Planning to be spontaneous

I’ve never really been a planner. Now I anticipate lots of hands going up in protests here since I can be a little anal while planning vacations etc. But I’m talking about life. I know a lot of people who have a very clear life goal in mind (usually professional) and know exactly how to get there. Every decision takes them a step closer to that goal. Their career is well thought out and they go about systematically acquiring the skills they need to achieve their “long term” goals.

But that’s not me. My professional decisions have been nothing if not spontaneous, and most of my personal ones too. I tend to leap into whatever feels right in the moment – good people, exciting work, fearsome challenges. It has never been about where it will take me five years down the line and how I will be placed then. And so far it has worked out wonderfully. I have been lucky to have selected some fantastic opportunities and have earned valuable experiences through them. But lately, more and more as I’ve been looking for my next gig (much more detail on that later), I’ve been wondering whether that is the best approach going forward. As I aim higher, shouldn’t I be thinking strategically about the kind of roles I would like to own and the skill gaps I need to fill in order to get there? Shouldn’t I be foregoing some options that seem like they could be fun but may not necessarily help me develop areas I deem important?

As I was developing this rather unnerving train of thought, I came across something that made me stop in my tracks. On a TV show I was watching today, a 29 year old girl finds out she has a terminal disease and just a few months to live. Now I won’t give any more details lest this get morbid, and anyway everyone has seen enough and more of these situations on TV. But something made me really think about this scenario today. Not the dying part, but the part about not really knowing the future. When you don’t know what lies ahead, how can you take it for granted? All you know for sure is what you have here and now. There’s something to be said for seizing the moment – doing what feels right, right now. You can plan for the future all you want, but should you do it at the cost of the present?

So Carpe Diem or not??