Self-Compassion For The Question Of Where You Will Be In Five Years

Where Will You Be In Five Years?

We need self-compassion for the question: where will you be in five years?  It assumes that you are not enough, subtly suggesting that perhaps in five years you will be.  It asks you to take on five years of goals, plans, hopes, dreams, and potential failures.  Despite it being impossible to predict the future with exactitude, you do so anyway, resigned to the pressure it places on you.  It fills you with anxiety about what it means to makes such assertions, when you are unsure if you will even want these things in five months let alone five years.  You do all of these things because this question has become ubiquitous, a social norm, a strange but accepted way to determine if your hopes and dreams align with the goals and desires of others.

The Biggest Problem With This Question

Of course, the biggest problem with this question is that you cannot work on five years from now.  You exist in the present, and working on far reaching goals now makes it impossible for you to work with the things that are important to your life today.  Moreover, these goals suggest that your worth may be determined by your progress towards these goals.  Many people, who feel like they are not moving towards these goals with enough speed, become self-critical, and deprive themselves of compassion and reward.  This is a pretty unpleasant way to live life, and a very easy way to take yourself out of the present, which, ironically, is the only place where you can experience well-being and worthiness.  The past no longer exists and the future will not exist until it becomes the present.

You Hold One Foot In.  You Hold One Foot Out.

So, what do you do?  The advice I give people the most often is to keep one foot in the crazy social expectations of our world (to stay connected to people), and extend one foot out into a world that is only concerned with your well-being and ease in the present moment.  At a conference many years ago, a psychologist was espousing the rewards of being on a rigid path that ignored all social influence, rules, and effects.  I certainly agree that this would be ideal, but I also know that ignoring all these things would likely make someone feel like an outsider.  To have compassion for ourselves and others, we do not need to avoid some of the crazier expectations, we just need to acknowledge that they are crazy to give ourselves the self-compassion we need, and do what is necessary to meet their requirements without undermining our self-worth or self-kindness.   

Self-Compassion Steps For Managing The Question Of Where You Will Be In 5 Years

In this way, you might acknowledge to yourself with your inside voice that you are not your goals, your hopes, your dreams, or even your failures.  You are already whole and deserving of love and acceptance.  To remain connected to others and as a form of compassion for what we all must endure (i.e., questions that do more harm than good), we will offer up an answer to this question without tying its contents to a necessary future reality or our self-worth. 

You may even start with a self-compassionate given what I know now (which gives yourself explicit permission to change your goals based on what you need to live a meaningful life later).  Include goals that honor your deepest values, especially those things that validate who you are as a person right now.  Make sure to include the things necessary to get certain jobs.  It would not be self-compassionate if you were intentionally choosing goals or attributes that were in direct conflict with that of a future employer.

When this work is done, return to a more formal self-compassion practice to heal anything that was injured in the process of answering this question.  Notice your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.  Name the strongest of these responses.  Soften around the body parts that are tense, and remind yourself that you come by this stress naturally for all the aforementioned reasons.  Inhale this stress naturally, and exhale slowly (like blowing through a straw for 6 seconds) your wish to be free of the stress, and to accept yourself just as you are.  Then, do something really kind for yourself.

365 Days Of Self-Compassion.  Day 243.  In The Books.