Do you know where you want to be 5 years from now? What your career will be like? Who will be in your life? The suburb, the country you live in?
I caught up with a colleague, who within our organisation is also my official career counselor. Her question came forward, clear and resounding. What is your 5-10 year plan? A decade from now, what will you do?
Caught off guard, and not knowing how to answer it in the most honest yet politically correct way, because certainly the answer was clearly not a ‘to make partner position within this company’, I blurted out ‘to own a business’. And as soon as the words left me, I immediately felt like that was the most cliche answer one could go. Safe cliche answer that is.
The truth is I don’t have a 5 year plan or a 10 year plan. But I used to be one of those people who did. When I was 20, a few months short before graduating from University, I remembered walking to the nearby park in Melbourne on a sunny, summer morning. Under a tree and in the shade, I wrote down the most detailed description of how my career and my life path will be like in 3 years, 5 years and in a decade. 3 years following that, I reviewed the list and refined it further. As priorities changed, so did my desires of the ideal life.
I still have that revised list. It reads something like “By 28 years old, I want…” followed by 5 things. One should think 5 things would be achievable right? I have about 4 months before I turn 28, and I’m looking at that list thinking a) maybe if I had written “By 28 years old, I HAVE…” instead that would’ve had a better outcome and b) I probably have 1.5 out of 5 of the items. 1.5! This is exactly why I realised I don’t have a 5 year plan anymore. And what are the 1.5 item you may wonder?
– To have an excellent relationship with my parents and siblings (check!)
– A mortgage on a property in Malaysia (urm.. does thinking, talking and checking out bank loans count? That’s 0.5 off the list)
But that does not mean that I haven’t achieved anything in the last 3-4 years when I last wrote that list. My life just took a different course and I achieved greater things which I had never dreamed of before. Something which I thought I will cover in my 2012 end of year recap soon.
Nevertheless, it got me thinking as the underlying purpose of that question was to ensure that I have a goal. Goals are intended destination that guides the decision that you will make in that given time period. These days though, my goals are more intangible. It just doesn’t come in a list with check boxes beside it. I have found what I love to do and I have a sense of where I want to take it to. If anything at all, I know with all my heart, what I want to be feeling in the next 5 years.
I call it my 5 year feeling plan. But how the heck do I explain that to someone who also happens to be my direct reporting senior? Yeah, owning a business is way easier to stomach then “I don’t have a 5 year career plan, but oh by the way, I DO have a 5 year feeeeeeling plan instead!”
A Vietnamese artist who was recently interviewed by the Channel News Asia on his artwork once said that his work is not to be understood. You don’t look at a painting and say “yes, I understand that piece of art” because to understand you must first define. And to define is to constraint your mind within the limits of your understanding. Instead he said his artwork is to be ‘felt’ so when one looks at it, a certain emotion or feeling is invoked.
What he said resonated so deeply that I could practically regurgitate that last paragraph in a heartbeat. No other beautiful way to describe how I feel about my own future too. So what if I don’t have a 5 year tangible plan? What matters is achieving the desired feeling about myself, my life, my career and my loved ones. It’s all about the feeling honey.