The investigation of a person’s degree of forward planning as a strategy for coping with the unknown future, has not been widely explored in the psychology literature. Two groups of students classified as planners and non-planners on the basis of their responses to an open-ended questionnaire were compared in terms of
1. Number and type of hopes and fears about the future.
2. The relative importance of the time zones of past, present and future.
3. Optimism/pessimism .about the future at a personal as well as societal level.
4. Perception of people who plan their lives and work to attain specific goals.
5. Beliefs regarding the extent to which people can exercise control over the occurrence of various events in their lives as opposed to external forces such as luck, fate or powerful others (Internal versus External locus of control).
6. Values as measured by Rokeach’s 18 instrumental and 18 terminal value survey.
Items 1-4 were explored by means of a questionnaire developed after carrying out a number of extensive interviews and a pilot study. Beliefs in Internality-Externality were explored by using the Internal-External locus of control scale developed by Rotter and his colleagues (1966), while values were measured by Rokeach’s (1966) Value Survey of 18 instrumental and 18 terminal values.
The questionnaire, Rotter’s I-E scale and Rokeach’s Value Survey were distributed to a sample of 88 first-year undergraduate students (44 females and 44 males), from I8 to 23 years of age.
According to the findings, planners and non-planners adopt different strategies for coping with the future: planners through setting up goals determine their future outcomes and consequently reduce uncertainty, while non-planners seem not to attempt to influence future events.
In the first case, planning for the future is seen as a person’s sense of agency over his environment while in the second case, focussing on the present is seen as a defensive mechanism against the possibility of disappointment in the future.
The results showed that planners:
1) hold more positive attitudes towards planning and the future;
2) had more hopes rather than fears about the future;
3) valued the future more than the present and past;
4) held optimistic views about private and public aspects of life in the future;
5) were more Internal in their beliefs about locus of control;
6) had a value orientation which was more intra-personal than interpersonal in focus.
In order to explore further the relationship between planning and Internality-Externality a second study was designed. More specifically, the study investigated:
1) The extent to which a person’s beliefs about his ability to exercise control over a variety of situations in the private and socio-political aspects of life (measured by Rotter’s I-E scale) were related to the extent of forward planning in these areas;
2) Planners’ and non-planners’ preferences for immediate or long-term solutions to issues of unemployment, inflation and pollution in Britain.
A sample of 46 first year undergraduate students (23 males and 23 females), from 18 to 23 years of age, were asked to fill out the first part of the Time Perspective Questionnaire used in the first study, Rotter’s I-E scale and a socio-political questionnaire developed for the purpose of the study.
Findings support the results from the first study regarding differences in number of hopes and fears about the future. Findings also suggested that respondents’ beliefs about Internal versus External locus of control were related to the extent of their forward planning in the private aspects of life, but not the sociopolitical aspects, for which they had little or no plans. Planners’ and non-planners’ preferences for immediate or long-term solutions to the three socio-political issues, was a function of so many possible factors that only some of the data were considered.
The impact of planners’ and non-planners’ orientation to the future on their actual behaviour in the present, was explored in the third study. Three aspects of present behaviour were considered under this study: work patterns / studying; free time activities, and relations with others. To explore these aspects, 44 first year students, 22 males and 22 females, from 18 to 23 years of age, were interviewed for approximately forty-five minutes each. The interviews were based on a schedule developed on the basis of the findings from 40 preliminary interviews.
According to the findings, planners were more organised, systematic and self-disciplined in studying, whereas non-planners tended to rely more on the University syllabus or moods, feelings and external pressure. Planners also expressed a need for privacy and regularity, and tended to see others as being instrumental to the realization of their goals. Non-planners on the other hand, showed a greater sociability, spontaneity, an involvement with, and an orientation towards other people, which emphasised the value of relationships for their own sake rather than because of their importance to the achievement of personal goals.
On the whole, differences in planners’ and non-planners’ orientation to time are seen as being characteristic of an “instrumental versus expressive” or “becoming versus being” orientation to life. An “instrumental” or “becoming” orientation involves views about the instrumentality of the present to the future. and manipulation of both personal and interpersonal aspects of life towards the achievement of future goals; whereas an “expressive” or “being” orientation involves an emphasis on living the present for the present, preferences for variety, change and freedom of choice in living, and a tendency to value interpersonal relations for their own sake rather than because of their importance to personal objectives.