Have you ever met someone who has their entire life planned out? With every year mapped out and color coded? The analytical and organized map of their future may seem like that person is guaranteed success. Panic may start to set in, especially if you haven’t declared a major or if you don’t know what you want to do with it. It might seem like latching onto “a plan” with iron firmness is the way to go. However, rigid attachment to a long term goal, especially one that you are not passionate about, can actually be a disservice to your inner peace and ability to take advantage of new opportunities in the moment.
Long term goals train people to focus entirely on the end game. If an event occurs that derails the end game, people can be left in an identity crisis…feeling completely lost and empty. The goal of their life is no longer achievable, which can be difficult for people to move on from. So, instead of flow-charting your entire life, focus on little commitments that can lead to larger ones. Determine your core beliefs and interests and work every day to find small commitments that align with them. When you move towards larger goals one step at a time, you give yourself the freedom to be flexible, to move in a different direction as your first-hand experience changes your idea of the final destination.
When thinking of little commitments, think of the phrase “Drip. Drip. Splash.” Every drop of water contributes to the ocean, just like every commitment you make contributes to your interests and aspirations. Your first step can be something small where you have little to lose.
I began my first “drip” in college by taking biology and chemistry labs because I dreamed of being a wildlife biologist. During lab, I learned that chemistry makes me cry and does not lead me to happiness. Instead of falling into despair about my life being slightly derailed, I tried a different “drip”. My next step was to begin environmental classes, which inspired me to want to work in environmental policy. My change in direction led to my “splash”, an internship with a national environmental organization that lobbies Congress.
I have not carved my future into stone, but I have an idea of where I want to go and a future I can truly look forward to. Each step teaches you a little more about yourself and what you makes you happy. Each drip and step you take creates a pool of opportunities and connections. Learn from each step, adapt, and remain focused on your interests to lead you to happiness.