Sunday, March 13, 2016

Lies We've Been Told: The 5 Year Plan

What's your five year plan? It's the interview question that strikes fear into the heart of every millennial. Inside, your brain is reeling but somehow a perfectly canned response comes out. How do we stop giving the canned response and live life on our own terms? I propose that the first step is giving up the five year plan.

Goal setting is really awesome activity, in fact, I suggest setting goals and evaluating them constantly. I think that part of setting big goals is allowing yourself the freedom and grace to take as long as it takes to achieve them or to abandon them altogether. Sometimes, the world has different plans for you or different interests/priorities bubble up to the top. There's no need to judge your life's progress based on what you thought you wanted to do five years ago.

Another message that's repeated constantly about goals is "never quitting." I believe in quitting when it makes sense and to do so without shame. Our emotions and lives are infinitely complicated and change frequently. Why would we betray our well-being and updated beliefs about what will make us happy just to avoid being labeled a quitter. Being a quitter should be celebrated, I think it's the bravest thing you can do!

Now a little bit about my own experience, five years ago I thought that I wanted to go into private practice as a professional counselor. I decided to leave the counseling field for higher education within 2 months of working as a counselor. If I hadn't been brave and given myself the option to change my mind without shame, I'd definitely be in the wrong profession. 

I received a lot of messages from friends and family around quitting counseling at this time. The questions of "are you sure?" and "what about the years of school you just finished?" came from a well meaning place. I was able to stand up to these questions because I knew what was right for me and I quit when I was 100% confident that I wouldn't be happy if I hadn't. I didn't let any doubt creep into those conversations and committed to my new career path knowing that I might change my mind again.

Right now, I am working at my goal of starting a blog and feeling better, more often. I reflect on these goals frequently and check-in with myself to make sure that they still fit. It's less scary to think about them because I've stopped thinking in terms of success or failure and achieving or quitting. 

Let's agree to give ourselves time and grace to achieve our goals and permission to quit if it is not working for us.

Image via Good Typography

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