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Why Your Business Skills Aren’t Just for Business

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Image cc by Fabienne D via Flickr

As business people we all have an idea of what businesses should do. Whatever the new trends, however disrupted the market place, there is a common sense that in business we need to be accountable, objective and, at a most basic level, there is a bottom line: we have to make more money than we spend. Most crucially, perhaps, we need to plan ahead.

It’s amazing, though, how many successful business people make a complete mess of their personal lives. Not just because work takes up too much of their time and energy, but because somehow they seem to suspend their critical faculties when they leave the office. Somehow there is a sense that planning is all fine for work, where there are deadlines and bottom lines, but if we try and plan our personal lives then that will take out the romance and spontaneity.

It’s amazing, though, how many successful business people make a complete mess of their personal lives.

I don’t think this is correct. In our personal lives we also face uncertainty and disruption – why should we ignore future possibilities and eventualities and just let things kind of happen? Just because you’ve thought about the future doesn’t mean events are going to play out any differently, that the mystery is gone. Rather, it just means that whatever turns out, you’ll be a bit better prepared, better rehearsed, better able to see and, maybe, seize an opportunity. With so much possibility and uncertainty out there, we need to impose the frameworks to help us navigate the unknown.

I think what puts people off the idea of rational planning in personal life is the assumption that it requires emotion to be denied. This is not the case. We all have feelings for things, connections to people and places and habits, a preference for certain outcomes over others. The field of behavioural economics (books like Freakonomics and Thinking Fast and Slow) prove and illustrate in a hundred different ways how irrationally rules our choices and judgements. But recognising emotion is not the same as being excessively swayed by it.

One of the things Futureal does is help businesses understand and plan for the longer-term future. If we run a workshop focused on what will happen next year, then everyone in the room inevitably ends up thinking about what will be the impact on them – their specific remit, their KPIs (key performance indicators), possible promotion, even what office they might be in. One of the many benefits of looking further out in to the future, say 10 or 20 years, is that people can let some of these concerns go. The question is no longer about them, but about the future of the business as a whole.

Similarly, when it comes to personal planning, looking five or ten years ahead can be a way to get around some of the pressing emotional haze and concerns. Whatever they are, these things most likely will have been resolved by then, one way or the other – your particular relationship issue, what school to send your child, that fox which keeps messing up the garden.

One of the ways to help us make personal decisions is to imagine what our world would look like ten years hence once we have made the decision one way or the other. It’s worth having a go with a decision you are facing at the moment. Paint a picture of that future scenario, and then, in the way you would for business, try to describe as rationally and objectively as possible the rationale and benefits of each scenario, as if you were explaining to an investor why your business made a particular historical decision.

We are all forced to be smart at work. There’s no reason why our personal lives can’t benefit from our brilliant skills.

This article is by Tamar Kasriel, MD of Futreal. Her new book, Futurescaping: Using Business Insight to Plan Your Life is published by Bloomsbury this month.

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