Where will you be two years from now? What will you be doing? Will you be in high school? Will you be in college by then? What about five or 10 years from now? What do you want to be doing, or have you given it any thought? If you are in the workforce by then, what kind of job do you think you’ll have? Will it be a minimum wage job in the fast—food industry, or will you be working at a meaningful and challenging job?
The natural tendency for all of us is to assume the best will happen to us. We like to think that when it comes our time to get a job that it will be an interesting and productive one where we will feel a sense of accomplishment. We like to believe we will have an appreciative boss, or that perhaps we’ll be our own boss and that our work environment will be one of our own making.
But the fact is most people tend to drift in life. Some have goals for their lives, and actively work toward those goals. But more often than not, people tend to drift along allowing the currents of life to push them first one direction then the other. Like a leaf floating along in a swiftly moving stream, they allow themselves to be at the mercy of outside forces as their lives unfold.
It is true that life throws us curves. There are many external forces that sometimes seem to converge on our lives, pushing us one direction or the other. There are times when life seems to demand that we make choices about our future, and sometimes it seems we are very limited in the options we have. Still, the fact is we have choices.
A leaf being carried along on a stream has no choice. It is bound by the laws of nature to go where the currents carry it. But God has given human beings minds with the ability to make choices. And He tells us we must make choices in life, as He instructed the fledgling nation of Israel after He freed them from captivity and led them to the land He promised their ancestors (Deuteronomy 30:19 Deuteronomy 30:19I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both you and your seed may live:
American King James Version×).
Where do you want to go?
Many years ago I read a book titled If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else by David Campbell, Ph.D. Somehow that title stuck with me. It seemed to make such a simple yet profound statement all by itself. To this day I think of that title often, especially when I read passages like Proverbs 22:3 Proverbs 22:3A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
American King James Version×that address the importance of looking ahead in life and watching where you’re going. That verse says, “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.”
It is only by looking beyond our next immediate step that we will be able to keep from being washed along by the currents of life. By looking farther up the path of life, we greatly improve our chances of steering away from some of the troubles that could be waiting for us.
To improve your ability to look ahead in the road of life and prepare yourself, you will have to do some thinking and planning for the future. The book, If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else, talks about the inevitable fact that in life everyone will come upon forks in the road where they will have to choose the direction they will go. Those forks are often like gates, and unless you have the skills, education and/or developed abilities that are needed to unlock that gate, you will be forced to go another direction—even if you would really like to explore what lies along that path beyond a particular gate (pp. 18—20).
This emphasizes the importance of accumulating and cultivating personal assets which will allow you to open those gates. Personal assets take the form of education and experience with your skills and aptitudes. At the very least, you need to know what your assets are—what you can do well or have the best possibility of doing well.
Whether or not you will be able to choose certain paths in life will depend entirely upon you. It will depend on whether you have the required personal assets. This means you will have to take the initiative to discover and develop them. As the previously mentioned book points out in its conclusion, “People who want milk should not seat themselves on a stool in the middle of a field in hopes that the cow will back up to them” (p. 130). Each person needs to take the initiative to improve his or her chances for success in life. That’s why planning for the future is so important.
Many people dream of success, but the planning that is needed to accomplish our goals goes well beyond just dreaming. Dreaming about future success can be enjoyable. But dreaming does little to bring that dream into reality. It doesn’t develop any personal assets. The critical difference between dreaming and planning is that planning takes one beyond the dream. It involves working toward a means of making the dream a reality.
For example, a young person who is interested in aviation can dream about flying. He can imagine what it would be like to have the freedom of a bird to soar above the clouds. He can dream of how it would feel to have the freedom to go in any direction. But those dreams will never become reality unless some steps are taken to make that dream come true. It will take work to move that dream into the category of a plan for the future. This requires action and doing some research. It requires finding and talking to people in the field of aviation. It requires finding out what steps need to be taken and how to come up with the money for flying lessons or to attend a school of aeronautics.
Make no mistake about it. It does require work on your part. Perhaps this is why so many people find it easier to just dream and not develop a plan for life. Proverbs 13:11 Proverbs 13:11Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathers by labor shall increase.
American King James Version×(Living Bible) teaches the benefit of hard work saying, “Wealth from gambling quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows.” Other passages also point out the benefit of work and that mere talk without work is of no benefit (Proverbs 14:23 Proverbs 14:23In all labor there is profit: but the talk of the lips tends only to penury.
American King James Version×; 28:19).
The effort of creating a plan for your life will be well worth it. It will help you discover and accumulate your own personal assets, which will allow you to be more in control of your future.
Anyone can just drift and take life as it comes. Those who do so will be like that leaf that is totally at the mercy of the currents in a stream. But those who make definite plans in life will find they are more like a person with a paddle in a canoe or raft. They will not just be at the mercy of the currents. They will have the ability to choose the direction they want to go as they travel the river of life. It will take some work. But it is well worth it in the end.
Where will you be in a few years? The answer to that question is largely up to you. An old German proverb says, “You have to take life as it happens, but you should try to make it happen the way you want to take it.” Don’t just drift in life. Create a plan for it so you can help shape it.
In the next article in this series, we will consider how people can find career paths that “fit” them. Be sure to continue reading “How to Plan Your Life” so you will have the best chance for success. YU