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Embracing a Voyageur's Mindset

Posted on November 27, 2015
By Al Etmanski

Change is like a friend you haven't seen in ages… it needs to be embraced before you can both laugh about the good old days.
- Shane Koyczan

Old map with compass.jpgPrévoyance is the ability to prepare for the unexpected in a world of uncertainty while maintaining your principles.

It is a concept introduced to Canada by the great explorer Champlain. There is no English equivalent. Pity. We could use more of this ability today.

Prévoyance is different from foresight, insight or hindsight. It describes the mindset necessary to make sound judgments despite incomplete knowledge and imperfect understanding.

You can see why a prévoyance mindset was so important to Champlain. His voyageurs and explorers were strangers in a strange land. The unexpected was a constant companion. It was critical to let go of approaches that worked in other contexts and to nurture adaptability, versatility and comfort with ambiguity. These attributes were important for more than survival. There was an ethical dimension to Champlain's use of the word. Champlain's dream was bold and future focused. He wanted the principles of humanism and peace to take root in what he called New France.

Prévoyance is the perfect mindset for the turbulent times we live in. Cultivating prévoyance replaces fear of the unknown with preparation for the unknown.

When we are prepared, change and ambiguity become less threatening and more familiar. We are more willing to take a leap of faith. Less willing to jettison our principles.

Otherwise, fear and insecurity take root. We look for someone to blame. We exclude and ignore. We close our hearts. We attempt to force things back to the way they were.

Given that dramatic bursts of change are increasing on our planet, it might be wise to resurrect, elevate and cultivate Champlain's version of prévoyance in all languages.

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Community Engagement


Al Etmanski

By Al Etmanski

Al Etmanski is the President of PLAN (Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network) and has been a leading advocate for people with disabilities and their families in Canada for more than two decades. He is widely recognized as a visionary thinker in areas of social policy, community development and individualizing services for people with disabilities. Al is an author, advocacy consultant and social inventor who specializes in finding innovative, non-governmental solutions to social problems.

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