The folly of making grand plans

If you’re not satisfied with your life today, it can be tempting to make grand plans for the future.

Here’s an example. You might think:

“I’ll get an MBA at a top school, then I’ll get a well-paying job, and then I’ll spend some years working to build up savings so I can travel the world.”

In this case, your goal is to travel the world. You think that you would be pretty happy doing that. But you’re postponing your travels for at least five years if you think this way! And potentially for much longer, depending on how much you save and how much money you think you need to travel.

At the risk of sounding morbid: you might not be around five to ten years from now! Your interests might change. You might have kids and find it difficult to make the traveling logistics work.

Or maybe you’ll end up working so hard that you’ll burn out and you’ll spend those precious savings while you recover. In fact, this happened to me. Oops!

Look, planning is valuable. I do not advocate always prioritizing Present You over Future You. Not at all. But I do advocate this:

Be happy now.

If you think you’ll be happy when traveling, then go traveling!

You might be experiencing all sorts of objections in your head right now, such as:

  • I don’t have the money to travel.
  • I have some money saved up, but I should save a little more.
  • I don’t have a travel buddy and I don’t want to travel alone.
  • My parents spent a lot of money on my education, so I should put that education to good use (by making money). Traveling would be a waste of my education.
  • I haven’t done enough research into where I want to travel.

If you experience such thoughts, remember that you are not your thoughts. Your thoughts may or may not be true. You can choose to believe them, or not to.

What’s more, you are a creative person. If you spend some time thinking and some time talking with others, you can find ways to clear these hurdles quickly. For example, you can find a remote, part-time job so you can work a bit while traveling to cover your expenses. Or you can reframe traveling alone as a growth opportunity.

It’s important that you do what you like soon. If you don’t, you run the risk of postponing your happiness indefinitely.

A final note: it is doubly important to avoid making grand plans when you don’t know exactly what will make you happy. If you don’t know what makes you happy, your task is to find out as soon as possible.

What if you spend ten miserable years earning money, only to start traveling and realize that you hate it?

Yours,

— Peter

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