“Where do you see yourself in five years?” is probably one of the most common and anticipated questions asked during a job interview. I’ve learned that this is a silly question.
I’ve learned that random curiosity can lead you in exciting directions that a “plan” would not.
Let’s go way waaaay back to when you were asked by your grade school teacher what you want to be when you grow up. We’ve all been told to think about what we want to become and to then work our asses of to be that person. We were asked to pick one dream and spend years, if not decades visualizing and fantasizing about finally having that title and success.
So as we grow up, we focus on that dream and start creating plans as to how we want our lives to go. To be honest with you, I used to have that five-year-plan but found myself ditching it, tearing it in half, and shoving it in the nearby garbage.
Okay maybe not that last part. But don’t get me wrong I’m all for planning and preparing for our lives. I don’t want you to go jumping off dangerous cliffs yelling YOLO! after reading this article. Instead…
I want you to say to yourself… I feel curious.. and then chase that!
Let me share with you my story and why I don’t believe in religiously adhering to an XX number of years plan.
When I was young my mother told me that we are all born superstars. She asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I knew then that she wanted me to become a nurse, so that’s what I said.
Years later I woke up with a bachelor’s degree and a professional license and realized that this was not what I want to do for the rest of my life. My whole being was craving something else and I had a strong feeling that a different world was waiting for me. So left my white uniform for business attire and heels. I worked in the corporate world for two years.
But then the magical alarm clock in my head went off again ringing, “I want to try something else that will challenge me more”.
So off I went to where one eats challenges for breakfast – grad school.
I studied Clinical Psychology for three years while still keeping my day job. Again, I found myself realizing that half of the reason I was there was because “getting a Masters degree” was part of my five-year-plan. I loved learning but more and more I felt empty, so I decided to take a break and teach in school.
But one semester of teaching teens turned out to be one of the most stressful times of my life. But despite that, my passion for teaching did not die. I became a Learning and Development trainer, while doing writing and speaking engagements on the side.
One of my favorite curiosity quotes says that you should replace fear of the unknown with curiosity.
I firmly believe this and my life so far has been a result of chasing my own curiosity.
My path has been a frustrating one with many twists and turns completely trashing my map a.k.a. my five-year-plan but I have learned the difference between knowing want you want to be vs. knowing who you are. Over time, your wants and interests will change. You may find yourself not wanting the same goal you had 2 years ago, and that’s okay! Don’t feel like a loser because you stopped pursuing a goal. Just make sure that you did it for the right reasons; because it’s no longer fulfilling your desires; because it’s not aligned with your discovered passions; because it’s not who you are anymore. It’s not failing, it’s “strategic quitting”.
People may say I don’t have direction but with the experience I had, I gained three C’s:
There is a certain empowerment brought about by taking risks and leaving your comfort zone.
The leaps I took from one profession to another despite having absolutely no background in the new one I’d be trying made me feel brave. As one of my greatest poetic influences said, “You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime”. You know this guy called Eminem. Ignore the odds; if you don’t take risks, the odds will never be in your favor. (Insert Mockingjay tune)
I used to feel like a fraud in my previous jobs because of my lack of educational background in those fields but now I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Through my experiences, I was able to use my learnings to be innovative and create something new. Most importantly, I discovered who I was. I weaved together what seemed like a tangled mess into a patchwork of amazing moments. Everything that I am today has an element of my past. Being a nurse taught me to how to care for people at their weakest moments. Being a psychology student taught me to understand people during their darkest struggles. Being a teacher taught me to have patience and lead the youth through their formative years. Being a trainer taught me that learning is a personal and eternal commitment. Being a writer taught me to have the courage to express and share my ideas to others.
And I am just as excited as to what my next adventure is going to teach me.
My last and greatest takeaway is the personal connections I have built with the wonderful and talented people I’ve met along the way.
I believe that a great part of learning and growing is through people who share their ideas, visions and perspectives with you – people you will briefly encounter, people you will learn from and people whom you will establish meaningful relationships with. I used to call them my classmates, students, mentors, trainees, org co-members, teammates, and colleagues. Now I just call them my friends. And those connections are something that will stay with me no matter where I go.
There are occasions I’d still hear the magical internal alarm clock ringing, but I am not afraid of it anymore. It simply means I discovered something new about myself again. Its impact in my plans and in my life would still depend on me. If I stuck with the plans I made for myself five years ago, I wouldn’t be here writing this article. Time estimates are just that…estimates. Trust the timing of your life and trust your decisions.
Trust that screaming gut feeling.
In designing your future there is no final draft. Keep on revising your life to match who and where you are. That way, you create your reality. There is beauty in uncertainty. Everything that is supposed to happen in your life will, whether you expected it or not. As Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only do so looking backward”.