Why Future Orientation Is the Most Important Part of Entrepreneurial Thinking

Simply having a map doesn't mean you'll even start a journey -- which is why connecting personal action to outcome is essential.

learn more about Amy Rosen

By Amy Rosen • Feb 2, 2016 Originally published Feb 2, 2016

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Among the most important ingredients in entrepreneurship -- maybe even the most important -- is the entrepreneurial mindset. That's the unique and empowering way entrepreneurs and innovators think about things.

Over several years now, I've written and lectured about the mindset and highlighted how important it is to success in business and in life. I've written about several pieces of the mindset including the importance of risk assessment, opportunity recognition, collaboration and persistence. But by far, one of the most important parts of the all-important entrepreneurial mindset is future orientation.

Related: 4 Ways Documenting the Journey Has Become More Popular Than Celebrating the Outcome

If you're not familiar with it, future orientation is the practice of looking ahead and the realization that the future -- your future -- isn't written. More importantly, those who have a future orientation deeply understand that not only is the future unwritten, they can write it -- especially for themselves. It's an awakening to the idea that your future is up to you.

To some people, that may seem clear and obvious. And those of us who write about or work in entrepreneurship assume that future orientation is basic, common knowledge. We make that assumption, even though it's the key that unlocks nearly every other step in a successful entrepreneurial mindset.

Entrepreneurs talk a great deal about goal setting, for example, because having goals is important. We liken goals to road maps. But while it's possible to set goals without realizing you control your own future, it's very unlikely you'll achieve them.

Simply having a map doesn't mean you'll even start a journey. Those lacking a clear future orientation may say, "I have a goal of being an astronaut -- but that's not up to me." Those with it may instead say, "What do I have to do be an astronaut?" Connecting personal action to outcome is future orientation.

Entrepreneurs also focus on opportunity recognition skills, to cite another example. But if you don't realize you can do something about that recognized opportunity, a recognized opportunity is a curiosity -- and not an opportunity at all. And grit and persistence, which entrepreneurs also talk about often, are likely to be absent entirely without a future orientated mindset.

So what's the point in sticking with something if you don't believe you can change it?

Related: Why Leadership Hinges Upon What You Do -- Not Who You Are

Given the central role that future orientation plays in the entrepreneurial mindset, it's surprising that it doesn't get more attention. We more or less skip over the idea that you can mold your future and focus on the tools you can use.

That can be a costly mistake.

While many current entrepreneurs know they create the future, many young people -- our entrepreneurs in waiting -- don't. They have to learn it. And see it. And believe it. That's especially true for young people in difficult or challenging circumstances and environments.

Certain demographic and economic factors influence everyone's opportunities and choices. That's why it is so essential to get young people to think like entrepreneurs -- to orient their thinking and actions on the future. Once someone sees that good decision-making and judicial acquisition and deployment of resources such as education can change things -- the results can be profound.

The best part about developing a future-oriented mindset is that it can transcend traditional entrepreneurship and business creation. People who believe they control the future and learn to think like entrepreneurs make better employees. They change lifestyles, technology, communities, businesses and policy. The future-oriented become innovators and achievers wherever they are and at whatever they attempt.

Those are pretty significant outcomes for something so many of us assume everyone already knows. That's why entrepreneurs, educators, pundits and leaders everywhere should do more to draw a circle around the concept of future orientation -- and not just as it applies to business. It's precisely because entrepreneurs are the builders of the future that we have an obligation to make sure everyone knows that the future is always a work in progress -- and they can help build it too.

Related: Why Every Leader Needs Mental Toughness

Amy Rosen

Partner at the Public Private Strategy Group

Amy Rosen is a partner at the Public Private Strategy Group (PPSG) and a member of the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capabilities of Young People. She was previously president and CEO of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and vice chair of the World Economic Forum's Youth Unemployment Council.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

This Co-Founder Was Kicked Out of Retailers for Pitching a 'Taboo' Beauty Product. Now, Her Multi-Million-Dollar Company Sells It for More Than $20 an Ounce.
Have You Ever Obsessed Over 'What If'? According to Scientists, You Don't Actually Know What Would Have Fixed Everything.
Most People Don't Know These 2 Things Are Resume Red Flags. A Career Expert Reveals How to Work Around Them.
Business News

Massive Fire At Top Egg Farm Leaves Estimated 100,000 Hens Dead. What Does This Mean For Egg Prices?

Hillandale Farms in Bozrah, Connecticut went up in flames on Saturday in an incident that is still under investigation.

Business News

These Two Cars Are Stolen So Often Insurance Won't Cover Them

Progressive and State Farm have dropped some older Hyundai and Kia models after learning that a design flaw makes them easy to start without a key.

Business Solutions

5 Procurement Trends To Keep on Your Radar for 2023

Procurement professionals must adapt to inflation and a shortage of skilled labor in the face of an economic recession. Investing in a workforce paired with retraining and development strategies will put your company on top amid economic uncertainty.

Business News

Out With the Kibble and In With the Steak. The World's Richest Dog Has a Net Worth of $400 Million – And a New Netflix Docuseries Too

'Gunther's Millions' is set to unpack the pooch's mysterious fortune and what those around him have done with his inheritance.

Business News

'This Just Can't Be for Real': Fyre Festival Fraudster Billy McFarland is Now Hiring For His New Tech Company -- And He's Already Selling Merch

McFarland was released from house arrest last September and is currently being ordered to pay $26 million in restitution to fraud victims.