These two views are at odds with each other, but what just recently dawned on me is why it's problematic to plan too far in the future. In making plans, we're able to see general directions we can head in, but we are blind to the immense scope of possibilities. If we choose a long-term path, it's bound to be an obvious and perhaps ill-fitting one, because all the subtle paths aren't noticeable until you're right on top of them.
Let me use myself as an example. I majored in English, I like knowledge, I like people, and I'm good at communicating; becoming a teacher seems like it would be a good fit. But that is just a self-administered aptitude test, and the catalogue of possible professions in my brain is severely limited.
Last summer I was starting to feel the pressure of finding some direction and purpose for my life. If I had let my growing panic make me do something rash like go to grad school in the fall. I would have missed out on so many things. Let me say that again in bold type: I would have missed out on so many things. I wouldn't have become a manager at a coffee shop. I wouldn't have learned how to build a house. I wouldn't have done a yoga teacher training. And those are just the obvious things I wouldn't have done. I feel like I've learned more practical skills in the last six months than I did in five years of college.
So what can we do about planning for the future? Well, I don't think we really can. I think the best we can do is to nourish ourselves now, and cultivate knowledge that will send us in the vague direction we want. And then, when the right opportunity––the one we never expected or even knew existed––comes our way, we'll be ready for it.