How I am planning my future

by phil on Wednesday Jun 16, 2004 12:57 PM

As they say in the Monty Python world, "And now for something completely different."

I just graduated from Stanford, undergrad, BS in "Mathematical and Computational Sciences." Booyah, slam dunk, that chapter is done.

I did a Google for "commencement" and found Jon Stewart's address which had this nice quote:

College is something you complete. Life is something you experience.

After a little vacationing in San Diego, its time to PLAN MY FUTURE. My strategy is to first lay everything out on the table, so that I can organize all the confusion and accumulated advice that I've been receiving.

This will be useful for anybody interested in methodological thinking about one's future.

Here is how the OVERVIEW looks on paper:

The first step, which is what this post is about, is LAYING THE CARDS ON THE TABLE.


This is my overview.

On ONE sheet of paper, I have SEVEN lists:
- inputs/outputs of happiness
- personal callings
- industries
- my talents
- marketable skills
- contacts
- approaches

(in italics are summaries of what the lists are about)

inputs/outputs of happiness - outputs are the target emotions of happiness that you are seeking, i.e. joy, pleasure, pride, satisfaction, optimism. inputs are things that help you seek your outputs.

Former APA (American Psychological Association) president Marty Selgiman, in his book Authentic Happiness, describes happiness as the combination of positive emotions:

Positive emotion can be about the past, the present, or the future. The positive emotions about the future include optimism, hope, faith, and trust. Those about the present include joy, ecstasy, calm, zest, ebullience, pleasure, and (most importantly) flow; these emotions are what most people usually mean when they casually--but much too narrowly--talk about "happiness." The positive emotions about the past include satisfaction, contentment, fulfillment, pride, and serenity.

Ultimately, we are trying to make ourselves feel good, whether it's through success, helping others, or doing interesting work.

This list of inputs and outputs is my attempt to identify what things can create what kind of happiness.

for example...

perks and rewards can give me pleasure and some sense of satisfaction.

meaningful work (or work that helps other) gives me calm, contentment, fulfillment, and pride.

work that is interesting fills me with zest and pleasure, and puts me into flow.

It's a good idea to have a grip on how to make yourself happy. I learned this the hard way one summer when I devoted myself entirely to a personal programming project, thinking that working hard at one thing for 3 months is what I really wanted. Though I enjoyed the work, when September rolled around, I felt empty. This was because I was alone the whole summer and I underestimated my emotional needs for a good social environment.

personal callings - there are your childhood dreams, what you've always wanted to do, what you feel like is your calling

"I always wanted to be a writer. I always wanted to do something unique. etc.. etc.." List your dreams.

industries - list of fields in which you will be doing work

Whatever I do in the future, it will be under some umbrella concept, like psychology, entrepreneurship, etc.. Write down the industries that interest you.

my talents - what you are best at

I took a survey which had showed me surprising strengths that I didn't know I had. When I thought about it some more, I realized that the survey was right.

I've often heard the suggestion, "do what you are good at, and keep on doing it."

marketable skills/circumstances/pragmatics - what can you do now

How much debt do you have? Is there anything you can be hired for now? etc..

contacts - who can you talk to for opportunities

It's not what you know, but who you know. 'nuff said.

approaches - what's the process?

I've observed certain processes that others have gone through when approaching their careers. Here's a list:

- pursue your passions and see what happens
- make money on the side while doing something interesting in your spare time
- do something random
- construct a goal or project to dedicate yourself to
- accept some opportunity and see where that takes you
- let the chips fall where they may
- find a job
- find a mentor
- do some sort of hybrid of the above processes
- find new processes

All of these methods have their pluses and minuses. The idea at this point is to just look at all processes first before proceeding.

Coming up next... how to decide between these, or what to do now that these things are on the table.

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