I’ve always cringed during “goal setting” exercises at work, and I’ve dreaded the classic interview question “what’s your 5 year plan?” Throughout my 20s, goal setting has made me incredibly anxious, because after college, I didn’t know what my goals were.
But it wasn’t always that way.
When I was around 10 years old I took up the French horn in the hopes of getting a college scholarship down the road. In high school, I took honors and AP classes so I would have an advantage when applying to universities. Once I got into college, I filled my schedule to the brim with advanced classes, extra-curricular activities, and internships to build my resume and make connections that would help me land my “dream job.” I graduated early with a great GPA and dove headfirst into a 9-5 job with a salary, 401K and benefits.
Once I settled into my new life, my “forever life,” I got stuck. And I was m-i-s-e-r-a-b-l-e.
I hated my job and was stressed from the moment I woke up to the moment I collapsed onto the couch each night. This life I had worked so hard for left me feeling completely defeated and depleted. It terrified me to think that this would be my life for the next 40+ years, but what terrified me even more was starting over.
After several years of suffering through the Sunday Scaries and counting down the minutes until the weekend, I was in a full blown quarter life crisis. I didn’t have any career goals other than to not be in the same shitty job a year later. I didn’t know what I wanted, or maybe I did, but I was scared that it was unrealistic and out of reach. I was scared I’d wasted so much time, and so much money, in pursuit of something I didn’t even really want.
I lived in that turmoil for a long time, before I finally realized it had been long enough, and that soul crushing misery pushed me to identify what it was that I wanted. More about that here.
I’m no expert, but what I’ve realized is that once you finally figure out what you really truly want, if you want it bad enough, the steps to get there are clear. Be careful not to confuse clear with easy or simple. In fact, those steps are probably pretty challenging, and more than likely will require some type of sacrifice. But once you have your eye on the prize, it becomes much easier to stay on course in relentless pursuit of that dream.
For years I would torture myself over not being disciplined enough, or for not sticking to a goal I had set. But what I’ve realized is that it was my lack of focus that made it impossible to stay on track.
Once I felt that flutter of excitement in my heart again, once I knew that my heart yearned to see more of the world, all those sacrifices became smaller, and much easier to bear.
So in 2020, I challenge you to identify what it is that you want. Your goal can be big or small, critical or unnecessary. Any goal will do so long as you know what you want and you can’t stop until you have it.
Do you want to start waking up earlier? Do you want to drink more water? Do you want to eat differently? Do you want to learn how to do TikTok dances? Do you want to travel? Do you want to start a business? Do you want to spend your money differently? Do you want to devote more time to family?
In 2020, be brutally honest with yourself, and open your mind to what your spirit really yearns for, no matter how silly or unrealistic or outside of the status quo it may be. Give yourself the space to toy with that idea, free of judgment. Let it simmer in the back of your mind for a couple of weeks, and see if you’re still interested once the initial excitement wears off. Decide if it’s something worth working for. How hard would you work for it? What would you give up for it? Can you live without it?
In 2020, find that thing. In 2021, take care of the rest.