It is hard to disagree that all people tend to make plans for the future and have specific aspirations and ideas concerning their lives. One, either consciously or subconsciously, evaluates his or her past, social and family background and current status, education, and many other factors in order to try to imagine the future. Interestingly, the concept of time and context has a significant influence on these plans and ideas. Sociology of time studies such impact and tries to explain how exactly plans and goals for the future may vary depending on a person’s perception of time.
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Particular Division between Plans, Hopes, and Goals
If one analyses his or her ideas regarding the future life, including career, children, marriage, education, and other aspects, it may become possible to divide these ideas into plans, hopes, and goals. Several studies revealed that such division indeed exists, and young people, when asked about their future, distinguish between these three different terms sometimes even without noticing it (Brannen and Nilsen 155). It is possible to suggest that previous experience, as well as current circumstances, influence people’s ideas concerning these three concepts.
To begin with, it is necessary to discuss how young individuals describe their future lives. First of all, they tend to make certain distinctions between unforeseen events that currently they cannot possibly regulate or affect and future events about which they feel having enough information to be in control of. Therefore, “young people are well aware that unforeseen events can interfere with current plans made in order to achieve their goals” (Brannen and Nilsen 155). Thus, the difference between plans and goals is evident, and confusing these concepts, especially when talking about one’s future, may lead to disappointments.
To be especially clear, plans, both long- and short-term, are always more concrete, thought through, and achievable. They usually have a set place and space association and a time horizon and are generally made in relation to something over which people have a particular feeling of control. At the same time, “a goal is something that can only be achieved by careful planning” but can also be destroyed by an unforeseeable event (Brannen and Nilsen 155). As the time horizon expands, a young person becomes less sure about his or her current plans’ feasibility, and they become more like dreams and acquire apparent aspects of uncertainty. Researchers note that “where the feeling of control ends and uncertainty begins, hoping takes over for planning in the personal sphere” (Brannen and Nilsen 155). Therefore, precisely the level of certainty or uncertainty defines whether a specific idea of the future is a plan, goal, or hope.
Nevertheless, all these differences between the discussed concepts do not mean that young people have no feelings of control over their lives or never make plans. This distinction is simply aimed at conceptualizing various ways of envisaging the future and thinking ahead (Brannen and Nilsen 156). Everyone tends to have his or her own way of viewing any domain of life, and the present context appears to be of vital importance for it.
Planning and the Concept of Time
It is quite interesting that the concept and perception of time has a significant effect on one’s plans and the process of planning itself. Because of the existence of various social norms and standards, people typically grow up with this idea of “scheduled” life and the necessity of following it (Machung 35). In other words, social foundations dictate to persons that certain events and decisions must occur and be taken at a particular time of their lives (Machung 35). For example, one must definitely go to college after finishing school, get married after receiving an education, and have children only with his or her wife or husband.
People feel the need to make plans for future life not only depending on their own desires and needs but also because of the conditions that society imposes on them. Time changes the world around, and the “schedule” of life also becomes different (Machung 37). However, the judgment level a person encounters if he or she moves away from this “schedule’s” main steps or makes them at the wrong time remains as strong as it used to be ages ago.
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It is possible to suggest that the model of what is expected by young people from their future lives is a unique composite of the new and the old. All these people used to grow up during the years that were marked by extensive and rapid social changes (Machung 37). They had their parents as the examples and models upon which they would have to pattern their own adult choices and decisions (Machung 37). Simultaneously, the behavior of the peers and the newly emerging social norms that vary from the old ones can confuse young people. Therefore, they begin to mix their own identities and the expectations of the older generation. Many young individuals may shape their future according to their parents’ ideas or because of the fear of being not as everyone.
What is more, current circumstances can also significantly influence the plans and aspirations for life. Specific activities in the present shape how young people think about their future (Brannen and Nilsen 156). For example, being seriously sick, studying in the first or last year of university, or becoming a single mother may make a person see his or her future differently. It may be viewed either as an extension of the present or the specific result from a plan laid in the past.
Men’s and Women’s Perception of Time and Future
Researchers and scientists note that there are certain differences in the way males and females percept the future and the concept of time. According to Maines and Hardesty, “men live in linear temporal worlds and women live in contingent temporal worlds” (102). In other words, linear temporal perception of time makes men make their plans for the future depending on whether they think an event is likely to eventually come true. They also usually analyze the present and the future and think in a formula that a condition will become true if another factor also is real (Maines and Hardesty 102). As for women, they typically need to experience two or more events close together in time in order to form an association and make plans for the future. Certainly, these assumptions are quite general and may have exceptions.
If asked about what they will look for after finishing school, men typically mention all possible details, and their speeches mean that they have already planned and analyzed everything. As for women, their answers are not specific, and they tend to talk in more general terms (Machung 40). This is also the sign of men and women precepting time, future, and present on different levels.
To draw a conclusion, one may say that the concept of time and future is something extremely interesting, difficult, and serious. When it comes to planning life, one’s desires and decisions are shaped by the current circumstances, social norms and rules, and this person’s own ideas and aspirations. Moreover, the way one makes plans for the future and sees the present depends on whether it is a man or a woman.
Brannen, Julia, and Ann Nilsen. “Young People, Time Horizons and Planning: A Response to Anderson et al.” Sociology, vol. 41, no. 1, 2007, pp. 153-160.
Machung, Anne. “Talking Career, Thinking Job: Gender Differences in Career and Family Expectations of Berkeley Seniors.” Feminist Studies, vol. 15, no. 1, 1989, pp. 35-58.
Maines, David R., and Monica J. Hardesty. “Temporality and Gender: Young Adults’ Career and Family Plans.” Social Forces, vol. 66, no. 1, 1987, pp. 102-120.