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“Where do you see yourself in five years?” It’s a loaded question.

By Jon C, 18

I’ve often thought about this age-old question usually thrown around in school or during job interviews. “Where do you see yourself in five years?” If you asked me now, I’d say I’m heading to a YWAM Discipleship Training School later this year and after that, I hope to start tertiary education in the IT field (I like cybersecurity). But if I really think about it, who’s to say where I’ll be in five years? I can’t say for sure.

The Asian upbringing focuses on good planning

As Asians, our paths used to be set. But now, some have more freedom. Image Source: JUICE

In an Asian context, we always tended to follow our parents and their plans for us. But with more influence from the West, I think we now have a greater sense of independence and individuality. We have more freedom to dream. That makes answering this question not as straightforward as it probably was for generations before. 

Parents play a big part too in determining the path we take. If you have typical Asian parents and have good grades, chances are they want you to be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. However, those careers may not guarantee success today, looking at the struggles of the working man. On the other hand, there are parents (like mine) who are trying to give us more freedom to choose what we want to do. But I have to remember that their parents didn’t treat them this way, so they do not have any lived experiences to fall back on in the way they guide us.

In my opinion, it’s important to have a plan and not aimlessly wander. However, if you follow a plan all the way through, what makes you different from a robot? It’s the uncertainties, what happens outside of the plan, that make us human and unique.

People say, “Follow your heart,” but what if I don’t know my own heart?

The question comes with a lot of pressure to know what you want to do, when you want to do it and how you plan on getting there. It’s understandable, but also daunting. As for me, I have just finished SPM and haven’t seen much of life yet. It can be challenging to envision where I’ll be in five years. My parents encourage me to go for what I want, but I’m not exactly sure what I want yet.

Upon reflection, I think we place too much emphasis on happiness in our plans, and not enough on the sweat and toil required for financial freedom. We need to have a balance. Happiness is important, but financial freedom is too because it allows us to do what we want when we want to.

The educational system in Malaysia is also set up in such a way that high-scorers just have more options. As I didn’t do so well in the recent exams, my choices are more limited. I’m remaining hopeful, though, and trying to see it as a stepping stone to something bigger. If life is just smooth-sailing, where’s the fun in that? 

Have a plan that makes space for the unplanned

It’s important to have a plan with space for spontaneity. Image Source: Surface

In conclusion, when I think about where I could be in five years, it’s one of two possibilities: finishing university or joining my father’s business. At this moment, I’m not sure what I want. 

So I believe we ought not to stress too much about where we’ll be in five years as long as we are working towards a plan. We can go down the trial and error path to eventually find something we like. We could also think about what we like to do now and how to scale it up to a career. And when speaking to parents, it’s important to be armed with an idea and a working plan; I find that makes plans sound more accepting. 

Finally, I think it’s important to have a plan with space for spontaneity. If you are too rigid, you may be successful but not happy. If you’re too spontaneous, you may be happy but not successful. As for me, an exciting life is to be able to do what I want, when I want to (this is coming from an SPM finisher without anything tying him down), but this may change with age or life circumstances.

Jon C, 18 just finished SPM and is waiting to begin his YWAM DTS course later this year. He is an avid gamer and plays sports with his friends at least twice a week. Jon serves in the youth worship team and as a cameraman for his main church. He believes that his faith will allow him to become a better person that can make wise decisions in the future.

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