(1)- Build a framework of information about your life.
Much simpler than it sounds! This is all information you already know! The book and the workbook explain (and show) how to use information about your life to consider and explore your future.
(2)- From the information in your framework, explore your plausible futures with scenarios.
Consider what your futures could be, and what you prefer for your future. Consider a future with 1-no major change from the present, 2-a positive future, 3- a negative future, 4- a surprise (wild card) future, and 5- a future in which you achieve something that is important to you.
(3)- From the scenarios, develop a vision of your future, devise strategies to achieve your vision and make action plans for your future.
Decide what you want for your future, then create a plan to achieve that future.
In exploring your future, you will use the same methods that have been practiced by futurists for decades, all over the world. At the end of this process, you should have an overview and a vision of your life, specific plans for the next stage of life, and contingency plans to deal with changes.
Stages of Life, your map to the future!
Descriptions of life stages can be found in early Greek literature from the time of Hippocrates, and are based on observable changes in individuals during life, primarily based on biology. I’ve replaced the last stage, “Old Age” (which begins at age 55 in psychological literature) with four stages that I believe more accurately reflect life today.
As important as the stages themselves are the change periods between stages, which are sometimes difficult. Preparation and understanding help. Below are listed ten life stages, with a very brief description of each stage. Note that after age sixty, the stages are no longer related to chronological age.
- Young adult
- Middle age
- Independent elder
- Vulnerable elder (Optional)
- Dependent elder (Optional
- End of life (Optional)
It may be helpful to note that since the last three stages of life are health related, they are optional and not everyone experiences all of them. It is also noteworthy that there seems to be a trend toward compressing these three stages into a shorter period of time at the end of an increasingly longer life.
Your family and your future
Which life stage are you in now? Your children? Your parents? What is the next stage for each of you? Understanding the life stages of your family members helps you prepare for the changes in their lives and the resulting impacts on your life. Understanding your life stages offers several insights into your future.
1. The stages illustrate the continuity and progression of life through ten stages.
2. The change from each stage to the next identifies major periods of change in your life.
3. The stages invite visualization--- images, of each of the life stages in your future.
4. Each stage identifies a time frames for planning .
To begin planning for your futures, look at the life stage images above and determine which life stage you are in now. Next, determine for which stage you want to create scenarios and a strategic plan. If you are only a few years into your present life stage, plan for this stage. If you have less than five years remaining in this stage, plan for the remainder of this stage and the next stage together. In middle age or Independent stage, plan for the next ten years.
Although you will probably do detailed exploration and planning for only one stage at this time, it is important that you look ahead to the other stages, all the way to the end of life, so you will have a view of your entire life. You will find that decisions you make early in life will have impacts on later life, and a full life view will be helpful.
Scenarios are simply stories about the future, your future! My book, It's YOUR Future, Make it a Good One! describes different kinds of scenarios and how to construct each of them.
• The Extending the Present Scenario
• The Positive Scenario
• The Negative Scenario
• The Wild Card Scenario
• The Aspirational Scenario
It's YOUR Future...Make it a Good One! and the Personal Futures Workbook explain how to collect information about your life and your future. That information will help you build useful scenarios.
The purpose of building these scenarios is to help you understand the possibilities and the probabilities for your future, and to help you plan and make choices for your future.
Personal Strategic Planning
When completed, your Strategic Plan will have four key parts:
• Your vision of your future.
• Your strategies for achieving that vision.
• An Action Plan for implementing your strategies
• A Contingency Plan
Your vision of your future-
This will be a sentence or two that describes your image of how you would like your life to be in the future. Emphasis here is on your desired or preferred future. You can have a vision for your entire life, and a more specific one for one stage of life. If you find it difficult to envision your future, review your domains and your scenarios. A helpful tool for developing a vision of your future is the Personal Futures Wheel, which builds on basic mind maps or futures wheels.
Ask yourself what you want your future to be in each domain of your life, then summarize that into a statement.
If you have trouble coming up with a vision, try going somewhere quiet, where you can be alone, close your eyes and think about your preferred future, and what life will be like for you at that time. If you aren’t used to thinking or contemplating like this, try it. It works!
Strategies to achieve your vision-
For your preferred scenario, develop strategies to achieve that scenario. Review your other scenarios and devise strategies to deal with futures that may occur. For the negative or “worst plausible” scenario where everything goes wrong, devise strategies to prevent or avoid that future. Also consider “If…then” strategies. “If this happens, then my strategy becomes…”
Scanning your environment-
It is important to be aware of changes in your community and the national economy as well as changing social or technological trends in the world around you. This awareness of your environment should be built into your strategies and action plans. This can translate into simple awareness – for example, when you make travel plans, whenever financial markets are changing, when weather patterns change and when politics bring about change.
Action plans for your future-
Now you must turn your strategies into actions. What actions must you take, starting today, to achieve your preferred future? One technique to help develop action plans is called “backcasting.” Imagine yourself in a future scenario, having achieved your goals and preferences for that stage of life. What year is it? Write that year at the top-left of a page of paper, then list each year backward to the present. From the top, identify the steps you took in each year to achieve your vision and that scenario. Identify key steps, which will become goals as you work toward this future.