The dangers of over-planning your future

Claire Fisher

Since high school, relatives and teachers have been asking us the terrifying question of what we plan to do with our lives. They want to know where we’re accomplishing, what we plan to do next and what our greatest aspirations are. Often, we just don’t know.

Often, we have an idea for the future, but know it will probably change in a day. And so we inevitably come up with something to say so we don’t sound like we don’t have a plan. It is perfectly acceptable not to have a plan. In fact, getting stuck on a single plan can make your life more difficult.

Planning out every step and every detail of your life just to have a plan or to appease curious relatives won’t help you accomplish your real goals and could set you up for some unnecessary disappointment.

Answering relatives with a detailed plan that you think they’ll like won’t always be something you’ll like. Planning for your future based on what you think other people would want isn’t a good way to actually accomplish your goals.

Keep in mind that your goals also change. If you have a highly detailed, very specific plan you’re tied to, you don’t leave yourself room to grow and change in life. Firefighter, famous author, teacher, the world’s greatest guitarist, our career goals have likely shifted drastically over the years and they’re likely to continue shifting. Don’t let your life plan get in the way of you enjoying your life.

Creating life plans with really specific details can also set you up for disappointment. Getting internships, getting jobs and life plans all depend on other people and are subject to change. Life doesn’t always happen the way we expect it to. Making plans to get specific internships at specific companies or to move to a huge city for that dream job right after college doesn’t account for those unexpected changes life throws your way.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t have goals or that you shouldn’t dream. Goals give us drive and help us accomplish incredible things. Just don’t create elaborate plans that you’re afraid to change. Realize that you’ll change and your goals will too and it won’t be the end of the world if you don’t meet every step of the plan along the way.

Plans are useful when they help you accomplish your goals, but they stop being useful when they get in the way of you being happy with what you have.

A lot of people find themselves disappointed later in life because things didn’t turn out the way they planned. Throw out your plans. It’s OK to not have a plan and to not know yet what you’re going to do with your life.

Next time some relative asks you what your plan is, happily tell them that you don’t know. Or tell them that you have some fun ideas, but that those plans are subject to change. Plans that lack flexibility set you up to be disappointed with the way your life turns out.