The danger of looking too far ahead

planI recently wrote a post on ‘5 YEARS LATER: WHAT WILL HR LOOK LIKE?’ At the time of review with my editor, he referred to a recent round table where one of the speakers had commented, “We are always speaking about the next 5 years…but how about the next 20 years; no-one is speaking about that”. My editor asked if I could add an element of this to my blogpost. On his recommendation, I edited the piece to include the below,

‘Of course, many other changes will happen over the years. One might even ask – ‘I am tired of reading what will take place in 5 years. What about 20 years? Will robots take over then?’

The world is changing faster than ever before. 20 years today is probably equivalent to 100 years a decade ago. How much did HR change in the last 100 years vs the last 10 years vs the last 2 years? Technology has no clue what technology will look like 10 years from now nor does marketing, finance or any other function. What I can assure you is that everything would have changed except maybe core behavioral psychology. Live 5 years at a time, keep a constant eye on the future and embrace change. You will be golden.

My editor was happy; the post was scheduled and published. And I continued to think about it.

Eventually my thoughts digressed from the future of HR to that of my own career. You are familiar with how the mind works and hence, should not be surprised when I say that I ended up depressed that I was still a long way from the 5-year plan I had created when I began my career. At the time of graduation, a common question that floated around was – ‘Where do you see yourself in 5 years?’ I am not sure why the obsession with the number five but I am guessing that is as far ahead as we are allowed to look, for even our five year plans go awry. My answer to the question would always pop out in a heartbeat – ‘I will lead an HR function. Maybe even be an HR head.’

At the end of my introspection exercise, it took me a fair bit of time to pull myself out of the deep dark hole I had fallen into and remind myself that my career was a marathon and not a sprint. 7 years later, I was still an individual contributor and nowhere close to an HR head. Would you say I am not successful? Probably not. I have dabbled and experimented with concepts I never thought existed. I have a large amount of freedom to choose what I do, how I do and when I do what. I could have traded this to lead HR in a startup or done other things. Would those have been better choices, I do not know.

What I do know is that I have a plan for the next five years. I have a vague idea of what my life will look like in the next 10. I am lost if you ask me about 15 years hence. What I have learnt is that pinning my hopes on too far ahead in the future and not getting there will only put me back into the hole that I just crawled out from. I am glad that the recommendation I made in the blogpost sticks and did not change after the massive introspection. My advice remains – ‘Live 5 years at a time, keep a constant eye on the future and embrace change. You will be golden.’ There lies a danger in looking too far ahead, planning and attaching yourself to it. Would you agree?

P.S: Do read that piece and share your thoughts. Are there any key aspects I missed?

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