Plan your endings.
I woke up, feeling uncertain about the direction of my life. My to-list was very full: write a blog post, work on framing the back wall of my house my house, clean out my kitchen cabinets, read stories with my kids, talk with my husband, finish reading about econometrics, etc. I don’t have a career, but I have wanted a sort of clarity: should I focus on writing or economics or renovation or blogging or something else?
My main priority is to take care of my kids and my family, but then what do I do with my time (especially now that I actually have time without my kids)? How do I contribute to my community and the world?
As I thought over all the things I wanted to do, I realized that everything that I was thinking about was a project that would someday end.
I need to plan for those endings.
Looking back on my life, I am very satisfied with the projects that I started and finished, such as writing novels, , web design, or learning the piano and organ–I don’t do those things very much anymore, and I don’t feel any pressure to do so. They had an ending.
I am studying economics right now, but I will finish my current degree in December. My home renovation will eventually be completed. I will finish the book I am writing.
Instead of saying generalizations that I want to write or study or renovate, I feel a lot happier when I make it a more specific project with an ending: I am going to work on writing this specific book. I am going to renovate this house. I am going to get a degree.
Goals are so much more motivating when they have an ending to them.
Even when we think about long-term projects, like being in a career for years and years, eventually all of it will end.
Our biggest accomplishments and the things that we are most satisfied with eventually end, and that ending is the frosting on the cake and the wrapping on the present that made everything worth it.
Because who we are is not what we do. I get so discouraged when I think about what I want to be when I grow up. So I change the question. I actually asked my son the other day, “What is one thing you want to do when you grow up?” He said he wanted to be a fireman. And that seemed like a good answer–he could be a volunteer firefighter, or work seasonally on wildfires–and it would end, and he would go and do something else.
Make Exit Plans
If you start a business, plan for the end. What happens at the end of it? Do you hope to sell it, for example? Pass it down in the family? Or maybe you realize it’s a temporary solution and eventually you’ll just have to close up shop and move on.
If you start a career, make an exit plan. When do you want to retire? What promotions or other job opportunities interest you? Is there any more education could you get? What other jobs are interesting to you?
What is your exit plan for vacations, hobbies, where you live, temporary relationships, leisure? When do you want it to end and how do you want it end?
What do you want the ending of your entire life to look like?
I don’t want to do one thing in life. I like doing lots and lots of things, and that’s okay. There are times when I will focus on just one thing for a time, and then it will end, and I can move to something else. I don’t have to live my entire life all at once. My identity does not need to be permanently categorizable.
What is the best work I can do in this temporary season of life–and where does it end?