Let’s paint a picture.
Maybe you have a job already, maybe you have one lined up for September, or maybe you have no freaking clue when you’re going to get one. Either way, you find yourself laying on your bed, staring at the wall ahead of you covered in a highlight reel of pictures from your past, pondering what the heck you want to do with your future.
For some, it’s crystal clear. They’ve planned their lives out post-grad until senior retirement. For most though, it’s not that simple.
I personally had so many dreams and aspirations that my head threatened to explode if I kept pushing it. After much silent ruminating, I then narrowed it down to two long-term dreams: I wanted to be an investment banker, as well as a bestselling novelist. It was easy to come up with those two – often, your biggest dream will be the first thing to come to mind when you think of your future.
So, afterwards, I began to work backwards. Think of making a tree diagram – put your biggest dream(s) at the very top, and then add multiple branches protruding from it, because most of the time, there will be multiple ways you can go about attaining said dream.
I’ll start with what my novelist diagram looked like. The goal was to be published, but before looking at publishing houses, I decided the best way to get successfully published would be to get a literary agent first, instead of pitching directly to publishers or even self-publishing. It took a ton of research to then find out who are the first tier best literary agencies, second tier, etc. Then came the technicalities of marketing and trends – what trends were entering the book market this year? My first manuscript was about a serial killer boy who falls in love with a girl with a Romeo complex. The problem? Male serial killers are overrated and violence should not be romanticized. I eventually made an action plan, which looked like this:
- Write novel #2 (check)
- Read up on trends in the market, see where your novel fits in
- Make a list of literary agents who represent your type of work
- Find a critique group, or some kind of mentor to edit your work and give you constructive feedback
- Begin pitching to agents
The struggle with novel writing is that sometimes, you have to wait years for your novel to be in demand in the market. Being a writer forced me to become incredibly patient. It’s also an extremely subjective business, so all you can really do is write the novel, edit it, and pitch it, then wait for someone to like it. The key to a successful action plan is to write out everything that you can possibly do to make your dream a reality, but then to also know when to let go and let the universe do it’s thing to help you.
It’s like that for most dreams;
“Success is where preparation and opportunity meet.”– Bobby Unser
So when you get overwhelmed and wonder if you’re making the right decision in accepting a job offer, or moving across the world, think of your long-term goal or dream. Can this next step in your life act as a stepping stone to attaining your goal? Does it bring you a step closer to one of your dreams?
When you step out of your head for a moment and look at the big picture, some things will seem much clearer to you. And sometimes, dreams and goals shift and what you thought was your life dream at 22 is trivial and completely different compared to what it is at 42.
I also want to quickly talk about something else:
What if I have no clue what my dream is?
Sometimes, looking at the big picture can actually be intimidating. This is especially the case for those who have no clue what their ultimate dream or goal is. In that case, I suggest to take a much more micro approach to the case: what do you enjoy doing? What don’t you enjoy? Make a list of things that you love to do, whether they were things in school, with friends, in past jobs, etc. Then, do a quick Google search, for example: ‘Jobs that involve exploring’. Study.com is an amazing outlet for finding jobs relating to particular skills or hobbies https://study.com/academy/plans.html!
Don’t freak out if you have no clue what you’re doing or if you’re wondering how you’ll ever get to where you want to be. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Staying dynamic and shifting with the times is important, but hard work and planning never goes to waste.
I would love to hear about some of your action plans, leave comments below!