A few months ago we took my two-year old daughter to the Blue Angels Air Show. She loves planes and so we thought that she would be particularly impressed by the fast, loud, colorful ones doing aerobatics. To our surprise, she was much more taken with the long line of yellow school buses that had assembled to ferry spectators to and from the event. She wasn’t particularly keen on becoming a pilot, but in the weeks since the Air Show, has repeatedly expressed her desire to become a bus driver. She started me thinking—what do I want to be when I grow up? Now that I am (almost) 40…is there any point in still having long-term career goals?
I thought back to my teens—I was incredibly determined to join the Air Force and become one of the first female aircrew. In my early 20s I was aiming to get my Masters Degree in International Relations and thought that one day I might become a Foreign Diplomat. By my early 30s, the pace had slowed—I had discovered a career field I loved, and liked the idea of opening a small business in it. In my late 30s—I’ll be honest…sometimes it feels like my only goal is to get through the day!
So what is it about us that makes it so easy to set long-term goals when we are younger? Should I envy my 2 year old her uninhibited career dreams, and chuckle at the presumptive ambition of my 20-year old self…or should I step back and use those examples to help motivate myself to revisit and reset my goals?
Studies repeatedly show that by setting goals, we actually help improve our performance. By analyzing our intermediate and long-term career goals, we can make better-informed decisions about our current circumstances. It is difficult to evaluate which company you would prefer to work for, where you wish to volunteer, what subjects to take in your educational courses or whether your career path can withstand a sabbatical break, if you have not first considered where you actually want to be in the long-term.
So I have decided that I need to revisit my goals. I have no idea where in the world we will be living in 10 years time, but I need to have a think about what type of position I would like to be employed in by then, so that I have something to aim for. I am quite sure I will never be a Foreign Diplomat, and I probably won’t own my own business either….but if I had never had those goals…I wouldn’t have learned what I know now on the path toward them. If we are striving toward something…we have a direction…we gain energy…and we find persistence. I may not end up exactly where I expect, but that is better than having no idea where I am going.