Do you have a long list of things you want to accomplish in life by a certain age? Here’s why you might want to reconsider that strategy.

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One of my mentees recently said: “I feel like I’m about five years behind on my life plan. I’m turning 32 and I thought that by now I’d be married with two kids and be a people manager at work.”

Like many, “Dawn” had a list of things she wanted to accomplish in life, but she wasn’t achieving them according to her well-planned schedule. Ever felt like that?

I remember doing almost exactly the same thing, creating a long and detailed list of what I wanted to achieve and by what age. Whether you call it a life list or a bucket list, creating a schedule like this might not be such a great idea. Here’s why.

Life shouldn’t be about checking things off a list. Sure, it might feel good to tick boxes, but life should also be about experiencing everything the world has to offer. That includes taking risks and doing some things spontaneously, not planning out every minute of every day.

You’ll be living in the future, not the present. Planning isn’t a bad thing, but taking it too far might cause you to lose out on the joy and freedom that comes with living in the moment. Someone once said that “Every day is a gift.” Don’t forget to live in the present and cherish every day as it comes.

It can cause you to miss out on other opportunities. “Bob” wanted to be a lawyer, like his father. He refused to consider other careers and went through school with blinders on — seeking only to become a lawyer. Once he passed the bar exam and began practicing as a lawyer, he realized he didn’t actually like the work. Be open to trying out different career possibilities, such as through part-time jobs or internships.

External forces can negatively impact your carefully planned life. During the Great Recession, the national unemployment rate went from 5 percent in December 2007 to 10 percent in October 2009. No matter how much you plan ahead or create lists, there will be outside forces over which you have little to no control that can cause you to go off-course from a carefully crafted life plan.

Live your life with intention, but instead of plotting out only one career course in minute detail, consider three different potential career scenarios and the skills/experience you would need to succeed in each. Then, leave yourself open to experience all the possibilities life has to offer — because you never know when the road less traveled might turn out to be the best route for you.

Lisa Quast is a certified executive coach, and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at