The following is adapted from The Standout Experience.
The common denominator of all successful people is that they spend a lot of time thinking about their future, experimenting with different ideas, researching opportunities, meditating, and/or talking to others. Then, they take the next steps, choose a destination, and start working towards it.
Your future needs to be a decision made with your heart, head, and soul. It’s not enough to just want to do something. You have to be smart about it, have a reason for doing it, and be capable of being great at it.
The point is that successful people make a choice, find a path to do it, and pursue their future with everything they have and with the right people around them.
It all starts with defining the future you want, so here are four approaches for choosing your life’s destination.
#1: The Career Development Approach
If your reason for being isn’t yet known, choose a field you’re truly interested in, and create a career learning and development plan in that respective field. Work on building a specific skill and expanding your network.
You can also try different careers and fields while you’re young. The goal is to explore and discover what you love.
Just make sure your career isn’t your only focus. The key is to have a life that you build a career around; not a career you try to build a life around.
#2: The Dream Life-Goals Approach
Focus on your long-term dreams and envision your ideal life with as much detail as possible. Then, build shorter-term SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Based) goals to get there. Work your goals while tracking your progress to the idea you’re targeting.
The positive feelings you get from chasing your vision and achieving your goals one-by-one will push you into your future.
#3: The Self-Expressive Approach
Try working towards who you want to be (not what you want to do). In this approach, your motivation and focus are to live as the full expression of your best self.
Start by doing a self-assessment to discover your current weaknesses, and enjoy the personal growth that comes from getting better in those areas.
Then write down your ideal self so you are chasing a person that you want to be.
Finally, ask yourself these questions:
- What are you passionate about? (If you had a day off today, what would you do?)
- What great accomplishments of the past can you replicate in the future?
- If your life had no limits, who would you be?
- How do you want people to talk about you at your funeral?
- Who do you admire most and would want to be exactly like (and why)?
- What do you not like to do? (Sometimes knowing what to stay away from is a good way to understand what you want to do.)
#4: The Full Exploration and Discovery Approach
If none of those approaches work, give yourself the freedom, flexibility, and permission to not know yet. Focus less on yourself and more on what the world has to offer.
Approach each day with intention and a purpose to take risks, experiment, and enjoy the process of discovering your future. Expose yourself to as much as possible. Move forward as an innovative, discovery, and creative process to understand your destination at a later time.
Unlike the career approach, this is the full exploration of everything in your life. Take the trips you want to take and meet the people you want to meet. Just make sure you take care of your basic financial and other needs as well.
Use All the Available Resources, But Trust Yourself
Trusted external sources can also be tremendously helpful in your life planning process. The more questions you ask and the more people you talk to, the more you learn and get exposed to. You never know what one conversation or idea will spark an interest.
You can get help from your parents, teachers, mentors, bosses, coaches, and peers. But make sure you understand why they’re giving you the advice they’re giving.
Your parents might tell you to be an investment banker, a doctor, or an expert in data analytics. Ask yourself if they’re really telling you to be those things specifically, or are they actually saying they want you to have a job that is in high-demand, has room for growth, and provides you with enough money to be safe, healthy, and happy?
Use all of your available resources, because you never know when someone will provide a particularly impactful thought. But trust yourself. Remember: this is your future. To get the success you want, you must first choose the right destination for you.
For more advice on standing out and achieving success, you can find The Standout Experience on Amazon.
John Walsh is an inspirational and successful executive, entrepreneur, author, husband and dad with a passion for impacting the lives of others. John faced many challenges, uncertainty and failures early in his life but he created a purposeful and happy life with a lot of hard work and help from others. Over time, he created a playbook that allowed him to make the journey from homeless in high school to a senior executive with Disney and Madison Square Garden. He is also the founder and CEO of a company whose mission is to inspire and help millions of young adults stand out in their own lives and careers.