Having a strict life plan is stupid.
Let me back up. There’s nothing wrong with planning for the life you want — in fact, it’s a good idea to have some sort of plan for when you’re done university (or wherever you may be in your life), some sort of idea of the direction you want to take your life in. The problems start when you force yourself to follow these plans to a T, leaving no room for exploring other interests or changing your mind down the road. And the finality in the decision, that’s where the problems begin.
Maybe you’ve decided you want to be a teacher. You plan for the next six years: get an undergrad degree, volunteer in schools, get the prerequisites done, apply for the teaching certificate, get the teaching certificate, start teaching. You don’t leave room for testing out other aspects of your personality, because teaching is what you want to do; you’ve set this goal, and dang it, you’re going to achieve it.
But this is a pretty big goal. What if you start going through your undergrad and realize that your true passion lies in video production, or writing, or nursing? What if that meticulous plan you made for yourself is entirely unappealing three years later? Then what, do you throw that well designed plan out the window?
Yeah, you do. As strange as it sounds, you should listen to what your body and mind are telling you. When you think about your new aspiration of becoming a (insert dream job here), your heart soars and you feel excited for the future — anything is possible. But when you think of that goal you made for yourself last year, your heart drops into your stomach and life feels bleak.
Our bodies are astonishingly accurate when it comes to reading emotion. Gut reactions, or intuition, are often correct — after all, they’re based in previous experience and knowledge. So, why don’t we believe them? Probably because society has (wrongly) conditioned us to believe that every problem needs rationality. However, we need both instinct and reason to make good decisions. Look at the facts, but also listen to your gut.
“But I don’t want to deviate from this plan I’ve made, I’ll feel like a failure!”
Maybe you will, for a time. But this is why we shouldn’t set such rigid or unattainable goals for ourselves; we end up feeling dejected, shameful, and like a failure. Unfortunately, in our society, failure is linked to laziness and negativity. But failure should be seen as a lesson; in this case, the lesson of not commiting to a profession that you can’t guarantee you’ll stick to for the rest of your life. Don’t get me wrong, having goals is fantastic, but goals need to be attainable and flexible. You don’t run ten miles on the first day. You work up to it.
I’ve gone through so many changes of heart in the past five years; I wanted to be a nurse, then a teacher, then a counselor, then a teacher again, then a writer. I want to go to Germany, no, I want to go to Chile, no wait I want to go to Italy (I’ve accepted that I want to travel everywhere; the hard part is deciding where to go first). In fact, I’ve waffled back and forth on what exactly I want out of my career and life at least five times in January alone.
And you know what? I don’t have to choose yet, though if I’m being honest, I know it’ll have something to do with writing or editing — I’m just not sure exactly what it will be yet. I’m barely 25 — I don’t think it’s right to make a plan for the next forty years of my life and force myself to stick to it. I know the type of person I am, and I know I’m not going to follow this plan exactly.
And maybe you are. Maybe you’re fine with deciding what you want to do with your life at 18, and you stick to it. I’m proud of you for being that decisive, but I (and many others) aren’t destined to be that way. We need to do some exploring first — and to be honest, I don’t think I’ll ever stop.