Crystal balls are unreliable predictors of the future

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It is a question that is asked of nearly every child, offering us just a glimpse into their future ambitions. Some children say that they want to be firefighters. Others want to be doctors, movie stars, or chefs. Even when these kids get a little older and become teenagers, the picture may not be perfectly clear and their view of the future may not be entirely accurate. Even when these teens grow up further and enter the workforce, they still can’t be entirely sure of where they’ll be ten years in the future. Does this mean that we shouldn’t bother planning for the years ahead?

Not Even Close

Over on the BlueFur blog, one of the recent community polls asked if you are now where you thought you’d be ten years ago. The overwhelming majority responded with “not even close.” I was among those who provided that reply.

Back in 1999, I was getting ready for my high school graduation. I was near the top of my class and the world was my oyster. At the time, I had no aspirations to get into freelance writing, though I did enjoy writing for pleasure. I had a small website (on Geocities) and I wrote for an email newsletter (that would grow to become in later years). Even so, I did not foresee that I would be running my own business. It did not seem like a viable possibility at the time.

A World of Possibilities

Growing up, I was reasonably certain that I was going to pursue a career as an architect. Entering my senior year in high school, I thought it was more likely that I would take up a career in accounting. After my first year at university, I ended up majoring in my worst subject at school, pondering a career as a clinical psychologist. As I neared my graduation from university, my focus shifted slightly to forensic psychology, though I maintained an interest in journalism. As you can quite clearly see, I underwent a very common experience for young people: with so many options before me, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do with my life.

If you asked me ten years ago where I would be today, I’d probably tell you that I would be some sort of junior assistant at an accounting firm, crunching numbers and making photocopies. In hindsight, that wasn’t exactly the most ambitious of goals and it really isn’t something that I want to do. I am very glad that I have managed to launch a career as a freelance writer, but it’s not something that I could have predicted. I may be writing feature articles and blog posts for a living today, but the widespread concept of a blog post didn’t even really exist ten years ago.

Choosing a Path (and Getting Distracted)

As you gaze into that crystal ball, it still makes sense for you to predict where you’ll be five, ten, or thirty years from now. By planning for the future, you give yourself a sense of security and a sense of direction. Just don’t expect your future view to be terribly accurate. No one can know what tomorrow will bring.