“Which way should I go?”, Alice asked.
“That depends on where you are going,” said the Smiling Cat.
“It don’t know,” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” the Cat smiled enigmatically.
(“Alice in Wonderland,” by Louis Carroll)
The decision at a crossroad might be a difficult one not only in the real world but also in an imaginary one as well. It’s a daily experience which makes us think hard about small as well as bigger matters. So hard in fact, that we might get overwhelmed, confused and even frustrated.
But if we know where we want to go then it is easier. We take on the chosen path with much more confidence and determination. Having that kind of clarity in today’s busy times seems almost impossible.
That’s our life (… as of today)
Everyone would agree it is a frantic one. And we expect as much. We send a text message and presume the reply to show up right away. An online order should be on our doorsteps the very next day.
We, as humans, are forced to evolve in order to react to the changing environment. Some types of jobs will disappear while new ones are coming into existence. There was no Facebook 15 years ago and nowadays social media is an irreplaceable necessity for billions around the planet.
There is a sense of time accelerating and feelings of uncertainty because of diminished meaning in our existence. What does that do to our long-term goals?
It all depends on the viewpoint
Beliefs determine our thoughts. Thoughts – our actions. Actions bring results. And these, in turn, reaffirm our beliefs.
The spectrum of our states of mind is wide and can vary from “I am lost” to “I know what I want and how to get it”. We would like to explore these and see where exactly you stand on the chart.
The entry level:
“In today’s fast-changing world nothing stays the same. Setting up long-term plans for 20 or more years is rather ineffective. But you don’t have to. Plus, it might be detrimental trying to do so.”
A lot of people feel like that, including some of the most successful ones we know. Let’s find out how this affects them.
Focus on the present
One advantage of not going after long-term objectives is perhaps that there are fewer reasons to worry and stress out about. You would assess what is possible in the short-term and proceed to get some immediate results. There are some satisfaction and peace of mind in this but you are sailing only with the wind in your back.
And that’s a problem.
Being in “reactive” mode
Just waiting to see how events will unfold and only then decide how to react to them is no less stressful.
You don’t happen to your life, it happens to you. You are a passive counterpart with little if any initiative. You are constantly putting out fires and other emergencies without being able or willing to set up your own agenda.
There is even a bigger issue:
That kind of thinking makes your dreams impossible
Dreams require time before they can materialize.
It takes years, not a few months. Whether you dream of becoming a rock-star or win an IronMan race, you have to put in enough effort which requires as much time.
At this first level, you simply can’t afford to dream about anything big.
A workable solution is to be found at the next level.
“My life is pretty hectic, but there are some things I am able to plan for the long-term. However, little depends on me. I’d rather not chase anything for too long since I quickly lose interest if results don’t follow right away.”
A major truth has dawned on us. Namely, that there are things in life that remain the same regardless of what might transpire.
Finding your North Star
It’s paramount to know what will not change for us over the years.
For example, health is one such thing. It will evolve but eventually, you become aware that you have to take care of it. And this is possible only if you build a lasting strategy for it.
When does it happen?
This realization doesn’t take place overnight. For most of us, it starts emerging between the mid and late 20s. We all went through the period with junk food, more alcohol and fewer hours of sleep and rest. But somehow we still managed to make it to the morning class or have our performance at work unaffected.
It simply takes time before it gets into our heads that “health is wealth” and that it lasts for the rest of our lives.
This moment could turn out to be quite overwhelming.
The light-bulb moment
For Niki, it was an older lady riding the city bus.
The woman was over 80, but she skillfully and quickly negotiated the bus steps. She didn’t want to take a seat but stood in a straight posture and somehow youthful expression. After a couple of stops, she got off the bus in the same impressive manner and disappeared in the crowd.
At that moment there was only one though on Niki’s mind. He felt that he needed to be as healthy and energetic as the old lady when her age. To be self-sufficient and independent by living to his fullest became the basis for his understanding of health and well-being.
Let’s not forget this one thing. Our vision is completed and defined when we base it on things that we DO NOT expect to change in time.
In that way, we can cling to something reliable and valuable. We do that by finding out what will always be important for us and what we will always strive for.
Good health has no place for transient things like the latest diet, food supplements or the most popular fitness program.
Losing the excitement
We’ve already mentioned the risk of becoming demotivated if there is no positive outcome as quickly as we hoped for. And that’s perfectly normal.
Nowadays, it has become a norm to appreciate only moments of instant gratification. Therefore, often times instead of a lifelong vision, people are tempted to set health objectives only for the upcoming summer. And it is mostly about looking good or shedding off a few pounds.
The problem with the immediate results
The worst thing here is their deceptive nature. It pushes us into a distorted parallel reality in which they become an end in itself and are no longer the means.
Of course, it is wiser to work out on a regular basis and not pay too much attention to the minor positive side effects of staying in good physical shape.
As for motivation, it isn’t as hard to keep it up and running.
A burst of energy
At the end of the 90-day period, you should carefully analyze what your actions were. Then an assessment and adjustment of the course follow. You may have to come up with a new strategy for the next quarter. And while going through this process you should never forget what is at the 25-year horizon, i.e. what kind of person you expect to become.
Once this is a routine for you it will charge you with extra energy. It also means that it will be very unlikely that you will quit working on an objective. For example, you wouldn’t give up on a healthy lifestyle just because cross-fitness is too much for you.
“There are some things which require a long-term vision. I have the control and therefore I can achieve my goals. But there are those other aspects of my life which, though important, are beyond my reach. It’s better not to bother planning too far in the future for them.”
It’s a turning point. The rationale now is to have a continuing vision for almost anything and accept the need for it. Still, there are some exceptions here.
Out of control
These are related to a gut feeling that you wouldn’t be able to handle everything, especially in the most adverse situations. Therefore, you don’t have to waste any time and effort on anything you deem a lost cause. A very telling example is personal relationships.
Many think that it’s up to our Fate to find a partner. They wait for the right place and time for the right person to magically appear out of thin air.
What can you do?
It is no less significant to define clearly the vision of how your life will be set around the personal relationship of a family and children.
Even the slightest shift in your attitude can reveal new opportunities to appreciate the people around you. You will also become aware of some of your own character flaws that you could work on (for example, in the direction of a richer set of communication skills).
Finally, we get to the most advanced and optimistic attitude:
“My life is whatever I make of it. It is important to have a long-term vision of all the major aspects of my life. It helps me be focused, dedicated, and successful.”
Your proactive attitude certainly makes it easier for you to formulate how exactly you can grow as a person and how to achieve that.
It might be a tough realization but it’s very much worth it to know one thing. No one is going to live your life for you. All of those who inspire us are doing it every single day. They take on the challenges and not only fight these circumstances but also create their own, more favorable circumstances.
When something is blocking your way, you try to overcome it. You don’t complain or put responsibility elsewhere except in yourself. That’s the power of those who got the spirit of a winner.
What would help us
When you have a strong and confident answer to the “why” question you will be able to handle any challenge that life surprises you with.
Knowing well what you really want will allow you to tell the difference between a good opportunity and a pointless distraction.
This is exactly the meaning and purpose of the long-term objectives. They are like a guiding star that gives us the direction as well as placing the light spot on our actions.
“A man does what he must”
We cannot guarantee you success and happiness. We can have a wonderful vision and work on it making great progress till a tragedy strikes. We can’t have control over everything in our lives.
And yet, we shouldn’t forget that many things are entirely up to us. We must never give up improving our lives. We don’t know how much time on this planet we will be blessed with. It is our responsibility to make the most of it.