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Where Am I Going?

Where Am I Going?

Why am I so reluctant to plan for my future?


I spend two months planning a three-day vacation, but I spend almost no time whatsoever planning for the rest of my life. I have a vague idea of what I want to accomplish, but I continually shy away from organizing, planning, and preparing for my future.

If this sounds familiar, then read on.

What exactly does planning for the future involve? Simply seeing where you are and then deciding where you want to go. The challenge here exists as much for the first half of this process, as the second. Yes, the future is full of options and unknowns, but the real fear lies in not wanting to see where you really are; you're afraid to examine your life too closely.

Taking an accurate inventory of your life -- gaining the perspective of seeing where you've been, what you've done and not done -- can be frightening. How will you be able to reconcile and justify wasting so much of your time? Your image will be shattered if it's forced to recognize this discrepancy. You cannot absorb the blame for your actions. Instead you place the blame on outside forces, relinquishing control over your future in order to justify your past. By continuing to do what you've always done, you never have to question your past judgment.

When you are forced to look at your lack of accomplishments, you have a million excuses and plenty of blame to justify your actions or, more appropriately, inactions. And it's this very blame that inhibits you from taking control of your life now.


If you don't have a specific destination, then you don't have to worry about not showing up.


The reluctance to set goals and plan for the future relieves you of the burden to achieve. Clearly, if you don't have a specific destination, then you don't have to worry about not showing up. You may be the type of person who shoots an arrow at the side of a barn and then draws a circle around it after it lands. In this way, you never miss. You can show the world that you succeeded in hitting the bull's-eye. You care little for what you were aiming for; you just need to convince yourself and the world that whatever you hit was your target.

For this reason you may dislike milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries, and reunions. Any marker or indication of time is an unwelcome reminder that your life is passing you by. You prefer to keep life vague -- a stream of events and memories.

So, what to do?

Before you click away, make a decision to reclaim responsibility for control of your life. Stop placing blame outside yourself -- on your parents, your boss, your lack of upbringing, the lousy hand you were dealt in life -- and accept the reality that from this moment forward, you are fully and wholly responsible. The exact moment you take responsibility for your circumstances you put yourself in the driver's seat. Nothing can happen until you take this first step; so why not take it now?

As soon as you lose the illusion that other people are responsible for your misfortune, you claim the power that has always been within your grasp. What are you going to do in the next minute, hour, and day? If you fail to plan, then by default you allow the momentum of your past to carry you, and I'll bet the past isn't a place you want to spend any more time than you have to.

The beginning of all positive change begins with some version of, "I am responsible; no one will come along and save me or do it for me; nothing in my life will change for the better, unless I change."

As long as we believe that our unhappiness is the result of circumstances and things done to us, rather than our proactive choices and response to circumstances, we can never become healthier or happier. As our sages remind us, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me?" (Ethics of the Fathers. 1:14). We cannot choose responsibly if we do not acknowledge that we have this power. Once we take responsibility for our lives we are free to move forward with a renewed passion and excitement for life itself.

Appreciate the experiences that have brought you to this point and determine the direction in which you really want your life to go. As long as you realize that you're the only one who is really in control, then you have every reason in the world to plan ahead.


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June 14, 2008

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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Susannah Garbutt, June 20, 2008 7:31 AM

one day at a time, do good where and how you can

Due to the torment from my past and my mother's incredible bad luck in having our father leave, and her four children having all developed serious mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, (we are still battling for survival though and are not giving up, except for my youngest brother who died at 37 probably due to a combination of drugs), and my mother does not give up either, when I saved my husband from suicide, one of my brothers was going through hell and putting me through it as well,which resulted in my mental health deteriorating as well (the worst of my spouse's illness lasted two years), we had had huge bushfires in 2006 in our area, and were (and are in the twelfth year of drought),one of the most important things in coping with life - which really does dish out some very bad stuff for people all over the world - is one - take it one day at a time (sometimes one hour or one minute at a time), don't think about the future too much, plan on surviving the day and get all the help you can,(that's about all you can do in times of crisis), never ever give up,and the most important thing in this world is life. Take pleasure in the world around you and nourish your soul. Sometimes you will need to find your own source of nourishment and pleasure - your partner may have different interests or tastes, and you just have to take a bit of time, daily if at all possible, to do something that helps and nourishes you - eg reading or music, or looking at sunsets or mountains - having loving pets and patting them and talking to them is very good - it doesn't matter if they don't get the words, like people with dementia, they will pick up on the feelings - and pets will return the love and attention, perhaps when no-one else does or can at the time. To survive and bring your loved one along as well, as others have
said, so often, it is essential that you nurture yourself daily if possible - two pages of a book over breakfast, listening to the radio, escaping to a sympathetic friend who has 'been through the hoops' herself, will help keep you and your partner going until recovery occurs - I am lucky, my spouse did recover from clinical depression,for some partners and families there is no happy ending.
I have no idea how the survivors of suicide cope, but I have a good friend who did. Sorry, have gotten long-winded, but this is my hard won experience of how to survive mental illness in myself, my husband and my three brothers. (PS: medication and psychotherapy are the two most important treatments - medication being the primary therapeutic intervention).

(4) Rosen, June 19, 2008 9:14 PM


It's important to plan out your life one step at a time.

As for blaming ourselves as opposed to those externally, then one can still be miserable because they may think everything is their fault. In the "Feeling Good Handbook", one sentence that striked me profoundly was, "If you say you can't change the way you feel, then you will only make yourself the victim of your own misery".

As for me, it's been 2 years since I graduated from college, and I am looking for permanent, secure work while I work a seasonal job to attempt to make my financial ends meet.

I do agree with Steven that only G-d controls the outcome of life events, where the best one can do is put in some effort. Hopefully, sooner or later, we can find out an explanation on why certain things worked out right and why others failed. Life certainly is a strategic test.

(3) bARBRA, June 18, 2008 8:23 PM

Great Article!

If everyone lived their life by this advice- What a healthier world it would be. Very inspired- Thanks

(2) ruth housman, June 15, 2008 10:48 AM

blame and ... shame

We have all gone through the desert at once time or another, meaning life has handed us difficult things to deal with and we have addressed, most likely issues of meaning and our own culpability for things past, whether in action or in action and often we blame ourselves or others. I am in agreement with this piece, namely we need to realize that whatever life bestows, its up to us to make the best of this,meaning what's done cannot be undone. If like Lady Macbeth, we keep doing and undoing, we are engaged in a repetitive way of being, that doesn't lead us forward. To walk into the light is to take responsibility now for our actions, we can ask forgiveness and we can atone but life is here, grab it, plan for the future, and make change not only in how you view your life story, but in how you then learn from the past to forge into the future, something of beauty that is good.

(1) Steven, June 15, 2008 9:48 AM

He's mostly right

We are not in control Hashem is. Yes we have to do hishtadlus (make our effort), but Hashem determines the final outcome. Even for those who are not very religious, connections, apperance, racisim,religion, social standing and available opportunities effect our lives. yes we have some control, but not total.

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