Plans are good. They give you a purpose. They keep you moving in a consistent direction. They help you achieve goals. They help you figure out what you should be doing, should do next and should-have-done-a-week-ago-but-one-more-episode-of-Dr-Who-couldn’t-hurt.
People who don’t plan things out—at least to some extent—can spend a lot of time twiddling their thumbs waiting for things to happen. My friends and I are notoriously bad at this. Unless we plan out what we’re doing for the weekend, the game of “I dunno. What do YOU want to do today?” can stretch out for hours.
On the other hand, give us a bit of time that week to plan out the weekend’s festivities and parties and cookouts tend to materialize, weird excursions are planned, Atlanta festivals are attended and tasty baked goods and dinners seem to just happen.
Like I said, plans are good. Anything that can result in pie and cake has to be.
That said, sometimes sticking to the plan isn’t always your best option. Plans, like rules, are made to be broken.
I have a lot of respect for people who come to Tech knowing exactly what they want to do, with the rest of their lives planned out before them, but they—more than anyone else—need to reread that last sentence. If you’re gung-ho on going to med-school and becoming a doctor or flying through college as fast as possible then spinning up your own start-up, by all means, don’t let me stop you. Just don’t get so blinded by your plan that you miss opportunities as you zip past them.
If I ever bumped into my freshman self through some paradox-inducing twist of time, he’d just look at me, shake his head and say, “Dude, what happened to you?”
I came in dead set on academia. I’m now going into industry.
I swore I’d never work in software engineering. I just signed on with a large software engineering firm.
I came in entranced by a foreign language. I dropped the minor.
I didn’t want to be a section editor. Here I am.
In other words, pretty much all of my plans took a solid left-turn that I never expected. But all for a reason. I interned at a company just for the experience and loved it. I discovered software engineering wasn’t a slog through TPS reports and broken printers. My major had too many cool electives to choose from, so I dropped the minor to fit more in.
I’m still not sure how the whole section editor thing happened. I think I was tricked or something.
If you have a dream, don’t let me talk you out of it. By all means, reach for the stars, be all that you can be, etc. etc. etc. Just keep in mind that old Disney moral: what you think you want isn’t necessarily what you actually want.
I’ve had friends make changes to their plan that you wouldn’t believe. I’ve had friends hop from Chemical Engineering to Economocis and Public Policy, friends that came in planning for a life of research then realized it wasn’t anywhere near what they wanted, friends that proclaimed no interest in travel only to traipse halfway across Europe, friends that always wanted to be lawyers push off law school in order to work as a consultant and friends that hopped from student government to student journalism.
And they all seem pretty happy that things didn’t go according to plan.
Like I said, don’t let me talk you out of a lifelong dream. If you’re dead set on something, make a plan for it. Chart out milestones, make deadlines and make yourself stick to them. Unless you have a good reason not to.
Dread waking up for your morning finance class because you spent all night coding for your computer science elective? Switch majors.
Did that just-to-pay-the-bills design internship turn out to be the best summer of your life? Look at adding some more design work to your plan.
Did all your friends come back from semesters abroad raving about how amazing it was? Squeeze in some travel time.
Your plan should be a living document. Change it to reflect your experiences. Keep it up to date with new goals you want to reach for and new ways of reaching the goals you already had. And if you look around and realize you aren’t happy with where you are or where you’re going? Scrap it and start again.