Make us your home page
Instagram

With some planning, you can shape your own future

The future is something we rarely address in a formal way and is something for which we rarely receive guidance. But we have the power to shape our future if we are willing to find, nurture and unleash the leader within, and create the conditions and context for our own success.

What makes the task of envisioning and creating a desirable future so difficult is the gap imposed between thought and action. This gap of time and space is often filled with fear, uncertainty, worry and conflicting priorities. Too often, we invent our best excuses, turn our dreams into fantasies and abandon our aspirations.

In my book, Leader of One, I introduce a pragmatic and powerful cycle to effectively close that gap. It has been successful at both individual and organizational levels, from senior executives to undergraduate students, and from small businesses and small nonprofits to Fortune 500 companies.

The cycle has four phases: contemplation, desire, design and creation. These four phases must be taken together, applied in a holistic fashion. If carried out with discipline and commitment, this cycle will guide individuals in becoming a leader.

Contemplation: Slow down and reflect on your current situation. Take an inventory of activities you've been postponing. Think about your conception of the future. Do you believe the future is predetermined or something you can control? How you think about the future will impact how you behave in the present.

Desire: Reassess what you truly want for yourself and others. This stage helps you gauge the strength and intensity of what you want. Here, you articulate the "what" that you want to pursue. Explore the dynamics of following your passion, your purpose in life. Too often, we drift because of the constant pressures of making a living and meeting the demands placed upon us. It's easy to become derailed and suppress what we truly want to pursue.

Design: Determine how you are going to make it happen. Design a blueprint, just as an architect creates a mockup of a building before construction. With a design in place, you can take action. Asking the right questions is critical: How are your actions and behaviors contributing to creating the future that you want?

Creation: This is the most difficult stage: committing to action. You can reflect, assess and design a future for yourself time and again, but without the act of creation, you have laid waste your energies.

This four-step process is designed so that the process can begin again — a cycle of perpetual renewal. This cycle offers a way to help you transcend the present and its obstacles, and create for yourself a viable future.

The future is not a destination. Successful "leaders of one" understand that the benefits of pursuing a desired future are more valuable than arriving. That's because when we try to shape our future, we shape ourselves in the process. There are no shortcuts. The first steps are always the most difficult, but each one will bring you closer to your destination.

Find your purpose, trust your vision, and become a leader of one. If you do, your future will be mostly influenced by you, not by them, they or it. Never be afraid of failure, but always be afraid of not trying.

J. Gerald Suarez is a professor of the practice in systems thinking and design, and a fellow of the Center for Leadership, Innovation and Change at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. He is author of "Leader of One: Shaping Your Future Through Imagination and Design."

With some planning, you can shape your own future

08/11/14 [Last modified: Monday, August 11, 2014 3:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Washington Post.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board loses support for staying independent

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER –– The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board on Monday lost its strongest supporter for staying independent.

    State Sen. Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican running for governor, said Monday that he will no longer support any legislation to keep the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board independent. This photo was taken in August. [SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times]
  2. Triad Retail Media names Sherry Smith as CEO

    Corporate

    ST. PETERSBURG — Triad Retail Media, a St. Petersburg-based digital ads company, said CEO Roger Berdusco is "leaving the company to pursue new opportunities" and a member of the executive team, Sherry Smith, is taking over.

    Sherry Smith is taking over as CEO at Triad Retail Media, the company announced Monday. | [Courtesy of Triad Retail Media]
  3. Two new condo projects for same street in downtown St. Pete

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — It lacks the panache and name recognition of Beach Drive, but 4th Avenue N in downtown St. Petersburg is becoming a condo row in its own right.

    Bezu, a condo project planned at 100 4th Ave. N in downtown St. Petersburg, will have 24 units including a three-level penthouse with infinity pool.
[Courtesy of Clear ph Design]
  4. AAA expects gas prices in Tampa Bay will continue to fall

    Autos

    Ticking slowly and steadily, regular gas prices have receded for the last 10 consecutive days. The average unleaded gas price in Florida is $2.67 this morning, a nickel cheaper than a week ago. In Tampa Bay, the current average unleaded gas has dropped 7 cents from a week ago to $2.62. The national average for regular …

    Gas prices for regular gas continue to decline. In Tampa Bay, the current average unleaded gas is down 7 cents from a week ago at $2.62 a gallon. [Times file photo]
  5. Kiran and Pallavi Patel commit $200 million for Clearwater medical school

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Tampa Bay philanthropists Dr. Kiran Patel and his wife, Dr. Pallavi Patel are spending $200 million to create and promote a Tampa Bay regional campus for the private Nova Southeastern University.

    Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel, prolific Tampa Bay philanthropists, are putting up $200 million to create and run a new medical school under Nova Southeastern University. Here is a rendering of the proposed campus [Courtesy of Nova Southestern University}