5 Ways To Develop A Forward-Focused Mind

Without a a future-focused mindset, you can never really prepare for the future. These 5 strategies can help you start thinking ahead.
President and Founder, Clarion Enterprises Ltd.
January 09, 2014

“The future is too important to be left to chance," Bruce Rosenstein says in Create Your Future the Peter Drucker Way: Developing and Applying a Forward Focused Mindset. "In the past, companies outlived people. Now, it's often the other way around."

According to Rosenstein, we can visualize our future, and we can try to make it come true, but we can never really prepare for what's ahead unless we work to develop a future-focused frame of mind. In his latest book, Rosenstein draws on the wisdom of Peter Drucker, one of the top management thinkers of our time, who taught that we must actively create our own future, day by day, rather than be blindsided by the vagaries of the future.

How can you take charge of yourself and your environment so you can prepare today for what awaits you tomorrow? Following are five proven tips.

Update Your Cognitive Software

With the Information Age in full swing, knowledge is quickly becoming the key source of value. Companies can go under, hard assets can be destroyed, but what you carry between your ears moves with you into the future.

However, knowledge also becomes stale. So you need to keep pace with the future. You do this by picking one or two areas that are your domain and fanatically updating your knowledge in those areas on a regular basis, staying abreast of changes as they occur. If you drop your guard in these areas, you may not catch up fast enough.

Adopt The Winning Edge Concept

In Create Your Own Future: How to Master the 12 Critical Factors of Unlimited Success, Brian Tracy talks about the "winning edge" concept. This principle states, "Small differences in ability can translate into enormous differences in results."

For example, if you become just a little bit better in certain critical areas of selling, you could dramatically increase your sales. Just learning and practicing one or two techniques that are different from what you're currently doing can take you to the verge of a major step forward. If a horse wins a race by a nose, it wins 10 times the prize money of the horse that comes in second, even though the difference is only a nose. What's the winning edge in your business? What can you do to take yourself to that edge?

Develop A Personal Foresight System

This idea comes from Verne Wheelwright, an international master of foresight and innovation, and author of It's YOUR Future: Make It A Good One. Wheelwright offers a personal strategic planning model that involves examining your past to plan your future. It includes several steps, such as analyzing your life stages in order to understand the rest of your life and examining the primary driving forces in your life so far. Then you use this personal research to develop your foresight for future life events that will probably occur and that, in many cases, can be anticipated.

This exploration will form your personal framework. With the information from your personal framework, you can construct scenarios that describe your plausible futures. They will be the "personal scenarios" that you can plan for. This is infinitely better than blindly marching into your future without any foresight of how it might play out.

Immerse Your Mind In The Future

To develop a future mindset and keep it alive, you need to immerse yourself in future-related information and ideas that can be fertile sources for how to create your future. For a treasure trove of such resources, check out Rosenstein's book, which includes dozens of worthwhile links. Here are a few examples: The Economist Technology Quarterly, BBC Future, CNN What's Next and TED: The Editor's Desk. Also consider joining such LinkedIn groups as Future Trends, Future Social Media, Futuristic Technologies and World Future Society, and hang around places that make it their business to learn more about the future.

Focus On What's Right In Your World

Research by Adam K. Anderson, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, shows that when we experience a positive emotion, we become more attuned to our environment—it widens our awareness of what's around us. There are lot of positive implications for this. For one, being in a positive state of mind helps us see more possibilities.

One way to experience the positive is to focus on what's right in your world rather than wallow in what's wrong. One of the most inspiring ways to showcase this concept and motivate you is to watch, in its entirety, the video What's Right With The World by National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones. "By celebrating what's right," Jones says, "we find the energy to fix what's wrong." He encourages us to have a vision for ourselves, not just our organizations, and to be wide open to possibilities.

As Jones puts it, "The power of vision is extraordinary. It transforms the way we view our world. It can take us from flapping in the middle of the flock to soaring to heights we've never dreamed of. But we have to be willing to trust it, to come out to our edge. Because it's here on the edge that we find the winds to take us higher."

Do you have such a vision for yourself? To celebrate what's right in your life, answer these three questions:

1. What's right with me as a person?

2. What's right with my work?

3. What's right with my team?

Determining the answers to these questions will help you more clearly see the positive aspects of your life and be open to the possibilities that lie ahead.

Bruna Martinuzzi is the founder of Clarion Enterprises Ltd. and the author of two books: Presenting with Credibility: Practical Tools and Techniques for Effective Presentations and The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow.

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Photo: Getty Images

President and Founder, Clarion Enterprises Ltd.