Dec 292010
Shaping the Future by Chris O’Neill

Shaping the future is not an easy task. As the masters of our fate, we have to make many choices, preferably the best ones, to attain our aims. We have to overcome many challenges, preferably with minimal losses, to reach our goals. In the process, we have to deal with many unknowns. Luckily, apart from hard work, there are 6 steps to bring about desired change in our lives. If we follow these 6 steps, we will be able to handle challenges while shaping our desired future.

The 6 Steps of Shaping the Future

1. A Burning Drive

Having a strong drive and passion to reach our goals and shape our future is a vital quality to have. To attain this drive, we need the right purpose or reasons to motivate us. You may wonder why we need such a strong drive. The reason for this is simple. In order to shape the future, we have to change the status quo. But changing the status quo is hard due to the inertia and the conflict of interests involved. Thus, only a strong drive will give us the power we need to change things.

But as we progress towards our goals, we may find that our original purpose loses some of its power and motivation. This is perfectly normal. After all, it is easy for us to grow used to something and get bored of it eventually. All we can do is to have many reasons big and small for reaching our goals. That way, if one fails temporarily, we have others to fall back on. If need be, we should create new sources of motivation to help us to reach our goals and shape our future.

2. The Right Mindset

Drive alone can only take us so far. Without the right mindset, the challenges we encounter can quickly wear us out. Many elements constitute the right mindset, so I shall just name a few. Having the right mindset means having a will of steel to deal with problems, setbacks and even failures. We need to be able to focus on the solution and not the problem. We have to train ourselves to perceive our failures as lessons to learn. Under no circumstance should we allow our failures to cripple us. With such a mindset, we will be able to conserve our energy when we face adversity. Most importantly, we need determination and perseverance. We must never stop trying to find new and resourceful ways to reach our goals. Having the right mindset is crucial when it comes to shaping our future.

3. A Clear Vision

Clarity gives our lives focus. It helps us to prioritize the choices we have to make. Today, we live in a world with endless choices and possibilities. But not all of these choices are beneficial for us. Without clarity, we will only expend our energies in all directions to little effect. What we need is a clear vision. We need to be clear about what we want to achieve in life and how our future should be. By being clear and setting goals for ourselves, we channel all our energies towards the goal we have set for ourselves. Only with such focus are we likely to make our vision a reality.

4. The Master Plan

Having a clear vision is well and good. We know what we want and how our futures should be. But without proper planning and research, we will never make our vision a reality. The next logical step is to create a master plan. This involves research, analysis of the situation, deciding on possible courses of action and pre-empting potential problems.

5. Decisive Action

After planning comes decisive action as we execute our plans. We should bear in mind that the best-laid plans rarely turn out as expected. There are bound to be things that we did not foresee or overlooked. This is why it is prudent to prepare for alternative outcomes. The more prepared we are, the faster we will be able to take action and adjust to the changing situation. The key is to remain alert and flexible with our vision and the master plan as our guides in shaping the future.

6. Endless Improvement

The world is changing at a rapid pace. Today, the interconnected world gives us access to more information than at any point in time. On the one hand, this means that we will be able to progress greatly as a race in terms of skills, science and technology. On the other hand, this progress will make many skills and technologies obsolete at a faster rate. The only way to control our future is to keep on improving and keeping up with the times. Done well, we can seize the opportunities before us by being at the forefront of change.

Endless Improvement by Chris O’Neill

5 Unknowns That Can Affect Our Future

The 6 steps that I have mentioned above are not new. In fact, anyone who reads personal development would be familiar with all of them. Even so, each of the 6 steps are vital in shaping our future and taking charge of our lives. But alone, they only cover the things that we can anticipate. For those things that we fail to foresee, the 6 steps will see us through, but it is akin to groping about in the dark.

What I am talking about is the unknown, things that our finite reason alone cannot know. Prepare as we might, it is still a hit and miss affair when it comes to the unknown. We simply cannot anticipate or prepare for all of these unknowns based on logic and reason alone. Yet these very unknowns can have a large impact on our plans and it would be unwise to ignore them. What then can we do about the unknown? The first thing is to be aware of their nature.

Deep Dark Forest by Craig Cloutier

1. Unforeseen Events

Unforeseen events can be acts of nature, acts of man or acts of fate. Acts of nature can be natural disasters or events in nature like storms. Nature can affect us adversely if we are at the wrong place and time. Acts of man include disasters like oil spills, financial crisis and wars. All of these actions can have a devastating impact for many people due to the interconnectedness of the world today. Acts of fate can be accidents, ailments and deaths. We have little or no control over these events, yet these events can affect our plans. If only we knew beforehand that something major were to occur, we could take measures to lessen the damage caused to our lives and future.

2. Unforeseen Outcomes

As I mentioned earlier, things rarely go as planned. It is hard to foresee the outcome of our plans and actions because there are too many external factors to consider. If things go as planned or better than we planned, there is little to worry about. But if things turn out otherwise, it could be problematic. At best, bad outcomes are minor hindrances. At worst, they could end up costing us dearly at the worst possible time. Again, due to these unknowns we could fail to avoid pitfalls or to seize opportunities. We end up reacting to events instead of shaping them.

3. Unforeseen Changes

There are also unforeseen changes in our personal lives to think about. We take many things in our daily lives for granted. Thus, when changes occur, it becomes difficult for us to react due to inertia. These changes could be a change in relationships, career, health, wealth and life in general. For example, the loss of our jobs or our homes could catch us off guard. An unexpected illness of our loved ones could leave us saddled with mounting medical bills. It is hard to foresee every possible change that could occur in our lives, but any change that we do not foresee and prepare for can cost us dearly.

4. Intentions and Interests

Our intentions shape our actions and future. Once we make up our minds to do something, we set in motion a chain of events as we work towards our goals. But we are not alone in this world. We may have our own plans, but so do the other 6 billion inhabitants on this planet. It is true that only a handful of these people will have a direct or indirect impact on us at any one time. But who these people are in each situation and what the impact will be is too difficult to say. Also, while we have our own reactions to events, others will react in their own way based on their own interests. The point I wish to make is that the intentions and interests of others can help or hinder us. As such, if we are not aware of this unknown, we can miss opportunities or stumble into pitfalls.

5. The Tao of Timing

Timing is everything. It is important to know when we should advance and when we should retreat. There are also times when we must know when and how to wait for a better chance. Timing plays an important part in the outcome of our plans and actions. If we act in accord with the times or the Tao, we will reap double the rewards or more for our efforts. If we do otherwise, we will get half the results or less for our efforts. But the Tao of each situation is not always clear to the naked eye. As such, it is easy to make errors of judgment, to advance when we should retreat, and to retreat when we should advance. Unless we can take in the big picture, it is hard to act in accord with the Tao.

Rays of Hope by Zoomion

The 7th Step

It is clear that unless we find a way to manage the 5 unknowns, it will be hard to shape our future as we wish. We might end up wasting resources and opportunities that we can ill afford. The successful succeed where others fail because they have mastered the 6 steps and know how to deal with the unknowns. Even when they meet with misfortune, they know instinctively how to make the best of it. They also have the foresight to stay ahead of events. This is why you will hear of how some people are ahead of their times.

While we may not have the instinctive ability to handle the unknowns, there is a way to manage them. There is a 7th step in shaping our futures. Used wisely in tandem with the other 6 steps, we will achieve more than we thought possible. So do stay tuned for my article next week where I will share this 7th step with you.

What are your thoughts about this article? Are there any other steps to shaping the future that I have missed out? Are there other unknowns that can affect our plans and actions which I have failed to consider? Do share your thoughts and comments below. :)

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  17 Responses to “The Art of Shaping the Future”

  1. What I have learned from this article is that we need do the 6 steps but do not forget to prepare for the unknown situation (which may lead to the worst condition). Thanks for this inspiring article.
    Dana recently posted..A Little About HTC SenseMy Profile

    • Hi Dana,

      You’re right, we need the 6 steps to shape our futures. Each of the 6 steps are vital and we also need to prepare for the unknown. But there is a 7th step as I shared, where we can find out more about the unknown and stay a few steps ahead of events. Do stay tuned and thank you for your comments! :)

  2. Having an overall master plan for your life is extremely useful. What you want from life should be guiding our actions.
    Gordie recently posted..6 Things You Should Do Daily To SucceedMy Profile

    • Hi Gordie,

      Without a master plan and an idea of where we want to go, it would be hard to shape the lives we want because there is nothing to guide our actions.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  3. Great article. Love the section of the right mindset. We must have that if we want to achieve anything. It takes time to develop this mindset. But we have to want it to achieve it. Great post.

    • Hi Jonathan,

      The right mindset is very very important in life. Without this mindset, we cannot achieve anything. The saying, “what the mind can conceive, we can achieve” sums up the importance of mindset very aptly. Mindset is also critical to the 7th step.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  4. This is a great post for me to consider before I head up to the mountains. As you said, some of these things are not new (same is true for my 10 steps), but you have gathered some tried and true ideas together with your own interpretation, and then added some other ideas. Most importantly you have struck a perfect balance between our preparation and determination on one hand, and our sensitivity to the Tao on the other.

    Don’t leave us hanging too long waiting for the 7th step!!
    Galen Pearl recently posted..Preparing the GroundMy Profile

    • Hi Galen,

      You have understood what I have been trying to do. The 6 steps are critical towards shaping the future, but more can be done than just relying on these 6 steps alone. And yes, you are right, it involves being sensitive to the Tao. If we can foresee the times and the way we should behave in each situation, we will make less mistakes and achieve more than we ever thought possible.

      Thank you for your comments! I can’t wait for you to get back down from the mountains with your newfound wisdom! :)

  5. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Ready To Go i.t. and Chris O'Neill. Chris O'Neill said: A wonderful article by my friend ~the Vizier, Irving Pasha: [...]

  6. Irving,
    it seems to me that you’re very accurate with your six steps for shaping the future. the unknowns can also certainly have a huge and drastic effect on the future. I do believe that affects of the unknowns can be controlled by strong will and all the other steps of shaping your future.

    is sort of like the old saying that you have to be “lucky” to succeed, but in reality we all make our own luck to a certain degree. but by preparing for the unknown you’re able to capitalize on opportunities and decrease the impact of negative things. You’re also able to control the effect of timing to at least a certain degree.

    You can’t take random factors out of the equation but you can shape and control them to a certain degree.
    Steve@Lifestyle Design recently posted..Get More Blog Traffic Blueprint Week 7My Profile

    • Hi Steve,

      The unknowns can be influenced by strong will, which would fall under mindset for me, and the other 6 steps. But you would be shooting arrows in the dark if you did not know what that unknown was. Imagine you are walking down a dark road and you can barely see anything in front of you, how would you handle such a situation if you had no light? Most probably you would walk slowly and carefully to avoid stumbling. But after a distance, you would relax your vigilance if there was no obstacle and before you know it, you fall down a deep dark hole.

      It is the same with life. There are some unforeseen circumstances we cannot prepare for through the 6 steps alone. Back to the dark road analogy, if you knew beforehand that there was a big hole in the middle of the road, would you still fall into it? Most probably not. You would be on the lookout for it and even though you cannot fully see it, being aware of it is sufficient for you to go around the hole. My point is this. If there was a way to know the unknown beforehand, would you rather avoid an unfavourable situation altogether and spare yourself unnecessary problems, or go through with it and suffer losses which you can avoid?

      It is true you cannot take random factors out of the equation completely, but with the 7th step, you will have greater control over events than you ever thought possible. Stay tuned. :)

  7. Great article Irving.
    I specially like the 2nd part of it, where you talk about the different unknown situations one might face, and the “Tao of Timing” where you mention “It is important to know when we should advance and when we should retreat.”.
    Which is an advice I try to follow with all life aspects in general, specially in my line of work, since most of my income comes from wall street trading, and being stubborn in that type of job would mean nothing but more losses.
    Amr Boghdady recently posted..German PrepositionsMy Profile

    • Hi Amr,

      Knowing when to advance and retreat is a great way to live your life. I am glad that you apply this to all aspects in general. Wall street trading is definitely not easy and unless you have incredible self-control, you will only end up losing a lot. I admire your ability to keep your head under such circumstances.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

  8. Irving,

    Wishing you very happy new year! What a wonderful and inspiring post to start new year with! I like your six steps plans and back up just in case. I think it is solid. Many people look back and reflect upon a life and when I see mine, I see success and some failures and trying to correct them as I move along my life in zigzag fashion.

    Wish you much happiness and success this year!!
    Zengirl @ Heart and Mind recently posted..Starting Off New Year With Trials and ErrorsMy Profile

    • Hi Preeti,

      Happy New Year to you too! I am glad that you enjoyed my article. :)

      Success and failures are part and parcel of life. As long as we remember that failures are lessons for us to learn from, we will be able to turn them into lasting successes in the future. The key to life is to keep moving forward and never give up!

      I hope you have a great 2011! :)

  9. We can also shape the future by staying in the present moment mentally. And watching our thoughts and emotions so that we can better deal with them. Awareness is everything and it’s what we do in the present moment that dictates the outcome in the future.

    That said, you’re definitely right, we also have to look into the future too to know what we must do now to make our ideal future materialize.

    • Hi Bamboo Forest,

      I have long thought about the idea of being in the present and planning for the future. In fact both ideas are complementary. We have to plan for the future, we have to pre-empt events if possible. But once we have laid our plans, the only way to get to the future is through the present moment. That is how I view both ideas.

      Thank you for your comments! :)

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