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You make it or you take it–The two things you face when you face the future

You move, always, into the future. But what future? Well, there are two kinds:

1). The future you can shape. [“You make it”] 

Defining this future is about exploring the changes you can influence and clarifying the outcomes you want. A future you strive for is called a normative future, and there is little reason, across the sweep of change you can influence, not to drive toward the one you want. But too many people don't figure out what they want because they feel subject to, or even victim of the future.  

Your vision of a desired future will focus you on things you have a part in shaping. But defining it has to account for the other kind of future, the future you are subject to.

2). The future you are subject to. [“You take it”] 

This future is in your external context. It is a product of the forces and changes that will happen no matter what you do, or that you have, at best, only a small chance of influencing. To explore this future, you need to understand the forces of change and identify how you can respond to them to better reach the future you want.

This future is tricky, since there is no way to absolutely predict it. You have to stay prepared for a range of possibilities. 

If you don't yet understand the external future, you better get to work now to clarify. Otherwise, you won't have much chance at determining where it it there is the future you can have, or discovering how you will strive for it.

It's an easy trap for people and organizations to think that all they can do is address this second future, to try to just keep up with change. But reversing this, and identifying goals and visions of a desired future, can take you from a sense of being stuck, to a sense of command of your destiny. 

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  • Leon D. Young October 25, 2015, 8:26 pm

    Excellent post John. A classic perception problem regarding future studies that dictate our paradigms. I've seen this often and certainly appreciate the distinction. Thanks.

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