This week, I celebrated by 36th wedding anniversary. I have been at my current organization for 28 years, and I completed my Ph.D. when I was 56 years old. I believe in the long haul. If you listen to popular media, you might think that type of commitment to long-term achievement is “old school.” Headlines tout the trends dujour, the new and improved north stars we are told we should strive for if we want to succeed in “today’s hyper-competitive, ever-changing (insert your own adjectives here) environment.” I don’t buy it.
Perhaps some people confuse long-term commitment with an unwillingness to change. Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Deeply-seeded goals are the “what.” The actions you take to get there are the “how.” Most big goals take a long time to achieve and are going to require that you change your approach from time to time. That is entirely different from changing your goals because things got hard, or didn’t turn out the way you had hoped.
I don’t know of any important goals that don’t have hard seasons, where you question whether you should stick it out, whether it is worth the effort. Sure, it might seem trendy or even ambitious to jump from one opportunity to another. But without a long-term goal to guide those opportunities, you may end up with a series of quick wins and seeming progress . . . but to what end? Appearances? Accolades? Both are as fleeting as the next opportunity.
“Staying power” is what separates the truly successful from those who are constantly chasing the next big thing. What are you passionate about? Not what are you good at . . . I am good with numbers, but none of my long-term goals are about numbers. The only way to make it through the hard stuff to the rewards on the other side is to be passionate about the destination you are working towards.
As one year draws to a close, and you look toward the weeks and months ahead, I encourage you to take a few moments to consider what long-term goals you want to work toward . . . at a gut-deep level . . . through the muck and hard days as well as in the sunny times filled with progress. Maybe it is marriage and family, a professional mission that you are uniquely gifted to impact, a drive to continually learn and grow in a particular vocation, or a commitment to be a bridge-builder who brings people together.
Life is too short not to focus on goals that make your heart sing . . . through the good days and the bad. In the new year and always, my wish for you is to find and pursue a purpose that is worth the long haul.