How to predict consequences

Posted: November 14, 2008 in Self development

How to predict consequences

 

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The most common utterance at the scene of a disaster is, “I never thought…” The fact is, most people are very bad at predicting consquences, and schools never seem to think to teach them how to improve.

The prediction of consequences is part science, part mathematics, and part visualization. It is essentially the ability to create a mental model imaging the service of events that would follow, “what would likely happen if…?

The danger in such situations is focusing on what you want to happen rather than what might happen instead. When preparing to jump across a gap, for example, you may visualize yourself landing on the other side. This is good; it leads to successful jumping. But you need also to visualize not landing on the other side.

What would happen then? Have you even contemplated the likely outcome of a 40 meters fall?

This is where the math and science come in. You need to compare the current situation with your past experience and calculate the proabilities of different outcomes. If, for example, you are looking at a five meter gap, you should be asking, “How many times have I successfully jumped five meters? How many times have I failed?” If you don’t know, you should know enough to attempt a test jump over level ground.

People don’t think ahead. But while you are in school, you should always be taking the opportunity to ask yourself, “what will happen next?” Watch situations and interactions unfold in the environment around you and try to predict the outcome. Write down or blog your predictions. With practice, you will become expert at predicting consequences.

Even more interestingly, over time, you will begin to observe patterns and generalities, things that make consequences even easier to predict. Things fall, for example. Glass breaks. People get mad when you insult them. Hot things will be dropped. Dogs sometimes bite. The bus (or train) is sometimes late. These sorts of generalizations – often known as ‘common sense’ – will help you avoid unexpected, and sometimes damaging, consequences.

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