You may know of that famous study conducted among Harvard MBAs, determining the correlation between those who had clearly identified goals and their future success (which they defined in terms of earnings). Only 3% of them had written their goals down. Ten years later they were surveyed again, and that 3% was earning ten times as much as the other 97% put together. It’s probably not surprising to you that they were more successful, but the scale of the difference is pretty shocking.
It’s difficult to determine what you want. If it weren’t, everyone would have it figured out. Part of the problem is that it’s such a big question that most people have no idea where to start. It’s easy to get caught up in limiting beliefs and assumptions like, “I’ll have to take a major pay cut to do x,” or “I would have to spend too much time getting (re)trained.” They don’t know whether either of these things is true, but those thoughts keep them from exploring any further. The other mental block stems from the pressure to get it “right”; it’s such an important decision, what happens if you choose the wrong thing?
Remember, it’s easier to change direction when you’re already moving. Those Harvard MBAs undoubtedly made some course corrections along their paths. Because they had a general idea of the direction they wanted to take, they were able to understand that they needed to make those tweaks. It will be the same for you. It’s not a static goal, it’s an evolving one. After all, who could have foreseen how technology would have changed the world? Your direction in life has to be flexible for that very reason.
Take the time to think about what is important to you. Don’t let the needs of others—your employers, your clients, etc—determine your direction. This is a low-risk, extremely high-reward situation. If you are directed, you have a much better chance of achieving your goal. As the Greek philosopher Epictetus said, “The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.”
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