As a planner girl that grew up in America, I’ve been asked about my future vision for as long as I can remember. “Where will you be in 5 years? What is your vision?”… And frankly, I truly have never had one. Today I’m sharing why I personally don’t have a 5-year plan and how I live a life of intention without one.
I’ve been asked the question about my future vision for myself as part of advising conversations, class and student group activities, development experiences. Even as a professional, I don’t know how to answer this question. I actually quite despise it, and I don’t ever have a good answer for it, because it’s not how I’ve lived my life.
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I understand why people ask this question and use visioning as a way to work backwards and create plans to make those things happen. Creating concrete steps make it more possible to move forward, and people are rewarded for having these clear, concrete plans because it feels like they have their shit together, a direction.
In contrast, when I would be honest and say “I don’t know what’s next,” I felt like people would think I was directionless, lost, when actually I felt good about how I was living my life. I was still doing things that mattered, being involved, getting things accomplished – I just didn’t have an ultimate “end game” in mind. It took me until this past year to get past the guilt and shame of not having a plan, but rather my own anchors and intentions.
Frankly, it seems pointless to me to envision one concrete vision for the future when I have no idea what is coming next, who I’ll BE, who I’ll meet, what new thoughts I’ll discover along the way. None of my life has turned out the way I could have planned. Honestly. Except for going to college at the University of Minnesota. That’s it.
The best word to describe my life would be that it has unfolded. I’ll reach a decision point and have to make a choice of what I want to do – and it’s based on who I am, what I believe in, what I’m interested in at that point. Once I choose, I am quickly able to lay down the plans to make those things happen in my planner or otherwise. When I discovered that I could work in higher education, it was quick and easy work for me to plan how to apply and move to a new state – once I chose.
In this “life map” (mine or anyone’s), you don’t see all the things I said “no” to, for whatever reason. The path looks very clear if you take out all of the options available! Throughout it all, you don’t see the difficulty of making those choices, or what I chose to give up to pursue one particular path. What you don’t see is that I couldn’t have guessed that I was going to grad school, or that I’d be a teacher, or anything else. Those things emerged as I went along, following my interests.
This seems crazy because, after all, I blog about planning, right?! But for me, there are so many other things that come before I even get to the planning piece, the bullet journal piece. For most of my life, I knew what I was supposed to do – from high school to get to college, in college to get to a first job or grad school, and so on. Having a clear vision is sort of like that to me – there is a clear check-list of what I’m supposed to do. But at some point, I have to wonder, who wrote that checklist? Are these my task boxes? That’s the hardest work, is to write your own checklist.
For some, having a clear plan and vision is helpful, guiding, and comforting. For me, it seems very limiting. In the openness, in what some call ambiguity, I see possibility. It’s more about what COULD be rather than what I don’t know yet. I am afraid that if I focus too much on one path, I miss out on what shows up along the way. This is how it affects ME, and recognizing that has helped me be at peace with how I move through my life.
Given that, I have identified some of the things that guide me. Similar to my Career Development spreads, knowing what my values, interests, and anchors are help me make better decisions about what to do next. This takes a lot of experimentation and your list will certainly differ from mine! That’s what makes it so difficult – only you can do the work. These are the things that guide me – for now – and I’ll be open to this list changing as I learn more and more.
With these things, that’s how I can live life intentionally, purposefully, passionately, without being focused just on ONE Intention, Purpose, or Passion. If you can be guided by these things, it doesn’t matter as much what your final destination is, but rather your next step.
Besides, a direct path is so overrated.
What do you think? What kind of planning do you resonate with more? Do we jive or do we differ?