Defining your goals, visualizing your future, all that stuff: it’s not easy, but it’s roasted peanuts compared to looking down to see where your feet are planted right then and there.
Comfort is no test of truth. Truth is often far from being comfortable.
— Swami Vivekananda
Your day-to-day actions, whether intentional or not, are leading you somewhere. Changing directions first requires that you know where you’re currently going.
Assessing Your Trajectory
The purpose is not to beat yourself up. It’s not easy to honestly assess your life. Even if it’s an entirely private process, it feels like we’re pants-less in front of the world. That is why so few are willing to do it.
Causal Process of Personal Trajectories:
Intentions create objectives.
Objectives decide actions.
Actions cause short term outcomes.
Outcomes, over time, create a long term trajectory.
Filling in the Blanks
Most of the time, we’re unaware of our intentions; we often operate on instinct or emulate what others do. For similar reasons, we do not know our objectives; our true motivations are often hidden or amorphous.
The best we can do is identify our actions and outcomes, and from them surmise our trajectory.
- Divide a piece of paper into three columns (or use a whiteboard or computer program — it doesn’t matter.) In the left column, write the most time- and energy-consuming actions you regularly take in the context of your work and career, or in pursuit of those (e.g., going to school.) Also include exercise or any side projects which you attend to once a week or more. Do not include hobbies unless they are part of some larger pursuit. Rather than make this exercise open-ended and analyze every component of every action you take, err on the side of ‘quick and dirty.’ If you can’t remember an action right away, then it’s probably not done with enough regularity to be included here.
- In the middle column, write out the expected outcomes of these action. Maybe it’s “keep job” or “get promoted” or “get good grade.”
- Extrapolate the actions five or so years into the future. Where does it lead you? Write this in the right column.
Is this where you want to go?
When I did this, I realized my actions were not leading me where I wanted to be. I knew I had to make a change.
Setting Your Own Trajectory
Once you know where you’re currently heading, you can set a new direction.
Creating actionable goals (discussed in a previous post) allows us to set meaningful intentions; clarify our objectives; perform actions based on reason and planning rather than instinct; and most important of all, learn from our outcomes so we can set our own long term trajectory.
This was primarily sourced from my book, How to be a Long Term Person in a Short Term World, available on Amazon.