Saturday, December 26, 2009

Having a Long-Term Vision

I invite you to take an hour to write a long-term vision: what you'd like your life to look like decades from now.

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.
Despite this narrative's soberness, if you'd like to know the procedure I used in writing my long-term vision, here it is:

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.


ST said...

Yes, goal versus relationship oriented. That rings true for me, too. I'll comment more if I write my vision.

Justin Wehr said...

Loved this post, Marty. So much so that I did the exercise myself.

I learned the following:

1. Do things that will increase my chances as a future entrepreneur. This might include befriending entrepreneurs; immersing myself in entrepreneurial culture; developing relationships that can lead to partnerships; leaning the practical trade of running a business (accounting, law, etc.); studying to a deeper extent what makes people tic and what works and what doesn't; keep my antenna up for opportunities.

2. Develop side projects through which I can supplement my income and gain valuable experience for entrepreneurial purposes.

3. Use church as an outlet through which to develop close relationships. Use the blog as a way to create new friendships.

Marty Nemko said...

Great, Justin!!!

kare anderson said...

One of my first mentors, Howard Raiffa, said something like this: It is more difficult to negotiate with a nice-acting person who does not know what they want than someone who acts like a jerk who does.

Your brief, intense, goal-oriented self sure came across as an extremely warm, quick-witted, to-the-point and highly curious interviewer when I was on your radio show and that was years ago.
That experience is a vivid memory.

That combo of qualities resulted in idea-packed insightful shows as I listened to many of them.

Your candor and self-awareness make time with you always helpful - and that is a great "relational" gift.

Marty Nemko said...

I appreciate that, Kare. Thanks.

Maureen said...

"We can do no great things. We can only do small things with great love." - Mother Theresa

It's like the starfish story -- it made a difference to *that* one.

I still say you have no idea what difference you're really making to people because they don't all come back and tell you about it. Don't underestimate the power of your smallest kindnesses. Something that's very easy for you to give might be huge to the receiver -- and they might pay it forward. See where I'm going with this?

Yes, changing the world's destructive ideologies is slow, but they can be changed. Don't give up. Just rest. Picking pleasant tasks is a good idea.

As for relationships vs. goals, be who you are. It will shake off the wrong people. I constantly get a hard time for putting ambition above relationships. BFD. Just deal, people.

Long-term visions are good. Mine is always front-and-center, to the point where I have to look beyond it to see my desk. My experience is that nearly everyone has long-term vision; they just don't know *what* to "do differently" to get closer.

You make your living telling people what they *can* "do differently" if they can't think of anything.

Thanks for that.

jemswillam's Blog said...

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Juliet Wehr Jones, J.D. said...

I really enjoyed your no-nonsense perspective. And particularly helpful was your suggestion about looking at what you can do "today" to implement the long term vision.

A small step is better than no step at all. Especially with long range planning can seem so overwhelming.

Business School Ahmedabad said...

Thanks Justin..I came yesterday and read you reply and now after experiencing it I have came here to thank you..Thank you very much..

mba in ahmedabad said...

Many people are more inspired by committed objectives and relish the procedure of trying to accomplish those objectives, even if they never get achieved.


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