I remember working on a scholarship application in college that asked me to outline my life plan. Where would I be in five years? Ten years? Fifteen years? It was so insulting to me to have to explain to some stranger how I imagine my whole life playing out. At the time I was 19 and five years seemed like an eternity. How could I possibly know where I was going to be in one year much less five? I remember wooing them with my “I want to keep all my options open because I’m young and creative and I don’t want to set limits on myself,” but after nearly two years out of my undergraduate career, I’m starting to see the benefits of a “life plan.”
I still believe that setting limits on yourself in the process of creating a life plan is detrimental to growth, but I think I’ve also learned to be less adverse to the idea of “life plans.” Seeing many of my friends benefit from some certain semblances of their own “life plans” has definitely made me start rethinking my own “fly-by-night” attitude.
It’s not that the last two years have been bad. In fact, I’ve probably learned more in my two years out of college than in all four years in college. But at 23, still living at home and in my first job, I’m really seeing where I could benefit from some kind of plan to help guide me toward my goals.
1. A plan isn’t a limit. It’s a set of goals.
This is something I’ve definitely needed to learn. I’ve been so afraid of putting “limits” on myself and not reaching my potential that I’ve failed to see how setting a timeline of goals could give me something to work toward.
2. My life won’t be ruined if I don’t reach the goals “on time.”
I know one of the reasons I’ve been scared to make a life plan is that I won’t be able to accomplish it so I’ll feel like a failure. However, isn’t it just another form of defeat if I choose to never try? Five years. Ten. Fifteen. They are a good place to start, but life tends to take us places we would never expect.
3. My goals can change.
I’m still young and figuring it out, and nothing is wrong with me if my goals change as I work on my life plan. In fact, my hope for creating my life plan is to set overarching goals on the long-term and more specific goals that may change and grow as I do on a shorter timeline.
4. Planning is good.
Anyone who knows me know I love to plan. I love to make lists and outlines and cross off my accomplishments, but making a life plan has always really scared me. I think because I’m afraid of feeling compelled or forced into a “cookie-cutter” middle class lifestyle with a reliable job, a husband, and kids. Those aren’t bad things, but they don’t fit my personality or life goals or vision for myself. Essentially, I know those things won’t make me happy as much as society and the media likes to tell me most of the time. Even if I don’t want the stereotypical sought-after life, planning my future and goals on a more specific level will decrease my anxiety and help me plan my daily life better so I don’t always feel like I’m missing out on opportunities.
I know I have so much to offer the world, and I desire to use my creative skills for good, but until I really start focusing my efforts I am going to feel like I’m wasting my time. A life plan won’t make me reach my goals but it will certainly make the path seems less daunting. Now if I can just make myself sit still long enough to think about my future in depth without getting too scared!