There are two essential questions that every responsible adult must answer. The first is, "What do I want for my life?" And the second is, "How will I get it?"
Failure to decide what you want and how you'll get it leads to a life of restless frustration. Sometimes, it's a sense of having "missed the boat" or "not knowing." For others, it can be a painful sense that "this is not the life I imagined for myself." Some people struggle with depression because they've never figured out what they want or an effective strategy for getting it.
My hope is that this describes very few of you, because you are a person who takes responsibility for your personal development, or you wouldn't be reading this! But it is good to remember the basics. We all become distracted, confused or "lose ourselves" (an awful thing!) in the busy-ness of daily life.
So, What do you want? And, what is your plan for getting it? These questions, and your thoughtful answers, have never been more urgent. Or more personal.
Let's begin with a brief excursion down Memory Lane, way back to America in the 1950's and early 60's. We had problems, but it was a Golden Age. The economy was booming. The GI Bill gave more people access to education, housing, and affluence than ever before. Everybody had a car, a television, and many had air conditioning for the first time. General Motors encouraged us to "See the USA in your Chevrolet." In the 1950's, everyone "Liked Ike." In the 1960's, John Glenn was our hero. And everyone had an opinion about the Beatles.
Millions of Americans defined their lives by the television shows we watched. "Ozzie and Harriet" and "Father Knows Best," the antics of Beaver Cleaver, the impossible heroics of Lassie and the slapstick of Lucy were shared experiences that told us who we were as a nation, and as individuals.
Obviously, I'm generalizing and ignoring problems that lay just below the surface, problems that led to upheaval a few years later. But I hope you get my point.
Millions of Americans knew what they wanted by looking at "Life" magazine or the "Saturday Evening Post," with its Norman Rockwell covers. And the way to get what you wanted was to get an education, get a job, work hard and not rock the boat. Easy as that!
But nowadays, that world is long gone. Millennials have no idea what I'm talking about, while many people of color and those with a slightly different point of view spent that "Golden Age" as outsiders looking in.
Today, in a sense, we are all outsiders. True, we have more opportunities and wider choices, but we must also define ourselves by ourselves and for ourselves. The old assumptions and unifying values are gone forever.
So, What do you want for your life? What are your values and priorities? What will you spend the next few years of your life working to obtain, learn, or experience? As a unique individual with a myriad of options, where are you going in life?
And, how will you get there?
In the 1950's, climbing the ladder of affluence was a virtually universal goal. Once, continuous personal development through books, audio programs and seminars was a shared, life-long aspiration of millions. Marriage, kids, a career and a home in the suburbs was the universal "American Dream."
These things remain part of the vision for many people. But the definition of "success" and the opportunities to live our life any way we desire are more varied and individualistic.
What do you want for the next 5 years? What are your aspirations and imaginations? What are your goals and dreams for the life you want a few years from now? What will bring you joy and abundance, fulfillment and success?