Last week, I attended a breakfast meeting at the Philadelphia Union League. The networking was great. The speaker was surprisingly interesting. Dr. Arthur B. Shostak PhD., Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Drexel University, shared his business forecasts. He started by framing the talk with the concept that there are “always simultaneously four futures” in front of us. I immediately resonated with the concept in relation to our individual career-life futures. The four futures Dr. Shostak shared are:

  1. The Probably Future, the future that requires the least effort. Another way to capture this future might be to say this is our unconscious future.
  2. The Possible Future, the future for which we might see the path more clearly. This future is the career-life that extends our future most logically. There may be some twist and turns, but they “make sense.”
  3. The Preferable Future, the future  that is least clear. This is our ideal future, our utopia. This is the future which scares us (in a good way). It’s the future for which we receive resistance when we paint our picture to loved ones. Frankly, it’s the one we rarely allow ourselves to create, let alone think about.
  4. The Preventable Future, the future with a “dark side.” This future is the one that houses all our anxieties.

Taking Dr. Shostak’s framework a little farther for career-life thinking, I propose we craft multiple Preferable Futures. In fact, much of career planning stagnates when we think  we can choose “one path,” as if we could know what all the permutations life might bring. And, there is likely no real utopia; life always includes clear and conflicting choices. But, if we envision multiple, alternative futures for our career-life, we have a far better chance of taking actions now (today and this year) that will blend with what evolves in front of us.

Into which of the four futures will you put your energy? Can you see multiple, alternative yet Preferable Futures ahead?