5 Strategies for Maximizing Your Personal Future

In 1990, University of New Hampshire psychology professor John D. Mayer, along with now Yale president Peter Salovey, wrote the original paper on emotional intelligence. In his newest research, Mayer has introduced a similarly captivating construct—personal intelligence.

June 19 2014 by Bruce Rosenstein

And it has some important implications for leaders. Among them: Imagining a future self that is realistic, rather than fantastic, is more likely to lead to satisfaction and success.

In his new book, Personal Intelligence: The Power of Personality and How It Shapes Our Lives, Mayer describes personal intelligence as “the capacity to draw out, and reason about, information about personality.” We use this mental ability, he says, to deduce how to behave with others, how others will behave toward us, to better understand our own needs, and to map out our future plans.

“If you’re so locked into a goal that you’re virtually blind to everything else, you risk robbing yourself of a brighter future.”

Mayer and his colleagues have developed the Test of Personal Intelligence (TOPI). In one segment of the test, they seek to determine how people can best connect their present self with their future. A key discovery: Rather than imagining the end result of a future goal, such as playing in a major symphony orchestra, it’s more effective to visualize practicing your instrument each day. Practice, explains Mayer, provides the best bridge from the present to the future.

For leaders, here’s the aha: You may be limiting your future potential by putting too much pressure on yourself (and your organization) today. Fantastic, far-off goals tend to shut off possibilities that may open up in the future, but can’t be foreseen now. If you’re so locked into a goal that you’re virtually blind to everything else, you risk robbing yourself of a brighter future.

Here are five strategies you can use today to maximize your personal future:

1. Strive sensibly, not sensationally. Dilbert creator Scott Adams contends that setting sensational goals is a recipe for disappointment, regret, and failure. “The world is completely unpredictable now,” he said in a recent interview with Fast Company. “You can’t predict where your career will be in a year. You can’t predict what technologies will change the world. You can’t predict whether robots will be taking your jobs. So picking a goal in this world has its downsides.”