Bring Your Future Into the Present: Integrating Short and Long-Term Goals

by Leslie Godwin, MFCC

How to make long-term plans for your future while still meeting your responsibilities in the present:

Do you feel that you should pursue your calling, but you have bills to pay, family responsibilities, and other day-to-day concerns that don't allow you to stop everything to do so...even if you knew what you're called to do?

So, how do you take care of your immediate needs without letting go of a meaningful future? And how can working little by little toward your future make your DAILY life more meaningful?

I believe that having BOTH a short-term plan for day-to-day needs AND a long-term plan to accomplish what you really care about, is the answer. The trick is to break your long-term plan into small pieces which you can integrate into your daily schedule.

The Short Term:
Having a short-term plan is critical when you have bills to pay because it allows you to be productive while you're planning for a more meaningful future. If you're searching for your calling, a short-term plan will include a 'day job' that pays the bills so you don't have to figure out what you should be doing with your life by the end of the month so you can pay the mortgage.

Integrate the Long-Term:
Working toward your long-term plan every day gives meaning to those daily activities. It's also important to build momentum toward that long-term plan so you feel PULLED by it as it becomes more real every day. The more you feel pulled toward your calling, the less you'll have to push, and pushing is much harder work.



Here are some tips that might be useful as you clarify your long-range goals and plans, and take care of current responsibilities.

1. Make long-term planning a PRIORITY.
Recently, I wrote about how hard it is to stay focused on "Important but Non-Urgent" aspects of our life, to use Steven Covey's term. All planning based on our values falls into this category. We're usually busy with "Urgent but Not Important" items, like ringing phones, email, and requests from others. It's easy to postpone planning the most important aspects of our lives until we are no longer living our lives "on purpose."

2. Fit long-term planning into your DAILY LIFE.
Set aside a little time on a regular basis. Don't wait until you have lots of time. Squeeze it in whenever you have a half an hour. You'll create momentum, and get more done this way.

A client of mine, Terry, is making a dramatic career change from doing website design to being a massage therapist. She needs to inquire about training programs and create a network to find out what it's really like to do this kind of work, what schools have the best programs, and how to eventually get referrals and start a practice.

She's managed to carve out half an hour during her work day to pursue her new career. So each day she sends off a couple of emails, makes a phone call or two, or does some reading.

"I was concerned at first that using my lunch hour to do my coaching homework would make me more stressed out," Terry told me recently. "But I feel more enthusiastic now that I see I'm getting somewhere. Every day I'm doing something that gets me closer to my dream of being a massage therapist, and I really think I'm going to be able to do it."

3. Remind yourself frequently WHY you care about your long-term plans.
The hardest time in any career transition is the first few months. If you're like many people I talk to in transition:

  • you have an idea which you've avoided acting on for a long time
  • you don't have a track record (or it's limited) doing what you dream about doing
  • you may doubt whether what you dream about will ever become a reality.

In other words, you've got a vague idea of a road ahead, and lots of roadblocks. That makes for a bumpy ride.

By reminding yourself why you care about your dream you'll strengthen your connection to it, and refresh your motivation to get there.

Once you start taking the small steps I'm describing, you'll discover more and more reasons why your dream is worthy, and you'll see your dream evolve in ways you couldn't have anticipated.

4. Spend time with people who are doing what they love.
This implies that you should STOP spending time with people who aren't doing what they love and aren't taking action to make their lives better. And whatever you do, stop hanging out with people who do nothing but complain about how much they hate what they're doing! This is just deadly to your fulfilling your calling.

People like this have a gravitational force field of negativity around them. If you are feeling down, there may be a certain "misery loves company" kind of comfort to be found among these types. But once that gets depressing, you'll find yourself sinking further into despair that nothing is going to change in your life.

Please think about who you spend time with and how you feel when you're with them, as well as how you feel AFTER you've spent time with them. Are you more motivated to pursue your dreams? Or less motivated? Are you inspired? Or discouraged? Hopeful? Or cynical? Consciously decide to spend more time with those who leave you feeling inspired. And do your best to support others as they pursue their dreams.

To Sum Up:
It's easy to get lost in the daily details of life. It's also easy to keep our dreams safely in the future, not spoiling their perfection by acting on them.

The key to living based on your calling in each moment is to bring your future plans into the present little by little. Doing bits and pieces of your long-term plans, with the overall map in mind, will bring you closer to your calling being part of your daily life.

Leslie Godwin, MFCC, is a Career & Life-Transition Coach specializing in helping people put their families, values, and principles first when making career and life choices. Leslie is the author of,"From Burned Out to Fired Up: A Woman's Guide to Rekindling the Passion and Meaning in Work and Life"published by Health Communications. 

 
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