Living the Way

Where You See Yourself Ten Years from Now

Written by Mark McElroy

Forecasting the future is overrated.

“Where do you see yourself ten years from now?”

When the lazy interviewer pulls out this cliché, should we be bold and say, “I’ll be your boss”? Should we be literal and say, “I’ll be ten years older”?

Or should we be honest and say, “I have no idea”?

Ten years ago today, I came to work for my current employer. Had someone asked, “Where do you see yourself ten years from now?” on that day, I might have said:

  • I will be working for myself as a highly-paid consultant.
  • I will make a living writing fiction and non-fiction books, full-time.
  • I will be living in Seattle, WA, or New Albany, MS.
  • I will be writing for the film or movie industry.
  • I will be working as a voice actor.
  • I will be telecommuting and working remotely from home.

At the time, all these futures felt likely. None of them happened.

On the other hand, I would have never said:

  • I will still be working for the same employer.
  • I will be the director of a talented media production team.
  • I will still be talking about novels, but I will not have finished one.
  • I will have lost forty pounds and be healthier than I’ve ever been.
  • I will replace my desktop computer, my camera, my video camera, my pager, my ebook reader, my newspaper, my notebook, my CD player, my iPod, my Garmin GPS, and my cell phone with a single device.
  • I will be able to turn on the lights in my house by simply saying, “Lights on,” and summon any song by saying its title aloud.
  • I will be attending a Sunday school again.
  • I will feel closer to my brother.
  • I will be legally married.

I didn’t anticipate any of these things. And yet: all of them are true.

There is a myth in America: that the best and most successful people are self-made and self-directed. They know themselves. They know what they want out of life. They identify clear goals, they pursue them relentlessly, and they make their dreams into realities by sheer force of will.

This myth sells a lot of books and tickets to self-help seminars.

But I believe my ideas about the future are limited by what I know (and what I don’t know). I can’t imagine (much less predict) how my job, my life, and my world will change over the course of a decade. I believe long-term success is more a matter of making small, consistent choices in the moment than making dramatic moves at critical times.

Instead of being a hunter who identifies and stalks his goals, I think it’s okay to be a farmer: watching the signs and seasons, planting some seeds, seeing what grows, and waiting for the harvest.

“Where do you see yourself ten years from now?”

The honest truth? I’ve no idea. And I’m okay with that.

About the author

Mark McElroy

I'm not a guru. Instead, I'm just finding my path and sharing observations along the way. Early on, I was a minister and taught at a fundamentalist seminary. While in recovery from spiritual abuse, I gave humanist atheism a try. Today, I'm an Eclectic Neo-Buddhist Gnostic Christian Mystic. I take spirituality seriously without taking myself seriously.

2 Comments

  • Mark I like you can not think where or what I will be in 10 years.Probally pushing up daisies at
    Sawsner view Cemetary . Remember I am old,😇

    • Ha! And you might outlive us all. The wonderful thing — the freeing thing — is not knowing. You’ve touched on a sobering truth, though: unless they hurry up with those immortal robot bodies, we’re all here for just a short time. More than anything else, this thought makes me want to make the most of today. I love you! Thanks for leaving this comment for me.

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