Forget a 5-Year Plan.

How many times have you heard this question: “What will you be doing 5 years from now?” Yeah. If you are like me,  you probably just cringed when you read that.
We live in a constant state of panic about our future. Parents want to know about our five-year plans, future employers want to know where we see ourselves five years from now, and even friends will demand that you play the “5 Year Game” with them too.

And if you are one of many young professionals that really have no clue about what your 5 year plan is, then this question can be a major source of stress. After all, shouldn’t you have an answer?

Nope.

I think it’s okay not to know what your 5 year game plan is.  Hell, five years is a long time. And a lot can happen in five years.  If you are one of those people who need a plan, don’t skewer yourself if you find yourself straying off course.  It happens.

For the rest of us who are more free-spirited, I have a compromise: The 5 month plan. Thinking about your life in 5 month increments works for several reasons:

5 months is a short enough amount of time to make you feel like you are planning for your future without forsaking happiness in the present.
Think about it.  What can you accomplish in 5 months?  In that short amount of time, you can take a class in a subject you have always been interested in. It’s enough time to do research about a new career field. It’s enough time to plan and save for a trip for personal rejuvenation. It’s enough time to start a new hobby.

Most of us are not about to experience a life-changing event in 5 months (marriage, or childbirth),so it’s enough time to just plan your future without factoring in major life events.
Eventually a time might come when your future will include a significant other and little dependents, but for most of us, that time is not NOW. Why work yourself up over worrying about whether Ms./Mr. Right will pop up in the next 5 years? Plan your life for you right now, and factor in the things you enjoy doing, or the goals that you want to accomplish before you have to think of the needs of others.  And who knows, that art class you decide to take in the next 5 months, might be where you meet your new boo!

Your accomplishments in the next 5 months can give you some insight into what you might be interested in pursuing in the future.
Think for a second about the last time you accomplished a goal. How did it make you feel? If a huge smile just erupted across your face, I’m with you. Accomplishing a goal feels good! It is an amazing feeling to you achieved what you set out to do. This does not have to be a fleeting feeling. It can happen again, and again. Five months is enough time to make sure you can taste that rush of accomplishment again. Let’s say you do join that art class. Five months from now, you will know something about yourself: Either you are really into art, or you are not. You will know that you have the guts to try something new. If art turns out not to be your thing, try another subject you have been curious about. If you find out you love art, take the next class. Hmm… suddenly it looks like you have a 10 month plan.

In the next 5 months I will be planning my first trip West (Portland here I come!)  I just started a creative writing class, so that will keep me busy for the next 3 months. And this weekend I am moving to a cheaper apartment so I can save money for more travel.

What do your next five months look like?

Happy Friday!

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How Materialism Can Kill Your Dreams

The Notorious B.I.G. said “More money, more problems.” Today I’m putting a spin on it and saying, “More stuff, more problems.”  Sunday, when I received 4 “thumbs up” on Facebook after posting this as my status: We hang on to so much stuff we don’t need, and when you think about it, it’s holding you down, back, and prisoner. I knew I had hit a nerve.

When I tell people how I moved to New York with only two suitcases and a smile, most people first say: “Wow, I could never be that brave.” And then the next sentiment usually goes something like: ” I don’t know how you did it; I couldn’t leave all of my stuff.

Yes you can x 2.

I really don’t like to own more than a car full of possessions, but  I did not always think this way. I too was brainwashed, I thought bigger equals better, and better equals more, more, more!

Until I hit my own “stuff-related meltdown”. Flashback to December of 2007. I had just been offered an internship at a national mag based in Pennsylvania. I’m not the U-haul type, so I decided that I would drive my Corolla from TN to PA.  I knew all of my stuff couldn’t come with me ( the sofa, the dinning table, ect.), but what I did not realize was how much excess stuff I had collected in the six months that I lived in my first apartment after college. It was my first time living on my own, so you know I had to pimp the APT out! I bought cute martini glasses for the cute hutch in my kitchen, curtains, hell, I even bought plastic flowers to put in my shower ( gotta love a little ambiance). My apartment was too cute.

So cute and so full of too much  stuff.

I didn’t realize just how much I had accumulated until after dropping off a load of stuff at my Dad’s house, I faced at least three car loads more in my apartment. I damn near cried from the frustration of having to throw away/give away so much stuff that I paid MY hard-earned money for. . It was so bad that moments before I drove off to PA, I was still dragging bags to the garbage can.  I promised myself that I would never go through that again.

But, as I’m writing this as I am deciding if I should toss out the Vanilla Bath Bomb I got from Lush, but will probably never, ever use (it’s NYC: taking a relaxing bath when you live with a gazillion other people just ain’t cool, buddy).  But I’m having a hard time parting with it. Why?  Because I paid for it. And wasting things that you paid for isn’t the way I was raised.

And that’s where the epiphany comes in: Just don’t buy it in the first place. What would your life be like if you decided not to buy one more pair of shoes?  Would you be one step closer to realizing your dream of “insert dream that has been on the back burner here”.

These days when I see a cute pair of shoes, or even a fly pair of earrings (I love accessories) I ask myself, would I rather have these earrings, or put this money toward a plane ticket to somewhere cool?

I’ll let you guess which one I chose.

We are taught from an early age that having lots o’ stuff equals success. And that’s wrong. I think being successful is more closely aligned with feeling self fulfilled. Success is finding out your purpose and using it to make the world a better place in some way. Success is not letting material things define who you are, and what you do.

Are you a minimalist in the making? What’s you strategy for getting rid of crap you don’t need?

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Ready to Give up? Don’t.

Me and my mom, January 2000

*I dedicate this post to the memory of my mother, Shirley, who taught me a lot in a short time.  Two lessons stand out: Be the best you can possibly be. And don’t give up on something that you really want; find a way to make it happen.

I had another post planned  until, as it has before, my e-mail from TED interrupted my thoughts. If you don’t know what TED is, you need to educate yourself. It’s the portal for online inspiration in the form of speeches by amazing people.

I ended up watching a video about Charity Tilleman-Dick, a young opera singer who was diagnosed with a rare disease that affected her lungs and heart. Charity came as close to death as one can get without tumbling over the edge.

As young adults we do not often think about our mortality. We assume that death is for old people, or that it is something very far away, and distant.  And some of us learn very early, that life is so fragile. One of the most remarkable things about Charity’s story is that before she fought for her own life, Charity lost her grandfather, and tragically, seven weeks later, her father, died in a car accident.

I was stunned. I can only imagine how much pain she was in physically and mentally. But she kept going. She did not give up.

She did not give up.

Watching this girl, who moved around the stage with such a nervous energy, reminded me to remember that giving up is never an option. That we must all fight until the very end to live the life we want.

Charity underwent a lung transplant to save her life, and in the process, she almost lost her voice. She didn’t know if she would ever be able to sing again. Her passion, the thing that made her feel most alive, she almost lost it.

I needed to  hear that story today. I needed to remember that I can’t give up.

I hope that I was able to remind you too.

Happy Friday.

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