Sometimes we think we have it all figured out. Timelines, game plans, pro/con lists, budgets, maybe a couple of bar graphs and flowcharts...the works. But sometimes, even our best-laid plans don’t go the way we think they will. It might be because life got in the way, or it might be because you realized that you no longer want what you thought you did. No matter the reason, it’s OK to change your mind and let your dreams change, too.
Planning can be fun, and even a little addicting at times. (Just search “planner” on Pinterest and you’ll see what I mean.) Often, people try to lay out their whole lives right at the start, and lock onto that plan as the only acceptable life guide. While this makes sense in the short term, it may not be the greatest idea to live your life based on the plan your 20-year-old self dreamed up. We grow. We learn. We discover new information or new paths. If you don’t allow this to inform your choices as you go through life, you’ll be miserable even if you’re “doing what you always wanted.” And that’s because it isn’t something the current you wants anymore.
We make our choices within certain structures. They might be social, cultural, financial, emotional, or a host of other things. Sometimes a choice may not even be a true choice; it might be something we’ve been encultured to do or believe. As the boundaries and forms of these structures change based upon information we learn or opportunities we come across, it’s important to allow yourself to change along with them. It’s equally important to build a circle of friends and mentors who will speak honestly about these structures, and can give you advice based on their experiences. (By the same token, it’s usually best to leave people who are incapable of constructively criticizing your choices out of said circle.) Of course, only you can decide what is best for yourself. Even times of indecision can be used as moments of incredible personal growth.
Yeah, no pressure, huh? But it turns out there’s an easy way to manage it: to understand what you want, ultimately, from your life. Then you can wing it with purpose! And you’re definitely going to have to do that a few times. There is no tidy road that takes you to and through your adulthood with no bumps. Knowing how to wing it while making choices that are still in line with your life values means you now have the correct mindset to accomplish what you want, even if it might not be through the route you’d initially planned. It might look totally different to what you wanted just last year, or even last month. And it’s probably going to change some more over time. That’s another reason why a healthy circle of like-minded individuals is so important...it can be scary to embark on a big change alone. Your friends and mentors will help you think critically about making that step, and will offer you support and guidance when things get difficult or you become uncertain.
Before you get carried away and head off to burn your personal 10-year plan, know that this is not an argument against planning anything, ever. It’s just an encouragement to be flexible with those plans. Life’s about balance, right? When you plan in combination with a regular reflection on what you truly want, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what will make you happy. It also helps teach you how to manage your disappointment when something doesn’t pan out. Rather than throwing a tantrum or making excuses, you can make effort instead. You’ll be able to say, “Well, that didn’t work. What else might?" And that's some very healthy, mature adulting right there.