No one likes the “Where do you see yourself in five years?” question, but we all have to figure out some kind of goal for our future. If you’re having trouble figuring out what that is, ask yourself what your story is about.
Photo by Andrew Gustar.
As advice site Barking Up the Wrong Tree explains, we tend to have an internal “narrative identity”. A story we tell ourselves about ourselves. We’re the main character in a story we get to write about the person we’ll spend the most time with in our whole life. If you’re having trouble figuring out where you should go in the future, start by taking a look at your past.
Peter Parker gains superpowers from the radioactive spider bite. But filled with hubris, he refuses to help stop a criminal. The criminal later kills Peter’s beloved Uncle Ben, the man that raised him. Wracked by guilt and loss, he realises that “with great power comes great responsibility.” Peter resolves to use his superpowers to fight crime and becomes Spider-Man.
It’s a redemption story. But people who lack meaning in their lives usually tell a very different kind of story: a “contamination story.” In these stories, tragedy doesn’t produce growth. No good comes from the bad. Is this you?
If so, the good news is you can change your internal story. You get to decide what scenes it contains, and whether it ends with the death of your uncle, or in your decision to snare evildoers with your webs.
Many of us tell this story whether we’re conscious of it or not. If you had a bad childhood, your goals might be to provide a better one for your kids. If you grew up poor, you might aim to have a good career as an adult. Whatever your story is, if you use it as a starting point for your future goals, it’s more likely that you’ll feel fulfilled by pursuing it.
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