Each day we’re faced with a myriad of choices — from the routine to more weighty ones of finances and career. What we become over the years is a direct result of the decisions we’ve made. Choices, from the most commonplace to the tedious, are the building blocks that build and shape our lives. The purpose is not to get you to second guess every choice you make but to start looking at life from where you want to be in ten or even twenty years from now. What you do today, will result in what you will become in the future.
So, now what? What should be your first step? If you haven’t defined where you want to be, your circumstance will. You need to take the time to define it with as much detail as possible. The more definition, the clearer your path will be to get there. As you write out the definition of your “where” (really, I’m talking pen to paper), you need to be specific. This is a process, your first attempt will need to be refined over time and I recommend that you review it often and update it frequently. This will always be a work in progress.
Now you have a clearly defined “where.” The process continues with your focus on the immediate. What do you need to do, to get you where you’ve dreamt of being in the next 10 years?
Ask yourself, what am I doing currently that does not fit with where I want to be? At this point you need to be brutally honest with yourself. Create a list of the things that you are doing on a daily and weekly basis — what is taking up your time? Once you have your list of activities and tasks, compare it with those activities that will assist you on the path to your dream.
The choices we make accumulate over the span of our life to define who you are and what you have become. The result can be exceptional or it can be less than what you expected many years ago. The author and speaker, John Maxwell said: “Everything you now do is something you have chosen to do. Some people don’t want to believe that. However if you’re over age twenty-one, your life is what you’re making of it. To change your life, you need to change your priorities.”
You may have heard the story of a professor who walked into his class carrying a large empty glass jar and a rather large box. Without saying a word he placed them on his desk and started to pull large rocks out of the box and into the jar until the jar had all the large rocks that it could contain. He asked the class, “Is the jar full?” The class answered, “Yes.”
Then the professor started to take out a bag of pebbles and continued to pour them into the jar. Then picked up the jar and shook it. As he shook the jar, the contents and the pebbles found their way into the spaces between the large rocks. He asked the class again, “Is the jar full?” Again, the class answered, “Yes.”
The professor now continued to take out a bag of sand and started pouring it into the jar and then shook the jar, then poured more sand in the jar, repeating the process of shaking and pouring the fine sand into the jar. He held the jar up so the class could have a good look, then asked the class again, “Is the jar full?” Once again the class answered with a resounding “Yes!”
Now the professor grabbed a large bottle of water from the box and started pouring the water into the jar full of rocks, pebbles and sand until it overflowed. Again the professor asked the class again, “Is the jar full?” The class now wondering what the professor would pull out of the box, again answered questioning “Yes?”
Okay — Great story, right? But what does that have to do with choices and change?
The professor explained the illustration this way. The Jar is your life. The large rocks represent the important things in your life — your core values, your character, your spouse, your children and your family. Anything that is so important to you that if you lost it, you would nearly be destroyed. The pebbles represent less important things like your career, your education, etc. The sand and water is everything else — the material things, the small stuff, the less important things in your life. If you fill your life with the pebbles, sand, and water, there is no room for the things that really matter.
“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; You will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you” – James Allen
What if you had kept a journal of your “Daily Task List” for the last five years. How would that look? It would reveal the summation of those activities that got you where you are now.
You will need to change your thoughts and actions — your task list would have to look somewhat different than it does now. If you want to change the direction of your life, you’ll need to start making different choices today! Ask yourself this question… If we were meeting three years from today, what changes would have happened, personally and professionally, for you to feel satisfied with your progress when we meet?
Start taking action today on those tasks that will contribute to your dream life and ultimately, the path you want to travel.
Remember, making the same choices today will not get you different results next week!