Universal Ethics

4. Find Stepping Stones

Collect Ideas

At this stage you will have already gathered some wishes or "goals" for yourself, and possible also for other planning participants to achieve. These may be personal goals to live a more fulfilling life, or wider goals to help other people or animals live happier lives.

Some of these goals may be for future periods of time. Although you may be interested in them, or have the talent or desire to achieve them, you do not necessarily have the knowledge or skills you need in every case.

For difficult goals that require some advance preparation, you need to list a series of "stepping stones" that you might conceivably undertake in order to achieve that goal. Later you will decide which of these steps are feasible. So that your creativity is not hampered, initially you should write down anything that you can think of.

For example, imagine a student who seeks a career that will bring financial security. Some things they might do to prepare for a job are to attend classes, do part-time work such as a co-op work term, attend meetings of professional organizations to make contacts, go on field visits to potential future employers, send resumes, etc.

If the student recorded his ideas in Pathways, here is how some of them might appear:

You will notice from this example, that several of those items are strategies for achieving the outcome, but they are not specific appointments or to-do items. That level of detail we will save for later in this planning process.

You will notice the question mark "?" appearing on some of the items. These are outcomes where the planner isn't sure yet if he (or she) will do those or not. They are potential stepping stones to the desired outcomes.

You will also notice that one outcome on the illustration has a barrier icon on the outcome title. This indicates that when the outcome was created in the planner, the odds of success for the outcome was set to less than 50%. Boosting the odds of success may be achieved via a stepping-stone.

As you proceed with the planning process, you will make decisions about which "?" potential stepping-stones to pursue or not pursue, that will help to overcome the barriers.

Consider Worthiness and Eligibility

As you plan each "stepping stone," consider that society may have requirements for worthiness or eligibility. Worthiness and eligibility are two words that mean almost the same thing: they signify that you will be permitted to participate in the outcome by meeting some standards of behavior or qualifications.

If you need to attend a class to get the skills you need to complete a series of stepping stones, consider what the entrance requirements or pre-requisites are for each of those steps. Which of those qualifications do you have already, at the start of your plan, and which do you need to gather along the way?

Consider Your Contribution to Ideals

When you went through the step of "making some wishes", and then as you repeat the Pathways process with an increasingly wider scope, you will be including ideals in your plan as desired outcomes. These will include ideals that apply to yourself, your family, your community, and your world. At the largest scope, they might include wishes like:

  1. A world of peace where wars have disappeared entirely.
  2. Education readily available to every person everywhere.
  3. Having sources of information that you know you can trust.
  4. Sufficient food for every person everywhere.
  5. Cures for every kind of disease or injury.
  6. An ecology that is sustainable forever.

It may seem futile to put such large-scale ideals in your plan, because your own contribution to them may seem negligible. But each action of each person serves as a vote for the kind of community and world that comes to exist. The rational person will vote for the kinds of things they want, rather than leaving it to chance or worse yet voting against theose things.

So, it makes sense to put stepping stones into your personal plan that vote for achieving the ideals, even though the accomplishment of those "stepping stones" do not produce the outcome by themselves, and even though achieving the ideals remains far off and uncertain.

Here are examples of stepping stones for some of the above ideals:

IdealStepping Stone
Sufficient food for every person everywhere. Contribute to charity that provides food, the means of growing food, and education to impoverished people.
Cures for every kind of disease or injury. Conducting research on particular medical problems (if you are in the medical profession) or contributing money to research (if you are not).
Having sources of information that you know you can trust. Choosing to be honest so that people can trust you.

As you look at these stepping stones, I would like to draw your attention to a couple of things:

  1. Your stepping stones depend on your talents and resources. Each person may have different ways in which they can contribute, and different capacity to help. (Note particularly the example of the "cures" ideal.)
  2. Some stepping stones are not actions that you can schedule. The last stepping stone above illustrates that. It doesn't make sense to schedule honesty for Monday afternoon next week! Rather it is something you would do all the time. That is why, in the later steps of the Pathways method, you will plan not only action items, but also policies.

Define Consequences

If you use the Pathways Planner app, you can define "consequences" including cuasation, blocking, enablement, and disablement. As a formal way of defining how one "stepping stone" enables a future outcome, you use the consequences to link outcomes together. You can use this method to trace how pre-requisites enable a future outcome, or partially enable it, and you can also identify other outcomes that are triggered in a chain-reaction. You can even define and calculate odds using Pathways built-in conditional probability calculations.

If you formally define consequences in your plan, that is a pretty high level of planning sophistication. Many people find it sufficient to plan the stepping stones, perhaps to organize them into groups, and simply remember the likely consequequences in their mind. Usually that is quite adequate.

Another important point here is that you pretty much have to know what the consequences are. There is no planning tool on earth that will tell you the likely consequence of every action you could undertake or every policy you could adopt. You gain that knowledge from your own experience, from reading, listening, observing others, etc. It really helps to keep some time reserved in your plan for continued learning, not just to satisfy curiousity, but also to increase your ability to make wise plans and to be successful in your planned endeavors.

Most of your success in life will arise because of your knowledge rather than the planning process itself. But the two combined, of knowledge plus planning, can be very effective.


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