“Where do you see yourself in five years?” “What’s your five-year plan?” “What is your ideal career?”
*Insert blankest of all blank stares here*
I remember when those questions used to excite me. I could easily answer with “I’ll be in college” or “I’ll be graduating from college and moving out of Alabama to work for a large corporation”, but now those same questions result in anxiety and a slight panic. Five years?! I’m still in Alabama, that Financial Analyst career still hasn’t started, and I no longer feel like a large corporation is a must (it’d be nice, though). It’s easy to get caught up in the fact that I’m not exactly where I want or expect to be. Yes, I graduated and have started a career in my field. Yes, I have time to dedicate to myself that I may not have had if I went straight from college to a more demanding, large corporation. I’m still not where I expected to be.
I know I’m not the only one in this position. I’m not the only one who wakes up most mornings and gets distracted by the difference between what’s real and what was expected. I’m not the only one who feels the need to push harder and be better. That hunger can be so intense and consuming that we forget how far we’ve come and what we’ve accomplished. We are in the same boat. A bunch of hardworking people who’ve accomplished so much but because we aren’t exactly where we want to be, we live in a constant struggle between what is and what “should be”. We are all hoping and praying we reach our idea of success, happiness, and/or greatness without getting lost along the way.
I got lost. I lost focus of where I was trying to go and I was still waking up feeling the overwhelming disconnect between where I was and where I wanted to be. Instead of pushing forward, I stopped trying. I knew that I didn’t want to settle with where I was in life, but I also didn’t want to try anymore because I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere. Then I had a conversation with my mentor. We were speaking about my career goals when he basically said “You’re still young. You can definitely reach your goals; you just have to keep trying to find a way in.” Mind. Blown.
Seriously, my mind was blown. It may not seem like he said much, but he said exactly what I needed at the time. I’m 23. I turn 24 this year. 24 is a year away from 25 which is five years away from 30 which is too close to 40 and if I’m going to have my yacht by 35, I’ve got to get on it! Our conversation made me realize that while my thinking in fast forward works sometimes, I never actually considered that I have time!
For those in the boat with me, consider this: that hunger that drives you forward can also distract you. Take a moment to look back at what you’ve accomplished. Not just the big accomplishments but the small victories-you graduated, lost two pounds, skipped the snack cake and had carrots instead, wrote a poem, got positive feedback on your craft, etc. Every time you slip or get overwhelmed take the time to remember the accomplishments you reached on the way to your ultimate achievement. The journey is just as important as the achievement so be patient with yourself. Don’t let your hunger make you neglect the present because if you sabotage yourself with negativity and fear now, you don’t get the luxury of achieving your greatest dreams. Keep calm and stay focused.