My current non-fiction reading is Madeleine Dore’s I Didn’t Do the Thing Today (affiliate link). Last week I read the chapter on ambition and came across a reference to Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech for the University of the Arts. In it he talks about using a mountain as the metaphor for his career goal:
Something that worked for me was imagining that where I wanted to be — an author, primarily of fiction, making good books, making good comics and supporting myself through my words — was a mountain. A distant mountain. My goal. And I knew that as long as I kept walking towards the mountain, I would be all right. And when I truly was not sure what to do, I could stop, and think about whether it was taking me towards or away from the mountain.
What I like about this is the idea of having something to symbolise your long-term goal to make it feel more real. Then using that image as a way to guide your decisions and check whether your day-to-day actions are taking you in the right direction
I’ve been doing a lot of work around goal setting recently, both for myself and clients. More and more my thinking is returning to this idea of goals being a marker for our direction of travel. How we keep the top of the mountain in sight is a question I frequently return to and it was the subject of discussion at May’s plan with me session.
Personally, I’ve been adapting my weekly planning to include a reference to my goals. When I add a new task to my backlog I tag it with a keyword relating to one of my quarterly goals. This helps me to prioritise tasks and also know that the things I’m working on day-to-day are helping to move me towards the top of the mountain (to use Gaiman’s metaphor).
My own metaphor isn’t a mountain, however, it’s a yellow brick road. My long term goal is at the end of this road that I’m building brick by brick. It’s my path to create as I want, not following anyone else’s plans or pattern. Along the way are milestones that represent my short term goals that will help me get to the final destination… and when I get there, perhaps I’ll set my sights further into the distance and keep on building that road.
What metaphor do you / could you use for your long-term goals?