Maybe you have just finished school. Whatever it is, it comes with degree of recognition. You have finished the course, perhaps won the race even. Big or small, it does not really matter. It is what comes next that we contend with. Your curious neighbor, water cooler co-worker, maybe even the newspaper reporter all have the same question. What are you going to do now? What’s your plan? Where are you going next? Zig Ziglar, John Maxwell, and Brian Tracy (to name a few) have made careers out of helping people take control of their lives, that is to actively choose their course of direction.
For the sake of our discussion the concrete question I pose is this: What are the facets and what is the balance between actively visualizing a lifestyle or career goal and leaving matters to develop on their own? Understand, the main issue here is time. The only thing we all really have to do in life is, well, die. We all have a finite amount of living to do. I know a number of people, some quite successful, who insist that their accomplishment never came on the back of a game-plan or formal strategy. It just sort of happened and they were there, right place, right time.
I’ll start out by saying it is important for us to distinguish between different kinds of time. First, there is long-time. I suppose for me that means 5+ years away, although I am still very young. And then there is something in between, which I like to call middle-time. Finally, there is day-to-day, something much easier to maintain an awareness of. Treating these all the same would be a mess.
When it comes to planning on the long-time, we must not get confused with the to do verb. It’s too elusive and transforms into a distraction that gets in the way of the fundamental to be. Before you can do something you must first be something (thanks Goethe). Through this lens, you will direct the rest of your middle-time and day-to-day. Before you can be a high-powered lawyer or touring musician, you must first work in the library, in the practice room, in debate, and in learning how to listen. In short, you will learn to be diligent.
Not so long ago, I used to run life thinking in concrete long-time goals. Married by 30. Have a house set by 32. Solid famous musician by 28. These can be silly ideas because they dictate a predictable rhythm in life that can stifle opportunity and spontaneity. Let me say it like this: if you’re so focused to do that position of definition before you have taken the time to define what you will be (if you are fortunate enough to get there) once you get there, you might not be ready. You might not have the goods to deliver. Seriously, what’s the joy in life if we define what we will do before we even arrive with a be? Some do because the market was right, they were born in the right family, in the right generation, perhaps even a preferred skin color. Doing is very elusive. Yes, I know I’m speaking as a twenty-something but this is the time to work this be question out; the answer is NOT doing explicit hoops and goals to satisfy our curious neighbors.
After I moved back to the States this summer, I thought I would be staying at least for the immediate future. Family, Kansas, no place like home (and yes, Dorothy really does live next door). When an opportunity to move to Bordeaux, France came up, it was totally unexpected. It was not in my long-time plans. In the end I made the decision to move based on this concept of “be.” I must be a world-class musician. That means working with musicians who play a hell of a lot better than I do.
Middle-time is the fun part where we get to do a few concrete things that fit in with who we are. That could mean making a move to be with someone you want to work with. Take a class or read a book that fits in with your be concept. Join a group. Take the initiative to learn and gain ground on your own. Never, EVER, expect to be spoon-fed in middle-time. Remember that people are like magnets, so watch what the people you hang out with you are doing and what their attitudes are like, aware that this is how you may be influenced. I think this phase of time is the one that can be most controlled because it is far enough away not to be micro-managed and not so far away that it becomes a silly obsession. It’s a simple-bucket list on the way towards defining your be idea of self.
Nevertheless, day-to-day sucks. It’s Monday morning, the day after Christmas, everything that happens that reminds us we have to go to the real world. . . again. Learn to love it. Smile on it. Live it spontaneous here. Stop your trip along the highway to go ice-skate on the pond with your siblings on Christmas Eve just because you decided it was fun. Do all that goofy stuff maybe you see on Seinfeld or the King of Queens. You’re not a robot or an iPad either. Don’t plan day-to-day any more than you have to because it’s those little moments in life that make everything else a little bit more significant.
Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. -The Great and Honorable Dr. Seuss