I did that yesterday. In deciding whether you want to do that, it might be helpful if I shared what I learned from doing it:
- I'm getting a little tired of trying to make a difference. I think back especially on the work I've done with the "at-risk," and the money I've donated to charity, and while perhaps I made a difference, it feels too insignificant or impalpable for altruism to motivate me as much in the future. Similarly, I've made efforts to further unpopular causes I believe in: men's and boy's issues, that higher education is overrated, and a truly honest conversation about race. All I've derived has been opprobrium.
The insignificance of my altruistic efforts is amplified when I remind myself that in 2011, I will be but one of seven billion people on the planet, our lifetime is but a blink in time's procession from the Big Bang to the infinite future, and Earth is but one planet in a universe of infinite size and thus likely containing other civilized planets.
When I've written such thoughts in the past, readers responded by encouraging me to believe in God but I cannot believe in a God who would not stop billions of people, including infants, from dying of excruciating diseases.
So in the future, in deciding whether to take on an altruistic task, I may give greater weight to how pleasant the task will be. For example, I enjoy writing, and coaching smart, kind, willing learners on things practical: for example, career, interpersonal communication, public speaking, investments, parenting, romantic relationships, acting, and getting a good deal on purchases.
- I'm tired of trying to fit in. I am a misfit: too intense, too goal-oriented rather than relationship-oriented, and I too often anger people. Except for brief, kind conversations--especially those in which I can solve someone's problem--I'm probably best off doing solo activities: writing, talking on the radio, and taking walks with my dog Einstein. (His name is false advertising: He's dumb as dirt but as sweet as they come.) UPDATE: A day after writing this, I'm finding myself wanting to reach out to people. Hmm. The results of doing the long-term vision exercise may not be so obvious nor so immediate.
- If I get too old to live in my own home even with an in-home caretaker (hopefully that won't be for another two or even three decades,) I won't insist on living there until I die. I'll gratefully move to a modest but humane assisted-living facility and, if necessary, a nursing home.
1. I wrote a description of my present life: career, relationships, money, health, and spirituality (secular humanism.)
2. In each of those areas, I asked myself what I'd like to be different 20 years from now. I wrote quite-feasible-to-achieve goals but you may wish to aim for loftier ones. Many people are more motivated by ambitious goals and enjoy the process of trying to achieve those goals, even if they never get accomplished.
3. I asked myself, "What do I want to do differently today in light of my long-term vision? The answers are the first two bulleted items above.
Note: I wrote my statement of present life and vision for the future quite quickly, then went back to edit it. Then I put it aside for a couple of hours and re-edited.
If you write your long-term vision, feel free, on this blog, to post a comment describing what you learned from the exercise.