Chapter 4. Personal Foresight - Becoming an Effective Self-Leader

Vision – Five E’s or Eight Goals

The third purpose in the HRVWE model of personal adaptiveness is Vision. After mental and physical health, and good relationships, our next highest priority is to be foresighted. We engage in Three Ps foresight to better understand our own lives, and the foresight we usually care most about is preferable futures, our ability to envision a better world for ourselves and others. When we have strong personal foresight, we see what will probably happen in the hours ahead, our natural tendencies if we don’t mentally intervene, we see a good number of our possibilities, we use our preference foresight to envision and make better decisions, which leads us directly to Work, our next great life purpose.

We are each emotional, cognitive, and moral creatures. So let’s talk briefly each of these three aspects of vision, to better understand how to apply personal foresight in our lives.

Let’s discuss emotions first, since they are the first and fastest drivers of our emotional-cognitive-behavioral cycle. An excellent introduction to the power of emotions on one’s personal life, and ways we can reshape our emotional triggers can be found in Chapters 2, 3, and 6 in Tony Robbins Awaken the Giant* (1991/2013). In a future education system, I’m hopeful that these topics and skills will be taught to every child or adult seeking emotional insight, foresight and self-control. These chapters remind us of the importance and power of our daily decisionmaking, and of using personal foresight to continually making good choices in the moment.

Each of our daily decisions, large and small, are constantly steering us toward emotional pleasure and away from emotional pain. Because of this, if we change our emotional cues, our pleasure and pain motivators, we can change the thrust of our decisionmaking, toward good or ill. To break a bad habit, like procrastination, we can focus on the negative consequences that we experience from it, and actively decide to do something different today.

Robbins offers a brilliant insight in Chapter 2: “The more often you make decisions, the more you’ll realize you are truly in control of your life.” This is so true. Make decisions every day, and see how powerful your personal vision gets. Chapter 6 will convince you that you can even decide what you want to assign your pleasure and pain motivators to in your neural associations, past, present, and future. Those decisions are the most empowering—or disempowering—of all the decisions we ever make.

Decisionmaking, of course, is just an action word for forecasting. Futurist Paul Saffo and forecasting expert Philip Tetlock both say that if you must forecast, forecast often. The more you do it, the better you get. You also realize that vision, leading directly to decisions, is your central tool for improving your life, and the lives of everyone around you. Getting them excited to make decisions will start making changes happen. The more decisions we make, the better we get. We can turn this insight into a mantra (a saying important enough to memorize): make good decisions constantly. We’ll discuss mantras later in this chapter.

Next, cognition. Books like Smart Choices: A Practical Guide to Making Better Decisions, John Hammond et. al. (2002) will help you and your clients with the cognitive aspects of personal decisionmaking. So will all the books we have listed under professional and personal foresight in Chapter 14 (Resources). We don’t need to reiterate those here. Just remember that how powerful your decisionmaking becomes when it is cognitively diverse and collective. Be sure to keep your Do loop tight, so you’re getting constant feedback from those daily decisions. Check in with yourself every day. Are you happy with your day’s decisions? Anything to change for tomorrow?

Finally, morality. For many, this is the toughest dimension of vision. Learning how to make good decisions requires not only good emotional and cognitive approaches, and lots of daily practice, but we must cultivate a useful set of values, attached to an adaptive world view. How can be best define good? How do we envision progress?

Recall our discussion of the Five E’s in Chapter 2, and the Eight Goals in Chapter 3. Both are models we can use to measure and make progress, in our personal and professional lives. A good progress model tells us what goals we are trying to reach. We can begin by recognizing that all complex systems will be pursuing evolutionary, developmental, and evo-devo sets of goals. So we need to keep all of these kinds of goals in mind. Here again are two evo devo models of progress that can be applied well to individuals, teams, organizations, and societies. The first of these two models is easier to remember, the second harder. Use or adapt whichever of these makes most sense for you. Starting with the Five E’s is usually the best place to begin.

Let’s review the Five E’s first. They are just a restatement of Plato’s Transcendental Triad of universal values, the Good, the Beautiful, and the True. The Good is evo-devo, or adaptedness, the Beautiful is evolution, or diversity, and the True is development, or universality. We can split the Good into three values, and give them names that start with “E”: Empowerment, Empathy, and Equity.

Of all of these five, empowerment seems the best single term to describe what we all seek from a Good Society. We described empowerment foresight and empowerment activism as applications of the evo devo foresight model in Chapter 3. But keep in mind that when we use this word, it is really a stand in for all five of the following goals.

We saw that we can also look at evo devo systems from the competing and partially separable perspectives of evolution and development. A deep goal and drive of human society is to create, and to experience things like beauty, diversity, experimenting, play, and fun. Another basic goal and drive is to discover, and to understand things like truth, universality, optimality, predictability, and constraint. Putting all five of these together gives us a pretty good five-finger model for progress, as follows.

In adaptive foresight, we want our visions to lead us to the following Five E’s:

  • More Empowerment (improving personal abilities, wealth, and freedom from injustice)
  • More Empathy (connectedness, love, understanding, compassion, ethics)
  • More Equity (fairness, equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth and power)
  • More Entertainment (beauty, awe, creativity, inspiration, re-creation, play, fun)
  • More Evidence-based (science, experimentation, data, rationality, optimality)

Growing as many of these as we can, without shrinking the others, will allow us to live Good Lives, lead Good Organizations, and grow Good Societies. To remember these five values, recall their basis as Plato’s Transcendental Triad (Good, True, and Beautiful), notice that the first two begin with “Emp”, and notice that the make a “K” shape in their length, when listed as above. Equity is the shortest and the central goal in the list above, and in world models like those of systems theorist and EDU scholar Peter Corning. See his lovely book, The Fair Society, 2011.

The second progress model we proposed is the Eight Goals. Successful leaders will develop personal, organizational, and social visions that pay close attention to each of these eight goals, and use their language as often as the can, to help people get the most meaning and purpose out of their work.

We argued in Chapter 3 that in the most adaptive systems, the universe is continually creating, and seeking to create:

  1. More Intelligence (dematerialization), virtualization, modeling, consciousness).
  2. More Diversity (independence, information, individuation, difference).
  3. More Creativity (innovation, individually and collectively).
  4. More Freedom (indeterminacy, as long as it doesn’t threaten protection).and also …
  5. More Power (densification), wealth, speed, efficiency, STEM compression).
  6. More Morality (interdependence, love, empathy, compassion, evo devo values).
  7. More Security (immunity, protection) for evolved complexity.
  8. More Truth (inertia, optimization, accuracy) in the knowledge acquired.

The first set of these eight can be understood as implicit goals of evolutionary processes, and the second set as implicit goals of developmental processes. We noted that Goals 1 and 5, dematerialization and densification, or “D&D”, seem uniquely important to exponential foresight, understanding and managing accelerating change. We might think Intelligence (Goal 1) or Empowerment (Goal 5) are the most important of these two, but we usually have to consider both together to understand acceleration. When we use the phrase Empowerment Foresight or Empowerment Activism in this Guide, we ask you to think about the growth of these two together. They are complementary processes and goals.

The codes for each set of four of these future visioning goals is IDCF and PMST. A mnemonic to help you remember these from a D&D-centric perspective is “Intelligence Definitely Comes First, but Power Makes Success Too”.

Again, while two of these goals are the most useful for understanding exponentials, all eight goals seem to be equally important to adaptation. As we described in Chapter 2, accelerating the growth of intelligence or power alone is rarely enough to make a Good Society. Many things need to stay constant or slow down as others are relentlessly speeding up. Our goals often conflict, and these goals will alternately support and conflict with each other as we seek to improve the whole set, as best we can. The benefit of these two models, whether you use the Five Es or the Eight Goals, is that they give you a relatively complete and balanced set of values to pay attention to. The way you balance each of the values in the set, and work to advance them all, is up to you to feel your way through, every day. Finally, we said that these eight aren’t the only evo devo goals we can derive. They are merely the ones that seem particularly important to start with, when cultivating an adaptive world view.

Summing up, the deeper we understand this magnificent universe in which we are embedded, the better we will understand our own best values and goals. Hopefully at least some of these vision codes will help you in your search for better personal visions.

* The full name of Robbins excellent book is Awaken the Giant Within. I like to shorten it to Awaken the Giant (AWG) as “within” is implied. You can use STEM compression anywhere you like, to make things more focused and powerful. Try it!