Embrace the Unknown

Here’s the setting for a recent group activity in which I participated:

One room. Twenty people. On one side of the room was a sign that had the word, “YES” and on the other side was a sign with the word, “NO.” The facilitator said, “I know and am following my life’s purpose,” and she then instructed us to move to the side of the room with the sign that best described our reaction to this statement.

Without a moment’s hesitation, I moved to the “YES” sign. I was joined by a few others, but most people remained in the center of the room, perhaps slightly closer to the “YES” sign, but still in the middle.

The facilitator asked some of the participants to explain why they were standing in the middle. A few responses included:

  • “I like my job right now, but I’m not sure where my career is heading, or what’s next for me.”
  • “I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.”
  • “I’m not sure if I’m going to continue to live in Vancouver. I don’t know if it’s the right place for me.”
  • “I have so many passions I can’t figure out the most important one for me.”

While I listened to the folks in the middle of the room, I could relate to some of what they were saying. I don’t have a 20-year, or a 10-year or even a 5-year plan. But I know that I love my current job, I know that I am passionate about continuing to improve our communities, and that “doing good” has to be ingrained in everything I do.

I realized with sudden clarity that I am totally comfortable with the ambiguity of my future. And that was the difference between me and several of the folks standing in the middle of the room. It struck me that there’s a lot of parallels with strategic planning work. The purpose of a strategic plan is to help you set priorities and establish a long-term vision, similar to defining your life’s purpose. A strategic plan is often accompanied by a work plan (your “life plan,” per se), which will likely change right after you finish it, due to internal and external factors. And thus, you have to be somewhat comfortable with an ambiguous, ever-changing plan, and still not take your eye off the end goal. Because if you’re comfortable with some ambiguity, you’ll maintain your passion to achieve your end goal, and perhaps even bring a few others along with you.

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