Ten Mistakes People Make When Planning for the Future

Eighties music fans will remember the Talking Heads song, “Once in a Lifetime”:

You may find yourself living in a shotgun shack

You may find yourself in another part of the world

You may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile

You may find yourself in a beautiful house with a beautiful wife

You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

Probably most of us can relate to this sentiment, waking up one day and wondering how we ended up in a dead-end job, or a life that is somehow not what we want. Well, how did you get here? What leads us away from our true hopes and dreams? It’s true that there should be no regrets in life because every situation, for better or worse, is a learning opportunity. Still, many of us find ourselves repeating these “learning opportunities” ad nauseum, as is repeated in the refrain at the end of the song, “Same as it ever was, same as it ever was, same as it ever was… ” Why do we keep ending up someplace other than where we thought we were headed? Here are some common mistakes people make when planning for the future:                                              

1. Trying to live up to the expectations of others. We do what we think our parents want, what society expects, what our high school guidance counselor advised. As most brides discover when planning their wedding, you can’t please everyone, so you might as well give up trying. Just please yourself.

2. Not taking time for self-discovery. It is amazing how many people, when asked what they want, are surprised to discover that they don’t know. They’ve never stopped to think about it.

3. Thinking in terms of “should”, as in, I should focus on earning a lot of money, I should stay home with the kids, I should pursue this career because it’s what’s “hot” right now…

4. Underestimating yourself. Way too many brilliant people I know have a horror story about what an “advisor” or authority figure told them they weren’t smart enough to do. We tend to internalize these negative messages, and when opportunity knocks, talk ourselves out of it because we think we aren’t smart enough, experienced enough, tough enough, etc. Why not give yourself a chance?                                                                                            

5. Not addressing your skills. I recently attended a workshop in which the presenter said that many people make decisions totally with their hearts or their heads. Your unique gift to the world is a combination of the two.

6. Not addressing your passions. See #5.

7. Allowing life to decide for you. Many people just float along, working at whatever presents itself. As the saying goes, if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice – just not necessarily in your favor.

8. Feeling like you can’t change the path you’re on. Repeat after me: it’s never too late. It’s never too late. It’s never too late.

9. Not being willing to be a life-long learner. Many times, taking a new direction will require learning new skills, going back to school, or doing things differently. Don’t let this hold you back from your future.

10. Quitting too soon. “Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success. They quit on the one yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game, one foot from a winning touchdown.” – Ross Perot

I admit I’ve made most of these mistakes in my life. Which of these mistakes is holding you back?

Feel stuck in a dead-end job? Graduating and don’t know how you fit into the changing economy?

By Jenny J Lewis