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The future has a way of arriving unannounced

January 14, 2012

What do I base my decisions on? Admittedly, it’s usually on present circumstances (See post “”When am I?“). But suppose I have to make a decision that is a little bit more complicated and long term, how could I best go about that? How do I make decisions for my future self, instead of only for my current self (See post “Choosing is a choice“)? How can I increase my ability to shape my own ideal future?
In my post of some days ago, “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity“, I described the diverging process of creating options and the converging process of choosing from those options. Not totally satisfied with the answers the model provided my, I’ve now added two extra variables to the mix: value and predictability.

Let me explain the picture:. To be able to make the most valuable (y-axis) options, you need some time (A to B) to look for what all the options are. However, by searching, you will only see the options that you expect, or can predict. The trick is to also find options that you did not expect, and could not predict.

In my opinion, for abovementioned reason, searching for options is not enough. To optimise the amount of options we can choose from in moment B, we need to learn ourselves the talent to find stuff that we were not looking for, but can very well use. I guess you could call that serendipity. Question is, how do I increase my serendipity? Probably the answer lies in a combination of increasing my ‘receiving ability’, fighting my biases and navigating myself in situations where ‘beautiful accidents’ might happen. I feel very strongly that this is one of the keys to a better ‘diversity of thinking’ and ‘autonomy of choosing’.

At timepoint B, when we have exhausted our searching and serendipitous capacity (or just decided it’s time for some breakthrough), we are at what I call the options optimum or moment of optimal autonomy. At this point we should have a range of options or scenario’s to choose from. Obviously, the trick is to choose the most valuable one (to us or to those important to us). Since we’ve combined searching and serendipity, there should be a wider range (I to II for searching and II to III for serendipity) to choose from. A bit simplistically, for this picture, I’ve assumed that more options also means more value, because there is a chance that serendipity has lead to a more valuable option than searching along. Still with me?… sure hope so… Regardless of that, still there should be added value to serendipity. After all, according to Daniel Pink (See post “Why do I do it? – Motivation“) autonomy is motivating. So that would be now-value, and not future-value…. again, hope you are still with me…

Having a lot of options might be a comfortable state to be in, but is not enough to satisfy my future self, I have to follow them op with some choices. The fact that I commited to serendipity in the time from A to B, I can now imagine a future that I could not have predicted at point A, my unpredictable future is now within reach. Maybe the main lesson in this is that I should always be aware that there are a bunch of unpredictable futures out there. I think that’s a very cool insight… keeps me curious. So having an idea of your predictible (potential) futures, and at least some of your unpredictible (potential) futures is probably a good starting point for making valuable choices.

Q: For whoever is still with me… does this make sense to you? Do you think it’s too obvious to deserve a post of this length (haha, probably)?

Image on top of post: “Reach for the future” on the blog “Imaginarium of the revolving future“. Title: quote by George Will, journalist


From → Choice, When?

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