Learning from your future

Train tracksIn a time of change we increasingly need to take decisions based on little data and without knowing how things are going to turn out.

The tools we can use to avoid this include learning from people we admire and learning from our past. A third tool is called Learning From Your Future.

As we get older we generally become wiser. For example, think back now and ask yourself what advice you would give to your 6-, 16-, and 26-year-old self.

Take a couple of minutes to do this now. It is a useful exercise.

Knowing what you know now, what advice you would give to your 6-year-old, 16-year-old, and 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 called, “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 take decisions that will lead us there better and faster.


Learning From Your Future

To define what ‘finishing well’ means for you, imagine yourself on your deathbed, aged 86. What will it take for you to have ‘finished well’, to have lived a worthwhile life? 

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

Once you know this, there are a couple of ways in which you can use the answers.

First, you can use them to help you take decisions when you have little information and don’t know how things are going to turn out. Simply ask yourself what advice your 86-year-old self would give you — which choice will lead you more towards a worthwhile use of your life?

Second, you can define what is the ideal you would what to achieve in each of these areas. Then ask yourself what actions in the next week, month, or year are appropriate steps to take you towards where you want to be by the time you are 86.

Remember that we are all human becomings. We none of us start out at 10/10 and in a time of churning, the world is definitely not going to turn out the way we expect. The point is not where are we today. The point is, given the way things are now, what are the priorities that matter to us and where do we want to place our energies in an imperfect world, to move us forward, towards where we want to be?

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? Would you be willing now to listen to the advice of your 86-year-old self? What will it take for you to have lived a worthwhile life? What small changes could you make in each of those areas today to 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 StooMathiesen via StockPholio.net

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