July 2023     Edition 170
Ten ideas to consider when Anticipatory Thinking fails

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We live in the present and plan for the future

. We use anticipatory thinking to look ahead, predict, and prepare for the future. We use this thinking all the time, from planning what time to leave for the airport to making investments, creating a project plan and timeline, or anticipating the reaction others might have if you say something. 

Anticipatory thinking is an important element in critical thinking.

You consciously ask yourself about what that future might look like and if so, how that would change or support your thinking. We use Anticipatory Thinking to; Understand and mitigate risk, identify possible outcomes, challenges and opportunities, plan, forecast, determine resource allocation, predict reactions from others, and so much more.

In Anticipatory Thinking, we ask questions like;

What can go wrong here? What might get in the way of progress? If everything went according to plan, what might that look like? What opportunities might come our way? What external events might occur that can change our plan and what would we do if those occur? What are the things that you can
t control, and if those things happen, what, if any, would be the impact on what you do? Asking critical thinking questions to anticipate the future can go a long way in preventing errors, adjust for mishaps and creating plans when, or if, the things that can go wrong do.

BUT … you can’t anticipate everything.
Not only do some things happen by chance, but some of those things you can
t even guess might happen. Whether it
s a sudden illness or accident, some unforeseen world event (political, economic), natural disasters, or even unpredictable positive opportunities, chance encounters, and more. The unpredictable nature of life is a reality. It is essential to accept this reality and recognize that there will be situations where anticipatory thinking alone cannot provide all the answers.

So what do you do?

We move on despite the inability to anticipate using the following traits and strategies:


s always a way. Be a glass-half-full person; maybe things won
t work out this time, but in time, things will.  Be optimistic that you
ll work something out; things will get worked out.


Things change, and so must you.  You have to be ok with adapting your plan, your wish, or your hope, in the face of a new reality.   You make the best out of the situation.


the situation might not be able to deliver to your desire, and you need to be OK with not getting your way or getting the expected result.   Flexibility in an uncertain situation can often yield a result that might even exceed what you originally planned.

Learning Opportunity

New circumstances open the possibility of new learning.  New learning can lead to all kinds of opportunities.   Thomas Edison said,
I have not failed. I
ve just found 10,000 ways that won't work." 


If the result matters, you just don
t give up. You
ll find a way.


Have an emergency strategy and an alternative plan.   It might not achieve what you set out to do but it will help you recover and avoid the catastrophe.


Have a network of resources to tap into.   Friends, co-workers, data, internet, phone. Constantly look to expand your knowledge.  Be good at searching through a lot of noise to get relevant information to help you figure out what
s going on and a way forward.   Look for and accept help.

Be Present and Aware

Pay attention to the details, understand the situation, ask questions, get Clear, be proactive, yet prepare to be reactive and do so when warranted.   Don
t be complacent.


Sometimes, things just don
t work out.  Don
t despair; you
ll recover and have other opportunities.   Be persistent but know when the returns of that persistence are diminishing, it
s time to move on to something else or try a different approach.


This comes with experience.  But with the above elements, over time, you become confident that you can perform even when you can
t anticipate what might occur.   You
ll figure it out.

The Takeaway: 
Use anticipatory thinking extensively to anticipate the future and adjust plans accordingly.  Know that you can't anticipate everything no matter how much you plan. So, anticipate that you can’t anticipate everything and be practiced in the above strategies when anticipatory thinking fails.


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