“Forethought we may have, undoubtedly, but not foresight.”–Napoleon Bonaparte
There is a subtle difference in definition between the nouns forethought and foresight. Forethought is anticipation, premeditation or planning for a particular outcome. Foresight is the state of prescience and prophecy, or the ability to predict.
To some degree, all of us can cultivate these as skills by paying attention to what is happening around us and through contemplation in general. This comes about through discipline and mental conditioning–no woo woo is required. We find examples of people who have honed these skills in business, the military, and politics.
However, we do not necessarily have to be engaged in any of these fields. We can utilize forethought and particularly foresight as a way to greatly enhance our personal lives. Because we already know the basics of strategy and planning, for today, I want to concentrate upon foresight.
Perhaps you have realized that you’ve been coasting along in a holding pattern in the comfort zone. You understand that you’ve chosen to play it safe but this choice has limited your potential and kept you away from new opportunities. It’s time to set new coordinates and fly into new territory.
Although you may have previously attempted a journey of personal discovery and improvement, you encountered unexpected delays and real-world restrictions. You felt disappointed and frustrated by the turn of events. You may even feel malaise every time you think about your thwarted efforts.
Perhaps the reversal and delay is due to the need to wait on others because of familial or work related responsibilities. Some foresight will enable you to plan for the time when those responsibilities shift.
Foresight comes into play when you decide to broaden your horizons by becoming aware that there are opportunities for growth and expansion that you had never before considered. You understand that you may already have some of the required knowledge and skills in order to explore beyond your self-imposed limitations. You begin to form visions of possibilities and what you can actually achieve. This is where foresight begins to merge with forethought.
Once you have decided upon a field of interest to develop, you research what obstacles you may encounter and current developments so as to prepare to navigate around them ahead of time. As you begin your journey to unknown places you further strengthen your foresight by learning many new concepts and things along the way. In the process, you also discover previously hidden talents and personal traits that you can develop to your benefit. Your vision of the future gains sharper focus. At this point you have the foresight to engage strategic thinking in order to develop ways to achieve your new goal–aka. forethought.
With foresight and forethought you anticipate possible delays and obstacles and develop contingency plans. If you were unrealistic about your destination, foresight will help to break the ideas into smaller steps. Forethought will guide you through the process of risk assessment and improve strategies to minimize those problems. Foresight reminds you that success requires dedication. The foresight further acts like psychic fuel or encouragement to bring you to the amazing arrival of your goal.
Better living requires a certain amount of dealing with an ambiguous, unknown future. We learn that continual calculated thinking and instinctive foresight are vital. Foresight enables the ability to make decisions based upon possible long-term effects. Then we automatically engage forethought to plan how to make it happen.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes author and futurist, Jamais Cascio. “Many futurists use a checklist approach to make sure they’re covering a sufficiently wide set of topics in terms of both research and brainstorming during a foresight exercise.”