“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.”
I’m going to do a lot of talking about goals in the future, maybe even have a goal month, but for now I wanted to talk about the difference between short term and long term goals. In fact, I’d like to suggest that the difference isn’t as big as we think.
I was telling one of my colleagues the other day about a few long term goals of mine, and he mentioned that he didn’t have a lot of long term goals, that he works more with short term goals. And that really intrigued me, because I would have a really hard time coming up with short term goals if I didn’t have any long term goals. But the more we talked, the more I got the sense that we weren’t so far apart - he did have long term goals, they’re just more generalized than mine. I have a lot of short term goals, but I keep them a bit more fluid so long as they are building towards the long term goals I have set out.
One of his concerns about long term goals was that they’d lock him into something he might find he doesn’t fit with five years down the road, and he might miss out on something bigger, better, or more in line with where his passions and strengths lay because he’s so focused on something he thought he wanted a long time ago. That’s a legitimate concern, and I definitely want to avoid things that stifle the ability to recognize the potential opportunities in life as they come along the path. My answer to this, and how I try to avoid getting bogged down in any goal (short or long) is to review my goals once a year. My wife and I literally take some time during our summer vacation each year, and evaluate where we are in all of our goals (both individually as as a couple). Some goals have been accomplished so we cross them off. Some goals have become less or greater a priority, so we adjust their position on the list and if appropriate the duration we estimate it will take to accomplish them. Perhaps most important to recognize, though, are the new things that have come into your life, and the things you want to take off the list because it just isn’t very important to you anymore to achieve them.
Occasionally, we have to let goals go. Three years ago when I was going to school and we needed to bring more income to the house, I started my own web and graphic design business. I built relationships with clients, created a lot of work that I was proud of, and really took a lot of pride and enjoyment from being self-employed. Recently, I took a job with a corporation, and I am extremely passionate about making the most of the opportunities it represents. The new job fulfilled a lot of my personal needs that the side business had been taking care of, I didn’t need the income, and I really began to dislike the work. But I had built relationships with my clients, and I had emotional attachment to this business I spent a lot of time with for three years, so my heart and my head had some pretty heated debates before I finally felt good about letting it go. It easily made the most sense in terms of what will make me happiest today and, I think, in the long run too. But sometimes giving up a goal can be a very emotional thing, and you just have to keep in mind that what you’re getting in exchange will be so much better.