Where do you see yourself in five years?

Frequently, when you find yourself in a situation like a job interview, or your company’s performance review, it’s pretty common to face a quite interesting question: Where do you see yourself in five years? In fact, I do believe that’s an interesting question – not based on its relevance, but actually based on its complete irrelevance.

By planning ahead to reach a goal, you also have to deal with the inherent risk of failure. From Production Engineering we learn that this risk is usually increased by three major factors: (a) the level of control you have over your environment variables, (b) the amount of variables you have to control and (c) the amount of time you have to keep those variables under control.

Turns out it’s virtually impossible to map all the possible variables in life given its subjective nature. There are so many unpredictable factors (like nature, human feelings, markets,¬†death), that even planning in the short-term is reasonably risky. Therefore, it’s very likely that a five-year plan is fated to frustration, and nobody smart enough would think it’s a good idea.

Given that backtracking wrong decisions is frequently not an option, it feels more intelligent to adopt the Greedy Algorithm approach in life. The idea here is always to take the best possible option in short-term decisions based on facts, rather than speculation. So, instead of trying to forecast the future, you simply keep figuring out a good path gradually, facing almost no risk of frustration. Of course, the greedy approach does not necessarily lead to the optimal outcome. However, it is likely to lead to a good result, which can eventually be the optimal.

In summary, I believe to establish a five-year goal is not something a smart person would consider. Instead, my hypothesis is that planning short-term, down to earth – without big expectations – leads to a less frustrating, more light and enjoyable life. Having said that, I wonder if the people who ask us this question are, in reality, trying to trigger just this kind of thought about its irrelevance, or do they truly believe it’s a reasonable question?

Life can provide you wonderful surprises sometimes. I definitely prefer to stay open to them rather than stick to a bigger plan. Where do I see myself in five years? Here is a nice answer.

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