Why I’ve stopped putting time limits on my goals

“Where do you see yourself in five years?”

Nope. No thank you. Next question please.

This is a concept that fills me with dread. It seems to be the number one piece of advice in achieving success: set a goal, when you want to achieve it by, and then get to work. But it’s method I’ve started to have a lot of doubts about. I mean, it’s probably best not to go through life aimlessly, waiting for things to happen and doing nothing to find or create opportunities. That would be ridiculous and just as dangerous. Goals are good. Until you start setting a time limit.

At 18 years old, I decided that in five years’ time I was going to have moved out and be on the way to a successful career in…something. As the years went by, and I got scarily closer to my deadline without having achieved anything, I realised this method was doing nothing except make me feel awful about myself. I don’t think I was deluded, the goals I’d set myself were definitely achievable in that time frame, but my ambitions and needs developed and changed so much over those five years until they were completely different from what 18-year-old Alice could have imagined.

I’m now 24, and I’ve gone through so many career ideas that I’ve lost count. But finally, a couple of weeks ago, I started my first full-time writing job, and now I know I’ve finally found what I want to do. In fact, I’ve returned to exactly the career that I wanted to do as a child. Clearly I should have just listened to 10-year-old Alice because she knew what she was doing. Now I just need to rule the world so I can save all the trees and animals, and be the lead singer of a rock band. Which is achievable, I think.

Anyway, I digress. My point is, six years down the line, I’ve only just started in a challenging career which I enjoy, and I’m still very much living with my parents. But I think my 18-year-old self would be proud, despite failing her 5-year goal. I am happier than I’ve ever been, because I’ve freed myself from those foolish deadlines I used to impose on my future. Don’t get me wrong, I still have goals and I know where I want to go. And there are vague things I’m working towards in the next few years. But setting time limits on achievements is an insult to the fact that nobody knows what is going to happen in the next week, let alone the next year.

You could meet someone who changes your life. An opportunity could arise that throws everything you had planned out of the window. You could lose your job. You could be forced to move to an entirely different part of the country. The world could be threatened by a zombie apocalypse and suddenly the future of the human race ends up being your sole responsibility. You get the point. So deciding that in five years you’re going to be *insert generic life goal here* is in danger of being detrimental to your future happiness.

I’ve spent far too much time worrying that I’m running out of days, months, years, to achieve what I had planned. I was silly. Don’t be like me. Don’t waste the present worrying about the future. Keep your dreams and ambitions, but at the same time, don’t try and rush them into being. Keep working. Keep improving. And good things will happen.

Because to be honest, I don’t care where I am in five years’ time, as long as I’m happy.

Wow that was cheesy.

TTFN, tata for now.

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