The future ain’t what it used to be – 3 steps to future-proof your future
Everything we thought we knew about our stable world has been undone by Covid19! What does this mean for your future hopes and dreams? You may have planned to move house, start a family, take a life-changing trip, get married, retire or change your career.
Whatever you have planned for your future; you will need to re-think it.
“It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” (Yogi Berra)
The baseball-playing philosopher, Yogi Berra, declared “the future ain’t what it used to be”. Covid19 has disrupted the world as we knew it. Everything has changed. Extraordinary things we never thought would happen, are happening. Health systems are overwhelmed, loved ones are lost, jobs and travel are abandoned, airlines are grounded, and global economies are crashing. Priorities have changed.
In the 1950’s Kurt Lewin developed his influential 3-step change model – unfreeze, change, re-freeze. It is still widely used today and helps us think about our future; how it will be different and how we must adapt our thinking to flex to the new situation.
The new, unfamiliar and changing situation means we must re-think our plans. Hoping that things will return to how they were, so we can pick up where we left off, is not an option. We need to envision a new and different future for ourselves. Even if our hopes and dreams remain unchanged, we must refresh how and when we achieve them in this strange new world.
Lewin’s model can help you ensure your hopes and dreams stay real, relevant and achievable, despite the changing circumstances.
But first, ask yourself, has your goal or dream changed? Second, even if it remains steadfast, you will need to re-think how and when you achieve it in this new unfamiliar environment. Next, work through the stages of Lewin’s model.
STAGE 1: Unfreeze (your current thinking and plans)
If you already have a future dream or goal, you may previously have been clear on what it is, as well as when and how it will happen. However, the world has become highly inconsistent and unpredictable. The unfreeze element of Lewin’s model suggests that even if the ‘what’ (your dream is) has not changed, the how and when will need to be reassessed. This stage of flux indicates that a change is needed.
By way of an example, imagine your dream is to take your family to a once in a lifetime trip, this summer, to the magical world of Walt Disney Resort in Florida. This is the ‘what’ part of your dream. You would have been mentally and practically preparing for this wonderful experience.
Whilst the ‘what’ you want to achieve may continue to be your dream or goal, the world is in lock-down, there are no flights to Orlando, the park is closed and your financial situation may have changed. Therefore, the ‘how’ and ‘when’ aspects of your dream are no longer feasible and need to be reconsidered. This is the unfreeze stage of the model.
Furthermore, you may decide that your original goal has changed. If this is the case, you will need to unfreeze your previous idea and envision a new goal.
STAGE 2: Change (your previous plan)
This part of the process is energising and can be highly motivating because it involves redesigning your future.
Drawing on the previous Disney trip example, if your original goal remains constant, you and your family would need to co-produce a new plan detailing how and when you will achieve it. To do this, requires knowing when lock-down will end, flights will resume, and the park will reopen – all of which is currently not known! For this reason, Lewin’s model should be regarded as cyclical, not linear.
Therefore, make a new plan, get excited about it but keep it fluid and flexible especially when many of the variables affecting your plan may not be known.
STAGE 3: Re-freeze (your new plan)
Whatever your future plans are, you will only be able to enter a final re-freeze stage when the relevant facts are fully understood (regarding the lockdown, your health, your job, your finances, travel arrangements etc). You can, of course, second guess what might happen and make your plan tentative. Keep it as draft and review it regularly in the light of new information.
Kurt Lewin’s model – unfreeze, change, re-freeze is useful in today’s unpredictable context. Your dreams do not necessarily need to change, but you will need to reconsider the ‘how’ and ‘when’, to take account of the rapidly changing world we are in.
The one thing we know for sure about the future is that it ain’t what it used to be! The trick is to keep your plan live and relevant by regularly reviewing and refreshing it as the situation unfolds.
Thus, if we remain open and adaptable, we can keep our dreams alive by modifying them as we go.