Being in charge means living the life you want, but you’re not going to get what you want until you figure out what that is. I know, right: “Thanks Captain Obvious.” But these are big, serious questions. And that’s why I like to break them down into the basic components, or what I call the Three F’s: Finance, Fun and Family. We’ll take a look at each of these categories and make a plan for setting goals so you can maximize what you want from all three—and live the life you imagine.
You might think you know what you want, but here’s a little exercise to see if you really do. See if you can answer these big-picture questions confidently:
- What do you hope to get out of your career? What’s more important: the money or the work you do?
- If you’re at the beginning of your career now, or even well on your way, what does your job look like in five years? In ten years?
- Do you see yourself settling in one spot and buying your own home someday, or do you imagine a globe-trotting life of travel and adventure?
- What do you like to do in your off hours? Alpine skiing every winter, karaoke with friends on Friday nights, or does a monthly book club float your boat?
- Do you see yourself being married? Having kids?
Can you answer these questions honestly and in “elevator pitch” style—i.e., simply and concisely, in the time it takes to get from the lobby to the tenth floor? I couldn’t for the longest time. I thought I was a confident woman, but the questions made me wonder: do I really know what I want? And when I want it?
I suggest you sit down with a notebook or a diary with a colored pencil, or start a spreadsheet on your computer—whatever you’re most comfortable with—and write down your goals, divided up into increments of one, three, five, seven and ten years. This allows you to make plans in easily digestible chunks so that you’re not overwhelmed by the five- or ten-year ginormous ones. It breaks those down into small milestones on the road to the biggies.
- Year 1: What is your career objective right now? Is there a particular job in a desired industry you currently have or hope to get?
- Years 3 and 5: Where do you want to be in your career in a few years? Is there a promotion or job switch in your sights?
- Years 7 and 10: What do you want your job to be a decade from now? Do you want to move up or sideways or do something else altogether?
Keep the notebook or document somewhere you can access it—your desk or home computer, for instance. You’ll want to go back to it from time to time, perhaps once a year, or even every six months, so you can check your progress against your goals. Are you getting to where you want to be in the time frame you hoped for? If not, it’s OK — just means time to readjust according to your new timeline. Deep breaths. When it comes to achieving your Three F’s, it’s a marathon, not a sprint.