What do you want to be when you grow up?

A question we’ve been asked all of of our lives but one that may actually be leading us all down a rabbit hole. I was the kid that had 5 answers in my head when someone would ask me this question.

In turns out, I wasn’t that far off. Most people will change careers 10-15 times throughout their lives. So when that teacher in grade school asked us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Should she really have said, “Name the top 5 careers you want to have”?

The problem is, I don’t believe we’ve actually been asking ourselves the right initial question and as a result, have forgotten about the necessary follow up questions. It’s great to think about what you want to be when you grow up, but the next question should then be, “how do I get there?” and that’s an overwhelming one. Where do I start? How long will it take? How much will it cost?  In order to really tackle these questions directly, we need to re-frame what we’re actually asking ourselves. Let’s start with…

What do I want to accomplish today?

Short-term goals are actually the starting point to achieving the right kind of success in our lives. For example, I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a writer. However, after graduating from University and moving out of my parents place, I also knew that I needed to pay the bills. So I got a job in the corporate world and told myself that I would still write the great American novel one day.

Here’s how, for years, this dream played out.

I’d go to my corporate job every day, meet up with friends after work, come home and think about writing. Then once or twice a week, my determination would kick in and I’d write a few pages of what I envisioned would be the first chapter of my novel. Then I’d go back to my corporate routine until my next burst of literary excitement. The result? Little to no progress and maximum levels of frustration.

As I approached my 30's with still no sign of writing that great American novel, I knew I needed to do something drastic about it. So I hired a life coach. He couldn’t have changed my life more. For all of the amazing pieces of guidance he gave me, one in particular, has stuck with me and allowed me to make true progress in my goals.

Focus on what you want you can get done today.

For instance, he had me writing 2-3 short articles per week, attending weekly writing meet-up groups, and reading one chapter of Writing Tools by Roy Peter Clark per day. Each of these things take up very little of my time on a daily basis but surprisingly, they’re having incredible long-term results. I’m slowly becoming a better writer and now I actually have material to build a portfolio or gain a following.

Here are a few reasons why short term goals can set you up for success more than long-term goals:

1. Short-term goals are realistic and achievable, allowing you to feel accomplished as you tick off that box off each day

2. Consistent commitment to short-term goals edges you closer to your long-term dream

And most importantly…

3. Feeling productive each day will give you purpose. Even if your long-term goal will take some time to achieve, your journey to get there will be purposeful as long as you are dedicating yourself to your short-term goals every day.

So where do you start? Firstly, determine what your long-term goal is. For example, do you want to get into a Master’s program? Law School? Start your own business? Make it big in the fashion world? Determine your long-term goal and write it down in big bold letters.

Next, figure out what you need to do to get there. Master’s program? E-mail the school and ask them to connect you with Alumni from the program so you can learn more. Find people on LinkedIn who have done the same program and go for a coffee with them. If you’re still interested, find out what the application process is and build out a plan that involves completing each step in the process within a week. This gives you a personal deadline for completing the application and daily achievable goals that will help you feel purposeful and productive each day.

Short-term goals take commitment and consistency, but if you continue to embed them into your daily schedule, you’ll see your long-term goals come to fruition much sooner than you anticipated.

So instead of asking yourself, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” ask yourself, “What do I want to get done today?” and start checking off those boxes!