It is a truth that if you don’t know where you’re going,
- …any road will get you there, and
- …you aren’t actually going to know when you’ve arrived.
It can be minor – you say to yourself, “I’m tired, but I don’t want to sleep the day away, but if I don’t nap then I won’t be productive in anything I do decide to do, but what am I going to do with my time today since I have so much to get done?” Then you get so wrapped up in every little detail that has to be done that you end up doing nothing, and also not getting a nap… which might have helped you be a bit more decisive.
Or it can be major – “I’m in my mid-forties, and I still haven’t made a mark on the world like I thought I’d do when I was twenty, and I’ve spent years drifting from job to job and none of it makes me happy! Why aren’t I happy?” And yet if you’re honest with yourself, you admit that you are exactly where each and every choice you’ve ever made has led you.
You see how that works? You’ve become aware that you’re not where you want to be; yet the directionless drifting you did to get there was an extension of exactly the plan you were working from. (Which probably wasn’t a plan at all.) We see it all the time in other people. Those are the ones complaining that they can never catch a break, that if it weren’t for bad luck they’d have no luck at all, that because of kids/hometown/bills/personal disadvantage/insert-generic-excuse-here, they’re stuck in a dead-end job and that’s how they’re going to die. They’re the ones who say, “Livin’ the dream,” but mean it sarcastically when you ask them how they are. They’re the ones who expect an external force – whether it be government, or a church, or a family member, or a deity – to take care of them, rather than taking steps to take care of themselves.
None of us are any different from anyone else. We all make choices, our choices shape our future and the choices that we will face in some misty tomorrow, which will then lead to another future. Sometimes those choices are weighted heavily to one side or another, but there is never a time where we “don’t have a choice.” We use that phrase when we don’t like the potential consequences, and want someone or something else to take the responsibility for our decision.
So what’s your heart’s desire? What’s the dream you’ve denied yourself for too long? And I do not mean”To be given a million dollars and retire.” That’s passive. That’s the kind of “someday my ship will come in” kind of thinking that put you where you are right now!
Don’t have an answer? No worries; give it some thought. Revisit your childhood daydreams. Ask yourself; when you’re in la-la-land at work, what are you thinking about most often? Doesn’t have to be world-changing. Doesn’t even have to be mansion-on-a-lake huge. But once you’ve got a handle on it, set some time aside for yourself and sit down with a notebook and pen or a little voice recorder and ask: How can I get there from here? What steps are necessary? By what date, and I mean one on the calendar, do you want this achievement to be a reality? (That’s very important.)
Maybe you start with trade school. Maybe you practice your poetry and find people to gently critique, then help you find the courage to submit your work. Maybe you stop at your local five-and-ten store and pick up a sketchpad and some paints.
Now break it down further, into smaller and simpler steps. What resources are in the area? Schools, poets, writers? Who has a website? Who can you email, or call up and arrange a meeting with, to get advice and guidance? Are there books that can teach you what you want to know?
Step by step by step, each day do something, no matter how small, that moves you along your plan to your goal. Large or small, any planned outcome is just like this photography project: You start, you do a little each day like consistent clockwork, and soon a year passes… but unlike prior years, this time you’re a year closer to your dream.