Learning from your future

Diverging train tracksIn times of change we sometimes need to take decisions based on little data and without knowing how things are going to turn out.

Chapter 4 brings us four more techniques for achieving this (and so avoid getting stuck). 

The third technique is by learning from our future.

Life doesn’t always turn out the way we expect, which means that as we get older we generally become wiser. For example, think back now and ask yourself what advice you would give your 6-, 16-, or 26-year-old self.

When you have done that, ask yourself: would you be willing now to listen to the advice of your 86-year-old self?

One of Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits is to “Begin with the end in mind.” Peter Drucker said it was important to, “Define what finishing well means to you.”

When we take the time to define what finishing well means to us we enable ourselves to get there better and faster.


Learning from your future

To define what ‘finishing well’ means for you, imagine yourself on your deathbed. What will it take for you to have lived a worthwhile life, to have finished well

Define between six and eight categories or areas of life that are important to you.

When you have done this, you can use the answers in several ways:

  • When faced with a challenging situation you can ask yourself,“What would the person I most want to become advise me to do?” Or, “Which alternative way forward will best move me towards what ‘finishing well’ looks like for me?” (If none of them do then use Chapter 3 to find more alternatives.)
  • For each area you can also define what ’10’ looks like on a scale of 0-10.
  • For each area you can rate where you are now (on a scale of 0-10) and then plan the actions that would shift you forward by 1 or 0.1.

Remember that we are all human becomings as well as human beings: we none of us start out at 10/10. In a time of churning, the world is definitely not going to turn out the way we expect it to. But we can always choose how we respond.

The first step towards ‘finishing well’, especially in a time of uncertainty and change, is by becoming aware of the areas that are important to you and what finishing well looks like to you.

As Steve Jobs put it:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

What advice you would give now to your 6-year-old, 16-year-old, or 26-year-old self?

What advice would your 86-year old self give to you now?

What will it take for you to have lived a worthwhile life?

What one, small, easy change would shift you from where you are now towards where you want to be?

Adapted from Inner Leadership: tools for building inspiration in times of change.

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Photo By Thomas Rousing via StockPholio.net

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