The second default question after 'what do you do?' we often get asked is 'what is the long term plan' or 5 year goal. Having a long term plan allows you to chip away at it each day. It gives you direction. But it also presumes we have a lot more control over where we end up than we do. It is true that we can tweak plans as we go, and the process of planning may be more important than the specifics.
As I have spent my time thinking about happiness and learning, I have started reigning back 'big picture' thinking. I have tried to focus on what I am doing each day and what little, achievable one day goals I can make. On who I can spend that day with. On what I can spend that day thinking about. One of the most successful colleagues I have had started her day by finishing three small things. Small things add up.
Who I Can Spend Time With
More importantly than that, I am okay with where I am. Long term goals can have you living far in the future. I am really enjoying writing this blog, the reading I get to do, and the people I get to spend time with. My five year plan is to still be enjoying each day as much as I am now. To try sustain my ability to savour life. To chew.
One thing you realise when you look at wealthy countries like America, Britain, Australia, Canada etc. is that problems don't disappear. Ever. They may get less raw than living in worn-torn, hunger-rife, disease-infested, uneducated, failed states, but they still have problems. We will always have issues. You still get homeless people in countries that can afford to feed and house everyone. Many issues are social or mental and can't be solved with a wad of cash. Productive people still have obstacles to goals they want to achieve. Happy people still have relationships they are struggling over. Random trauma still happens. Life is still fragile.
Accepting that there have always been problems, and there always will be problems is perhaps one way of actually doing more. 'The world is fine' is an uncomfortable notion when there is poverty, death, pain, and trauma. I always found more comfort in the idea that 'the trajectory is right' or the plan is right even if now is not okay. I liked the idea of evolution as a force for good. We slowly do things better. Daniel Dennett suggests evolution is more about sustainability or adjustment. There is no underlying driving force other than things getting repeated, almost the same way. The small 'mistakes' add the ability to adjust, adapt, accommodate. Nassim Taleb would call it antifragility. A comfort with, or ability to deal positively with stress.
It is great when we solve problems, but they will be replaced with other problems. I don't think this means we should stop trying to solve problems. The thought has just shifted my focus. People are best positioned to solve their own problems. We just need to support each other in doing that.
Not in five years. Today.