If you were born before 1700 A.D. nearly anywhere in the world, your life trajectory was pretty much determined at birth. Your geographic location, social status and your parents’ occupation would likely decide where you would live and what you would do for a living.
But you and I were born in this generation, and the possibilities for our futures are nearly unlimited. We won’t necessarily live our entire lives in the same town where we grew up or have a decades-long career in the same field as our parents. “You’re on your own,” Dr. Seuss tells us. “And you know what you know. And you are the one who’ll decide where to go.”
So as you look at the blank pages of your future, and with Dr. Seuss’ inspiring charge in mind, here are nine foolproof steps for planning the rest of your life.
- Make a list of what you are good at. This could be anything: math, grammar, folding napkins, predicting Avengers plot twists. Try to think back as far as possible. What awards have you received? What accolades? What marketable skills have others claimed you have? Once you have written a list, decide which skills will make you the most money and choose your career accordingly.
- Make a list of what you are not good at. This could also be anything: science, legible handwriting, eating veggies, coping with Avengers plot twists. This is your list of excuses. You’ve been asked by your boss to head up the committee on community relations? Drafted into a new church ministry focusing on home repairs for single moms? No problem. Point out to the powers that be how committee-leading or carpentry have never been your strengths, and commit to staying in safe, non-challenging areas where you know you can excel with little effort.
- Write a bucket list. This is your time to dream big! Want to hike a mountain or write a book or launch a popular YouTube channel? What hipster destinations or tourist hot spots are calling your name? That Maui vacation isn’t going to plan itself, so write it down and start making it happen.
- If marriage is one of your life goals, think about when you want to tie the knot. Just after graduation or once you have a few years in the workforce under your belt? How old do you want to be? Just remember to do marriage on your terms. You’ve got plenty of time!
- Get a multi-year calendar or calendar app. It’s best to be well-prepared for life’s milestones, so use this calendar to record the dates of when you plan to finish your schooling, meet the future Mr. or Mrs., pay off debt, buy a house, retire, and any other major life events that come to mind. Don’t forget to use a pen. Permanent ink will help you commit to your plan.
- Jot down how many kids you want to have. Bonus if you can estimate the dates they’ll be born.
- Choose where you want to settle down (or if you’re not planning to settle, list your first few temporary locations). Don’t forget to take into account harsh weather patterns, local attractions, income taxes – and school districts, if you plan on having kids.
- Draft a budget using online research of top salaries in your field of study. While you’re at it, you should research 401(k)s and other investments. It’s never too early for retirement planning.
- At Thanksgiving this year, inform your extended family about your detailed plans. Accountability helps, after all. You should probably also have them vaguely “pray” about your vision for your future. Getting God’s stamp of approval will seal the deal.
Obviously, I’m (mostly) kidding about all of this. Life just doesn’t happen the way we plan it. Even Dr. Seuss knew that. “You will come to a place where the streets are not marked,” he wrote. “Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked.”
Dark streets are not a comforting thought. If we were on our own, planning our own destinies, we’d be in a pickle. But Jesus promises us a hope that Dr. Seuss couldn’t offer, reminding us not to worry about tomorrow.
Here’s an idea: write your dreams and plans for the future on paper and seal them in an envelope, then five or 10 years down the road, open the envelope. Read the ideas you once had and see how God led you in some ways you expected, but also in other ways that completely surprised you.
We have so many more options in front of us than people did in any other time period, but ultimately our future rests in the same hands that held all the futures before us. That’s good news. And because of this, we have an adventure before us no matter where we go.
Copyright 2019 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.