Cannot plan for the future

A first-year college student wrote to me: “I often read your blog and like your advice about career planning but I could not make up my mind to do it. I do not know what is wrong with me? I need your help.”

I wrote to him: “The reason you cannot make a decision to plan your career because you do not want to think about the future when your mind is being occupied by things that you are interested NOW. It is all about what you want to enjoy at this moment rather than thinking about something you know that you need.

For example, you know that you must study for the exam next week but you have an urge to talk to your friends on facebook. Your interest diverse your attention to what you want NOW so you end up spending several hours on Facebook instead of studying.

The reason you cannot make a decision about your career because you are forced to do something NOT enjoyable. Even you like my advice about career planning but you find ways of delaying the efforts because you finding other fun activities you would rather do. In this “Internet” and “Video Games” culture, many young people prefer to have “instant gratification” rather than doing something that they do not enjoy. I have seen many young people lose their ability to think further into the future as they are too busy with trivial things that occupy their mind. Many wait until they go to college then wait until they graduate, and wait until somebody gives them a job. All they do is to wait because they have many things occupy their mind at any moment.

The reason you do not plan your career now because your mind always moves in a different direction. You know that you have things to do but you do not want to do it. There is an “unconscious battle” in your mind between two things and the one that wins, is the one that you do. It is the short-term enjoyable that always wins over the long-time not so enjoyable.

By understanding these two forces may help you to make up your mind. Ask yourself: “Why do I need to have a career plan?” Having the answer to the “WHY” question will help you to make the first step. If you do NOT have a good reason you will never do it. My advice is to find a career or activity that you like first. You do not have to do everything but you need to read something about that career to identify the skills that you need then take courses related to that career in the first year then move on to the next. By doing one step at a time it may help you to advance forward to a career plan for your future. After all, it is your choice, your career, and your future and only you who can make the decision.


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University
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