Sunday, April 29, 2018

What's Next?

Every road is the right one if you don't know where
you are going.
A friend of mine posted on Facebook today that they were trying to figure out what the next step in their life is. Since I felt like my answer might be relevant to more than one of the 1600 people I reach with a Facebook post, I thought that I might as well answer it in a column.

I often use an analogy when discussing this question. Imagine you are sitting in your car in your driveway wondering which way you should turn when you drive out. Should you go right or left? Of course, the natural question is "where are you going?" since that will inform the answer to which way you should turn.

If, for example, you decide that you'd like to go to Boston, there are few ways to get there. Some are better than others, but, ultimately, many roads lead there.

It's the same way in figuring out what you might want to do next. What are the big picture goals. Where do you want to be in 20 years? 10? 5? 1 year? People often go to the wrong aspects of this question. They think about geography, jobs, details, etc.

Ten years ago, I could not have predicted one single element of my life. Not the state I live in. Not my career. Not my family status. Not my income. If you had asked me where I would be in 10 years, I would have guessed every element wrong. But I would have told you one goal: "To acquire money and/or influence to use to do something which creates a positive change in the world."

Although there have been many fits and starts and sideways lurches, I have moved progressively in that direction. I now have more connections than I ever have, and I use those connections to benefit everyone that I can. My income is comfortable, and I publish a magazine which is of benefit to almost 10,000 people. I seem to be moving in that direction.

That one, simple, abstract goal, provided a beacon in the distance so whenever I came to a crossroads and wondered what was next, I would know which way to turn.

Once my daughter was born, a second beacon was lit: providing her every resource and education to achieve the greatest possible success, however she might define it.

This does not mean that I have been perfectly focused. I have spent entire years wandering in the wrong direction, heading down some blind alley or simply forgetting about my greater goals. When I have realized the need for direction, however, I always knew what direction I should reorient myself to, and that has made all the difference.

For anyone wondering what the next step is in their own life, I figure suggest developing your own simple, abstract goal. One statement that describes where you want to end up. Once you have that beacon, you can look at every decision and ask yourself how well it moves you towards that goal.

Under that goal, there are objectives. This is where you get more specific about the things which you know make your life better or more meaningful. If your happiness requires making pretty things and working with plants, then doing so becomes an objective. You figure out what that would take. How much money would it need? Where would you need to be to do it? Who would you need in your life to allow it to happen, if anyone? What education or skills do you need?

Below the objectives are strategies to achieve those objectives. If the objectives require education, the strategy is the big picture plan of how you will get that education. If it requires money, then you strategize how to get that money.

Without knowing where you are ultimately trying to end up, a roadmap is merely an artistic representation of roads. But if you know your destination, then you don't even need a map, just a compass to guide you in the right direction.

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