On a recent hike, a friend of mine was telling me about his family and was particularly animated and passionate when he described the men in his life – his father and uncles. He told me about their hustles and grinds to create and take advantage of various opportunities in order to build their careers and provide for their families. Their work ethic undoubtedly influenced the man he was and the type of life he was working to have for the family he would one day start.
When I asked him what his 5 year plan was, he rattled it off without hesitation. He knew what he wanted, and already had plans in place on how to get about getting it. There were no signs of uncertainty or doubt in anything he said. It was all going to happen, he was just setting everything in motion, sowing the seeds and waiting for the harvest.
I was in awe. I had no idea what it was like to be so sure of taking on the future. To have clear, finite goals in mind. To have mapped out the next few years with concrete details. I was embarassed when he returned the question to me. I didn’t have a 5 year plan. I didn’t even have a 1 year plan. I barely had a plan for the next day at work. I wanted to make up an answer, perpetuate the lie that I am a woman who has it all together and all under control. Instead I admitted I didn’t really have anything concrete that I wanted to achieve, but I knew I needed to be somewhere else, doing something else.
It seems ridiculous that I, a 32 year old college educated person, has no goals, dreams or aspirations. What kind of pathetic person doesn’t have some sort of blueprint for their future? Me, that’s who.
People laugh when I tell them I didn’t get a PhD on purpose, it just kind of happened. It wasn’t exactly what I’d set out to accomplish after completing my bachelor’s degree. I applied to my PhD program as an afterthought (at some one else’s suggestions). I hadn’t even taken the GRE (needed for doctoral programs) – only the MCAT (needed for medical programs). It all worked out but… it wasn’t the culmination of some well thought out plan.
And since I didn’t have a plan for getting the PhD, I certainly didn’t have one for after having the PhD (despite the 7 years of grad school I had to think about it). I’ve been navigating my post-doctoral life with no map, hoping that the right opportunity would jump out into my path. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been putting in hard work and taking advantage of numerous opportunities, gaining different experiences. But I’ve been oscillating, moving laterally. Not really making any forward progression to advancing my career. What kind of career? IDK.
With all the discomfort and dissatisfcation I’ve had with my current job (which I’ve often discussed here on the blog), I should actively be working towards something new, something better, something different. I have toyed with some ideas on what would be fulfilling, but they’ve come and gone. Nothing I’ve committed to working on for real. That would make it too… real.
As fate would have it, I recently started seeing various friends (including my girl Amy Juicebox) talk about having a Passion Planner. I had no idea what it was but I was intrigued by the excitement my friends expressed over theirs. Though I typically have an aversion to the word “plan” and any of it’s conjugations, this “all-in-one weekly appointment calendar, journal, goal setting guide, and to-do list log” looked like something I needed to get on board with. Because my very passive approach to my future was getting me nowhere.
After a bit of research on the PP (and other similar planners), I made the purchase! It was time to be serious about mapping out my next moves, even though I had no idea what those next moves would be. Hell, I didn’t think I even had any goals! How do you plan for something that doesn’t actually exist? I’m just freestyling life. But in order to plan for your future, you need goals to work towards and an action plan to achieve those goals.
The first step to using a PP is to create a Passion Roadmap, “a step-by-step guide to mapping out your goals”. The main objective of the roadmap is to make a visual wish list of things you want for an ideal life and when you want to accomplish them (in 3 months, 1 year, 3 years, over your lifetime). This very simple exercise seemed insurmountable because #nogoals. After a little bit of prompting from my friend J, who also has a PP and agreed to be my PP accountability partner, I finally tapped into a host of life’s desires living in my subconscious mind. There were things I actually wanted to accomplish, obtain, be!!! I set my timer for 5 minutes (as per the Passion Roadmap’s instructions), and began to fill in my wishlist. It was so exhilarating to see each section become populated. After 5 minutes passed, I reset the timer so I could give myself more time to dream, to imagine my future. Realistic or not, I wrote what I wanted on paper. When I was done, I looked down at my Roadmap feeling proud and relieved. I HAVE GOALS!
I followed the other steps for the roadmap (Prioritize, Create Your First Passion Plan, Add Specifics, Create a Timeline, Make a Date) and am excited that for the last 5 weeks I have been actively working at a few of my goals (one being 13.1 mile run training)! I hope to blog about some of them as I make headway. And even though I’m unsure of what the future holds (uncertainty is my enemy!), I feel in control, optimistic, and confident. And that, my friends, is progress!
Going forth and prospering,