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  • Amina Aitsi-Selmi

When you’re not sure what you want [Wise Wednesdays]

What’s your 5-year plan? That’s a question I’m glad not to hear much these days.

As I sit in a sense of something brewing without any clear direction, I remember how it felt 5 years ago or perhaps 7 when I had no idea what I was supposed to do next in my career. The big vision I had worked towards seemed to be coming to a close.

It’s 5 years since I took a career leap and started again more or less from scratch (although it really was a continuation of a desire to help but in a different form). It’s the longest I’ve been in the same “job” working day-to-day on the same thing, within the same “job description”, and in the same location.

But if you’d asked me 7 years ago what my 5-year plan was, it would have been completely different! Influencing global health policy and working in an organisation, probably. I was on that track for 20 years.

That’s what happens at junctures. It’s an inflection point in the graph of your career. It’s not linear. So you can’t just extrapolate from your past to predict your future.

Does it feel comfortable sitting in the unknown? Heck, no!

Is it painless giving birth? I can’t imagine.

But life isn’t meant to be pain free, including the good parts – perhaps especially those.

Right now, I’m slowing down a lot. Is it lockdown fatigue, the summer vibes or just a natural pause at the end of a fruitful 5-year cycle where I’ve outgrown the job? Perhaps all of these? Who knows. But I believe I’ve earned my contemplative retreat.

I still occasionally feel guilt over taking time for myself to do nothing or tune into subtle intuitions (actually, it’s more of a cocktail of guilt, doubt, defiance and mild tension in my neck).

But over the past few years, I’ve noticed how my feelings change according to the story I tell.

If I tell a story of undeserved rest, I feel guilty. If I tell a story of resilience, I feel strong.

But contentment comes when I’m simply here, breathing, noticing and meeting whatever the moment asks of me (even if it’s asking nothing) without a narrative on top.

In short:

Happy thoughts, happy feelings

Sad thoughts, sad feelings

No thoughts – peace

I’m inclined to tell a story these days that you don’t need more motivation to be your best but that you need less guilt about needing to rest.

Of course, once you realise that you own your story, you can tell whichever one you want – it’s game over for anxiety and disempowerment. Nothing and no-one can ever really hold sway over you.

You might even get a sense that your story is simply writing itself, in the best way possible.

At this point, I can’t say I know exactly where I’ll be in 5 years - or even in one year. The truth is none of us does although a vision can emerge periodically. But I’ve learned that the inflection points – the transformations - are part of the graph of a productive life.

So if you have no idea what you want to do right now, even if you always did, I’m here to share this with you:

You’re on your path even when you can’t see it. You don’t even have to worry about a path because you can’t get it wrong.

And if anyone asks you what your 5-year plan is, tell them whatever you want that feels joyful and true for you right now. You might even say you don’t know but you’ll be there 100%!

Have a great week,


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