Is Your Future Singular or Plural?

This week I asked someone a rather simple question:

“Is your future singular or plural?”

At first glance, it appears to be a rather innocent sentence. However, as you peel back the onion-like layers that enshroud this question, your answer provides significant insights about your beliefs. The easiest way to define the difference between a singular and a plural future is to tell the stories of Josh and Katie.

A Singular Future

Josh has always wanted to be a firefighter. This dream germinated when he was a young boy watching his neighbor’s house burn down. The idea has grown with him as he has matured. As a young adult, he has invested his time and training doing countless hours of physical and mental preparation. Yesterday, he finally got the letter he had been waiting for from his local Fire Department. But it held devastating news. He was not selected. Josh’s dream has come to an end and he found himself drifting as he was cut off from his anchor.

Josh struggled with his circumstances because he held one view of what the future would look like. The pursuit of a singular future can focus us, but it can also leave us without an anchor when dreams and reality collide.

A Plural Future

Katie is young college graduate, energetic and full of ideas. At times, her ideas overwhelm her because there is simply too many things that she wants to do. Yesterday, she got an unexpected letter in the mail. It was an invitation to join the Peace Corps for the next 12 months in the tiny African country of Burkina Faso. The place is so obscure she had to use Google to discover where it was! Despite her many dreams, she had never considered the Peace Corps. However, with time and consideration, she has come to realize that this opportunity aligns with her dreams, albeit in a way she would never have scripted. She has always wanted to travel, to help people and to make a difference in the world. Burkina Faso does all of these rather well and she decides to pursue this unexpected opportunity.

Katie embraced an unexpected future because she held many views of what it could look like. A plural future can feel confusing because it often requires us to hold onto conflicting ideas at the same time. However, when we understand the core values that drive our dreams, it can lead to wonderful and unexpected results. Like a year in Burkina Faso

Do you understand your personal future bias? How about your companies? Each of these two perspectives brings different strengths and weaknesses. Individuals with a singular future often pursue their goals with remarkable doggedness! But when those goals become unattainable it can cause the painful death of a dream. Future pluralists can often find unexpected success amidst an ocean of options. They can also have difficulty making decisions because opening one door often requires them to close another.

Our view of the future, whether singular or plural, significantly affects how we live. It shapes our view of risk. It defines how we perceive change. It quietly defines our views of right and wrong. It guides who we choose to spend our time with. It even affects how we manage our finances. So as Socrates once advised, “know thyself”. Is your future singular or plural?


Jeff Head Shot 3.jpgDr. Jeff Suderman plural futurist, consultant, professor and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman

Nurturing Your Inner Leader: The Value of Your Values

Can you remember your last high pressure sales experience? What emotions did it stir in you – excitement, fear, caution, anger?

A few weeks ago I was offered a fantastic deal on something that required me to make a decision in a few minutes. At the time, the salesman’s high pressure tactics caused a surprising amount of emotions and anxiety. I ended up declining the offer but the experience has made me assess what really occurred when I felt stress about this $250 decision.

Research shows that we encounter stress when we are faced with situations or decisions that conflict with our values. What we often label stress, discomfort or uncertainty is actually a demonstration of a cause and effect relationship. When you are faced with situations that are incongruous with your beliefs or your values (the cause), we are affected by stress-causing emotions (the effect). When you do not understand your values, your ability to handle stress decreases and can cause even more stress (Brendel).

Research shows us that resilient people understand their values and use them to minimize stress. Here are three ways that defined values can help you:

  1. Identify the source of stress: Values can help you identify the cause of your stress. Imagine that you feel anxious every time you speak with your boss. This indicates a value conflict. What are your values? What value(s) does your boss conflict with? Once you understand this, you can begin to develop strategies to deal with the value conflict root issue.
  2. Reduce stress: Understanding your values can help you respond to day-to-day stress in healthier ways. Over time, your value clarity will help you avoid stress altogether. Your brains will quietly process the difficult situation with your boss and tell you that your value of harmony conflicts with your boss’s value of innovation through conflict and you will quietly respond with a tried-and-true strategy. You likely won’t even know this value-assessment process occurred.
  3. Avoid or reduce conflict: Values can also help you structure your life to minimize unnecessary stress. When you know your values you can be intentional about aligning your life with them. If you value sobriety, you should not be frequenting places where alcohol is served. Conversely, if you value teamwork, you should look for jobs which involve collaboration and not a lone-ranger role.

My indecision about the high pressure sale was due to value conflict.

  • I know that my wife and I consult each other before making financial decisions over $200 – value conflict!
  • I know our financial priorities and this item was not on the list – value conflict!
  • I also believe that something too good to be true is almost always too good to be true – value conflict!

As a result of knowing my values, I experienced peace about my decision to say no because I aligned my decision with my values. This demonstrates the value of values.

Define your values | Memorize Your Values | Revisit Your Values When Facing Stress

Socrates once offered us the wise counsel, “know thyself”. As we come to define and understand our values, we provide ourselves with a filter by which to understand and minimize some of the stress we encounter. And who amongst us wouldn’t like a bit less stress!


Head ShotDr. Jeff Suderman is a values-driven consultant, professor and pracademic who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman



Bradberry, T., & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

Brendel, D. (Sept. 8, 2015). Manage stress by knowing what you value. Harvard Business Review on-line

The Best Jobs for All 16 Myers-Briggs Personality Types in One Infographic

This content was originally posted by Paul Sohn. It was a very popular blog post and I received permission to recycle it in order to share the reach of this great content! He e-blogs at an award-winning leadership blog Salt&Light. One of his most read blog posts is Counting My Blessings: 100 things I’m Thankful For.

Does your current job fit your personality?

I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of personality and career. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality test is a widely known tool used in the business arena for helping you find the “right” career. Today about 80% of the Fortune 500 and 89 of Fortune 100 companies use it to analyze the personalities of employees, in an effort to find them in the right roles and help them succeed.

Truity Psychometrics, a thought-leader in online personality and career assessments, and the developer of the TypeFinder personality type assessment, created this interesting infographic with the details of the four dimensions of personality type coupled with great recommendations for ideal career types.

















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Dr. Jeff Suderman is a futurist, professor and consultant who works in the field of organizational development. He works with clients to improve leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational FutureReadiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman