The dreaded question
Updated: Jul 5, 2020
At a virtual birthday party this weekend, I reflected on the fact that in 5 years time, I too would be celebrating that age. It brought to mind a question that I had dreaded for a very long time, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?"
This question is quite common in interviews and in building my career I have had to muddle my way through it somehow or the other but always with discomfort, and doubt. I take comfort in knowledge and panic in uncertainty so that question triggered all manner of 'what ifs' within my mind making it difficult to answer. I told myself that it was far better to live in the moment and see where life takes you. I even considered people who knew the answer to that question as too rigid and restrained because they were not leaving much to chance.
So while I would muddle through it to advance my career, I completely ignored it in every other sense and allowed life to just happen to me tick along to 5 years, 10 years and counting, Then I hit a point in my life that is aptly described in this poem by Peter Thomson;
There is a moment in every person’s life,
When the awareness of their destiny
Bursts like a bubble, onto the surface of their conscious mind.
I realised that not answering the question has a COST. It costs you time because time not dedicated to anything still goes by and time is not infinite. It costs you fulfilment because you are doing things you haven't planned for yourself. It costs you peace because you are worried about the future.
I also realised that FEAR was the reason I struggled to answer that question. Fear that whatever I commit to on pen/paper or verbalise may not come to pass and would have to deal with failure and shame. Acknowledging my fear of uncertainty was a vital step in my dealing with it. I could then reason with it. So what if I don't know if I will fail? I also don't know if I would succeed? What is failure anyway but a lesson in how not to do something? I reminded myself of the failures that preceded the success of all the people who did great things such as Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison and Oprah. Ok these people are might seen far removed. Closer to home I watched my husband receive many nos before he finally got a yes for his business idea and all the while he never stopped planning and working towards it.
Luckily, it is never too late to make a change. Not only am I now comfortable with the question, I am able to get excited when I plan and make goals for the months and years ahead. A 5 year plan may seem a big stretch so start small, plan the week, month, year and grow from there. It keeps you motivated to wake up in the morning and makes you live purposefully. You will not be easily carried from one band wagon to the next because you have a plan. It builds character and resilience because sometimes you may have to redraft your plan or even throw it out completely.
Your plan is yours and is valid, big or small. Only you can answer that question correctly for your life. It is worth asking yourself that question regularly and if it feels daunting, chances are there is a FEAR lurking somewhere that needs to be exposed and conquered .