Taking Action

Future proofing yourself is open for everyone. We all have concerns about the future so it’s exciting that there are practical things you can do.

In my introduction to the subject, I set out 6 activities — in no particular order of importance. Learning to be creative is probably the best place to start however. This article is about taking action.

  1. Take action

The future is a strange and uncertain place, which can make anyone anxious. Take ownership of your anxiety and your future — take action.

Some people are very obvious in the actions they take (a.k.a. trouble-makers). They have an urge to do things differently or experiment. They create. I imagine this means that they have come to terms with the risk, are not scared of the future or don’t care what impact their actions may have.

The third group we may consider anarchists — this route to action won’t be discussed further here.

Those that do not fear or who face their fears are more interesting. Is their process of taking action useful for society and individually? Do you accept their definition of useful action or even their right to take action on your behalf? Can you generate more suitable actions that fit your life better?

If Elon Musk fears the future he hides it well behind a blizzard of action.

I’m sure that Greta Thunberg is using action to help cope with her fears.

Suitable action(s) can help you too.

But Change…

Action implies change and maybe therefore risk even more anxiety, which seems an unexpected outcome for something which was supposed to help with the future. Does this mean that engaging with the future implies embracing change? Yes.

Perhaps the threat of change is the very reason you are disconcerted by the future? Join the club! So here are some words of wisdom about change:

““I wonder why things have to change,” murmured Piglet.

Pooh thought for a while, then said, “It gives them a chance to get better.” Winnie-the-Pooh, The Harvest Festival.

“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.” Jim Rohn.

But What Action?

If the future presents an obstacle or source of stress then it is likely that you have already decided your current options are not cutting it.

Pick actions that make sense to you and your beliefs, but be prepared to be creative when searching. An action that doesn’t need creativity probably doesn’t need starting a-fresh — it’ll already be happening and you can just join in.

Edit <Steps to a sustainable life. What is a sustainable modern life, how many steps will it take you to get there, what are the steps, how big are they and how frequent should they be? Define science based targets for our personal lives. On the same pattern as habit improving or fitness apps. Identify issues, plan alternatives and set out actions to change. Then use reinforcement techniques to stick with the changes.>

Diversification is essential to finding actions which work for you — success is not guaranteed so don’t add stress by pinning everything on a ‘one best hope’ option.

Sharing Makes it Happen

Action releases stress and defines your life, but to be effective it must be communicated to peers.

Being creative with new actions requires sharing of the new idea or action in order to validate it and shape it to an acceptable set of activities.

Communicating your actions to friends, colleagues or family is effective at helping you follow-through. Sharing is also an essential feature of helping your idea for action take hold and be accepted by others. If you convince enough friends (at most a quarter) to adopt the idea then eventually it is likely they all will — your lone action might seem pointless at first but in fact can (will!) swiftly become normality.

Your best friend is your best ally — all it takes to start the spread of your action is one follower confirming you aren’t crazy!

Nothing helps confirm your choice of action than friends and family following along.

Social Action

If a lot of people also have your problem, then you are tackling a common societal problem or goal which requires action from a range of people, with a diversity of beliefs. An effective set of actions must therefore link the range of beliefs to the common goal. Doing so might mean everyone admitting prior bias and preconceptions in order to uncover common needs.

Individuals can start, maintain and complete change which is guaranteed to be globally successful — the ‘quarter’ rule can be scaled from your friends to your town, country and then the world!

In doing so they will be less stressed about the future, learn new things, communicate with friends and family (maybe make new friends) and generate positive change which fits their needs.

All it takes is for us to identify a source of social angst and a set of solutions (actions) which relate to different sorts of people. We may need to create some new solutions, but that process is already sorted.

You vs 7 billion

If the source of your future anxiety involves others taking action too, it's pretty daunting. Somewhat like the "why should I vote, I'm just one person" conundrum.

You could resort to following Hari Seldon in Arthur C. Clarke's Foundation Trilogy and work through the implications of social statistics and the mathematics of sociology.

More usefully, a concept called Social Tipping Points might help. With supporting experimental evidence, it may only require 15% to 35% of a market or population to take up a new concept for society to be 'tipped' into a new pattern of accepted behaviour from which it is hard to back-slide. Rather than looking at this as a social network propagating behaviour, it may be sufficient for a new option to be simply cheaper and better than the status quo.

I suppose this might be considered a reflection of the social (left) vs economic (right) way of encouraging change. It can also be thought of as the 80:20 rule,

What can you do to push the top 4 potential tipping points identified by experts interviewed by Ilona Otto?

  1. Support regulation of fossil fuels and stop using them yourself

  2. Understand the environmental impact of your consumption, read labels and act differently

  3. Divest from fossil fuels

  4. Invest in alternatives

And make sure those tipping point pushes (nudges?) are both a social and economic process.

Further reading

Magda Osman — “What are the essential cognitive requirements for prospection (thinking about the future)?” (a perspective on the psychology of future-oriented thought, quite technical)

Sabrina Stierwalt — “The science of tipping points: How 25% can make a majority” (your lone action can most definitely make a difference!)

Ilona Otto et al — "Social tipping dynamics for stabilizing Earth’s climate by 2050"

David Benedictus — “Return to the Hundred Acre Wood

Richard Koch — "The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less"

Damon Centola et al — "Experimental evidence for tipping points in social convention"

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