When I was a kid, I would hear adults use hypothetical future situations as a form of motivation.

“If you get good grades, you will get into a good college. If you get into a good college, you can have a great job. If you have a good job, you can have a house, a family, etc …”

It’s a chain of events. If X, then Y. If Y, then Z. And so on.

This is not untrue. That example is a common path for people who are financially independent in life. If you don’t have anything better to say, at the very least, it’s a good fallback. Why mess with the age-old advice!

That model of sequential thinking becomes a problem though. It leaks into all other aspects of future planning. We plan as if the world is deterministic and predictable - and once we start down a path, we’re stuck on it.

An example I’ve done myself:

“If I become a software engineer, I’ll start to specialize within a few years. Once I specialize in an area, I’ll be rare and in high demand - but also stuck in that field for the rest of my life.”

There are many positives to that thinking - it’s planning on how to have a good future. But the deterministic thinking at the end - the “… but also stuck in that field for the rest of my life” - is toxic. Thinking like this makes any choice seem too risky to make.

This deterministic thinking is completely false. I control and can change my future at any point in time. I should never fear a “track” or getting “stuck” doing something I don’t want to do. My principle to Think for Yourself is a perfect reminder of that.