When I first graduated from college, when people asked me about my future, I would fire off a few vague statements about what I wanted. I wanted a great career! I wanted to have kids! I wanted a nice house!
All of those ideas were nebulous and vague. Sure, they echoed sentiments that I held in my heart, but they weren’t anywhere close to being authentic goals. A house? A child? A “power” career? Those weren’t things I envisioned happening any time soon. I didn’t even have any idea as to how to build a path to them.
It took a few years for pieces to fall into place. I got married. We had our first child. I began to seriously re-examine my career path.
Those changes pushed me to start re-examining all of those visions for the future. I started to ask myself what I really wanted for the rest of my life and how I’d get from where I was at to where I wanted to be.
It was that reality check that really turned around my financial and professional life. I stopped seeing the future as something nebulous.
Instead, I began to see my future as an inevitable path. I am going to get older and move further along my life’s journey, but many of the choices I make right now will drastically shape the choices available to me then.
If I put in the extra time and effort now to establish values of independence and self-reliance in my children, then they will be much more likely to develop into self-reliant and independent adults that I can have a relationship with that doesn’t involve dependence.
If I make financially responsible choices now, then I will have vastly better options in the future when it comes to choosing the kind of life I want to lead. I won’t be forced to take unpleasant work because I need the money.
It’s a hopeful perspective. It’s one that recognizes that I have a future, and it’s one that realizes that my choices right now have a major impact on that future.
Earlier, I had a much more negative negative perspective on the future. I had some wishful thoughts, but I avoided thinking about them directly because I saw no clear path between where I was at and the things I wanted for the future.
When you sit down, figure out what exactly it is that you want from your life, and devise a plan to get there, you’re going to inevitably come up with things you need to do each day in your life in order to be able to achieve those things.
The interesting part is that doing those things each day feels incredibly good. It feels like you’re working toward something much bigger than today. You have this strong sense that what you do today actually matters in the bigger scheme of things instead of merely serving the function of fulfilling whatever desire you have at the current moment.
When I go to bed after a long day of not really achieving anything, I’ll often lay there and reflect on a day wasted. What did I get out of that day? Not much.
When I go to bed after a long day of moving forward on my dreams for the future, I might feel tired, but I feel great. I feel as though I made a genuine difference in my life and, usually, in the lives of others. I usually wake up feeling a lot better, too.
The difference, I think, is hope. Rather than just having dreams shrouded in mist, I can see the path I’m on and I can see where I’m heading. I know that every time I put in the effort to take an extra step down that path, I move closer to those goals. They’re no longer nebulous daydreams. They’re real, and it feels good to move down the path toward them. Instead of feeling uncertain or trapped about tomorrow, I feel hopeful.
Financial planning, career planning, and life planning made all the difference.