There are those in the world who grow up with a sense of what their professional life will ultimately become. Future doctors, lawyers, accountants, police officers and fire fighters put themselves on a path to an end, marking off each milestone as it comes and goes. It is not an easy journey by any means, but these folks are fortunate enough to be armed with a specific life goal at an early age.
What about the rest of us? How do goals and aspirations come together if a seed is not planted when we are young? There are countless answers to these questions considering how much time generally passes, but this discussion is directed towards those who fall at the end of the curve. If you find it especially difficult to pinpoint a direction, encounter more frustration than success, yet refuse to give up – please continue reading. I, too, am one of these people.
The recognition of one’s future begins as a teenager with the idea of ultimately earning a living. Eighteen year olds are encouraged to realize that responsibility is inevitable and the powers that be will hold your actions accountable, whether good or bad. This is also a time when our interests and abilities, especially the ones that are likely to stay with us through adulthood, begin to take a mature shape. Many are able to align an eventual career with those abilities, yet still, there are those who are not. A similar theme arises during the formative college years, when experience continues to build alongside a newfound feeling of independence. Did you find a calling or some sort of direction while on campus?
If the answer is yes, I hope it has led to somewhere greatly fulfilling. If the answer is no, you are still not alone. When formal education ends, the real test begins. The expectation to contribute to society is one that goes back to the beginning of civilization, and with it should include progress and happiness, but the merging of these concepts is much easier said than done. In a world of endless possibilities, how do we pick one with ease if it isn’t obvious from the start? This has been the root of my struggle for as long as I can remember, and at age 28, with a decade of adult experience under my belt, the ideas of sight, mission, vision and dreams have become crucial ingredients for a future worth cultivating.
Those four words are arranged in a specific order, from narrow to broad. Sight is what is right in front of us, what we perceive. Missions and visions are long and short-term goals, respectively. Dreams are intimate pieces of our soul and imagination, and arguably the most important part of this process. When deciding what it is that will take up our time as a contributor to society, if these four components are not aligned in some way, the end result will be less than fulfilling. We must see what needs to be done today in order to accomplish something tomorrow, and ultimately rise to a level that we could only imagine in our wildest dreams.
So, how is this done? There will be challenges of all different sizes and shapes along the way. It is important to remember that each step, whether perceived as positive or negative, is there for a reason. You must take the good with the bad and convert the circumstances to forward progress. Imagine for a second that you know exactly what you want to do with your life. How much time and passionate energy would you spend in pursuit of that goal? If your dream were within reach, what would you do today to be one step closer? Now come back to reality and commit to using that perceived energy to uncover and develop the goal itself. The goal is…the goal. From there, you will have created a habit for the relentless pursuit of your own greatness and the transition to an entirely new, higher level is much clearer. It is not meant to be easy, but this journey may just end up being half of the fun and the best part of the story.
I recently left a job after two productive years, and during a very candid exit interview, the manager shared something that I should consider working on going forward. As he described it, I need to be more self-aware. The weight of that statement left me with a choice: do I continue to what I have always done for the sake of my own integrity or change at the recommendation of someone else? A test in self-awareness, indeed. If my sight, mission, vision and dreams are clearly aligned, this challenge resolves itself. The course is set and hurdles are welcomed as part of the growing process. I am left to use this as a learning lesson, stepping stone, building block, etc. on the road to the next challenge until I find that ultimate goal.
I still do not specifically know what it is that I want to do with my professional life. Even though I am fortunate enough to pursue true passions that encourage physical and creative exercises, neither of those pays the bills. It is clear that I am firmly placed towards the end of the bell curve and am a poster boy for late bloomers. If the idea of uncovering your mission and dreams is too much to handle at this point, allow me to offer this instead: work on yourself. Create a person that you know will be able to handle the effort once it is time. Identify shortcomings and correct them to the best of your ability. This method reduces the pressure while building something strong – a win-win. Once it is time to step onto a path, the amount of mental toughness will excite and encourage the greatness that lies ahead. The sight of missions with a vision of dreams will clear with each passing day.