The Art of Foresight: Preparing for a Changing World

Article excerpt

Foresight is the secret ingredient of success, because without foresight we cannot prepare for the future.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Foresight has always been important in human life, but it is now much harder to come by because everything in our world is changing faster than ever before. Our technologies, jobs, institutions, even some of our treasured values and ways of thinking are shifting radically, making it very difficult to plan ahead and prepare for future challenges and opportunities. Indeed, in our age of hyperchange, many people have little idea about what sort of world they should prepare for. They may decide, fatalistically, that they cannot know or do anything about their futures.

Foresight, in contrast to fatalism, gives us increased power to shape our futures, even in the most turbulent of times. People who can think ahead will be able to live much better lives than their parents did, because they will be prepared to take advantage of all the new opportunities that rapid social and technological progress are creating.

Success Through Foresight

The importance of foresight in success is constantly neglected, because foresight exists in our minds. As a result, we often think people are successful because they are just lucky, when in fact it was their foresight that made them "lucky." Foresight enabled them to take advantage of opportunities and to avoid problems that trap other people.

Here's an actual instance of how foresight can lead to success.

In 1975, Alan Hald, a young Arizona banker with a strong interest in the future, attended a World Future Society conference. There he met the editor of a new magazine for computer hobbyists. At the time, nobody but governments and big businesses could afford to build a computer, but Hald had the foresight to see that the future of computers would be very different from the past, and many new business opportunities would open up.

Hald went home in great excitement to talk to his partner about starting a business in computers. In the following years, Hald's business (MicroAge) grew into America's largest microcomputer distributor, serving dealers around the world.

Foresight is critical to success in all areas of our lives, including making major life decisions. In contrast to Hald's success, people who lack foresight are only too likely to find themselves unemployed when jobs are lost to new technologies, competition from overseas, or shifts in consumer tastes. Without foresight, we would have absolutely no idea what to do next, so developing our foresight may be the best way to safeguard our current jobs and future employability.

Foresight may also save our lives. Here's why: Scientists are identifying more and more ways for us to live longer, healthier, and happier lives, but we have to decide to follow their advice. People lacking foresight are only too likely to disregard the practices that would safeguard their future health and wellbeing. Millions of people are alive today because they paid attention when scientists confirmed the enormous damage that smoking cigarettes does to the human body. Meanwhile, their neighbors and friends who continued to smoke have succumbed to lung cancer, heart disease, and strokes.

Education is another area where foresight is important. Students lacking foresight are more likely to neglect their studies because they see no connection between education and a successful future. But students with good foresight can recognize the importance of studying and can also select the courses most likely to help them meet their goals.

Young people who do not learn to think ahead may find it difficult to plan for a successful marriage and family life. People whose foresight is weak are likely to have difficulty saving money for emergencies, down payments on homes, and retirement.

Foresight is particularly important for investments, and exceptionally good foresight can bring riches. …