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Putting Your Future on Hold

Putting Your Future on Hold

It’s taken you ten minutes to navigate through the automated customer service system. Ten minutes in which you’ve hung up and re-dialed twice. But now you’ve cracked the code and a real person has answered.

“Thank God,” you say. “Look, this is my problem.” And you start to explain.

“Hmmm,” the voice says. “I see. Let me just check something. Putting you on hold.” And before you can speak, they’re gone.

Dah-de-dum. Dum-diddle-diddle-dee. It’s the tinny music. Then the pre-recorded voice.

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“Thank you for your patience. We have installed a new, automated customer service system to serve you better. There are…forty-six…people ahead of you in the queue. Please do not hang up.”

And you don’t, because by the time you dial again, they will probably have fixed the chink in their armor that allowed you to reach a real person, and you’ll be reduced to listening to the menu options that have always changed…and the tinny music.


Yet, as much as we are infuriated by such systems, people put their own futures on hold all the time. How to they do it? By setting conditions that have to be met before they can move on. How do you know? Conditional clauses beginning with “if” or “when.” Listen, they’re everywhere:

If only I could get a better-paying job, I could save enough to go back to school and improve my qualifications.

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When I’ve paid off the loan on my car, I’ll see about looking for a better job.

If I didn’t have so much to worry about, I could spend some time sorting out my life.

If I had a more understanding boss, I’d be able to tell someone how frustrated I am.

Many of these conditional statements are circular. You need better qualification to get a job that pays more…but you decide you can’t think about going back to school until you have a better paying job. You need to get your priorities in order to lower your anxiety…but you can’t spend time sorting your life out, because you’re too worried. Other conditionals put your future in someone else’s hands:

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If my boss would only realize she’s got me all wrong, I could show her how good I really am.

When business is better, I’ll ask about a raise.

When things calm down, I’ll take a vacation. Only I can’t leave it all to the others to handle right now.

You’re on hold, waiting until the condition is met. How long will that be? Who knows? Until then, you can’t do anything. Or so you tell yourself.

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How many of these conditionals are real? Do you truly have to wait on them being met? Be honest with yourself. How many are excuses? Excuses for taking no action because you neither believe in the objective, nor yourself. Only it’s easier to set a condition and claim to be trying — really trying — to do what’s needed. “Only, you see, it’s like this. When…” That’s when you’ll do it. Then. When Hell freezes over and the tax authorities hand out free money in the streets.

If your life is on hold, ask yourself who put it there. Why are you listening to the canned Mozart? Why aren’t you doing something, anything, to turn those fancy dreams of yours into reality? Are you truly stuck…or are you afraid to try?

Dum-da-da-dee-dum. Diddle-diddle-dee-dum. “Thank you for your patience. Your entire future life is on hold right now. There are…two thousand, six hundred and…ninety-six…persons ahead of you in the queue. Waiting time is estimated at…nineteen point…oh-six…years. Thank you again for your patience. Have a great day…” Click. BRRRRRRRRRR.

Adrian Savage is an Englishman and a retired business executive who lives in Tucson, Arizona. You can read his thoughts most days at Slow Leadership, the site for anyone who wants to bring back the taste, zest and satisfaction to leadership, and The Coyote Within.

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them

How to Plan Your Life Goals and Actually Achieve Them

Where do you want to be 5 years from now, 10 years from now, or even this time next year? These places are your goal destinations and although you might know that you don’t want to be standing still in the same place as you are now, it’s not always easy to identify what your real goals are.

Many people think that setting a goal destination is having a dream that is there in the far distant future but will never be attained. This proves to be a self-fulfilling prophesy because of two things:

Firstly, that the goal isn’t specifically defined enough in the first place; and secondly, it remains a remote dream waiting for action which is never taken.

Defining your goal destination is something that you need to take some time to think carefully about. The following steps on how to plan your life goals should get you started on a journey to your destination.

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1. Make a List of Your Goal Destinations

Goal destinations are the things that are important to you. Another word for them would be ambitions, but ambitions sound like something which outside of your grasp, whereas goal destinations are certainly achievable if you are willing to put in the effort working towards them.

So what do you really want to do with your life? What are the main things that you would like to accomplish with your life? What is it that you would really regret not doing if you suddenly found you had a limited amount of time left on the earth?

Each of these things is a goal. Define each goal destination in one sentence.

If any of these goals is a stepping stone to another one of the goals, take it off this list as it isn’t a goal destination.

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2. Think About the Time Frame to Have the Goal Accomplished

This is where the 5 year, 10 year, next year plan comes into it.

Learn the differences between a short term goal and a long term goal. Some goals will have a “shelf life” because of age, health, finance, etc, whereas others will be up to you as to when you would like to achieve them by.

3. Write Down Your Goals Clearly

Write each goal destination at the top of a new piece of paper.

For each goal, write down what is it that you need and don’t have now that will allow you achieve that goal. This could be some kind of education, career change, finance, a new skill, etc. Any “stepping stone” goals you removed will fit into this exercise. If any of these smaller “goals” have sub-goals, go through the same process with these so that you have precise action points to work with.

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4. Write Down What You Need to Do for Each Goal

Under each item listed, write down the things that you will need to do in order to complete each of the steps required to complete the goal. 

These items will become a check-list. They are a tangible way of checking how you are progressing towards reaching your goal destinations. A record of your success!

5. Write Down Your Timeframe With Specific and Realistic Dates

Using the time frames you created, on each goal destination sheet write down the year in which you will complete the goal by.

For any goal which has no fixed completion date, think about when you would like to have accomplished it by and use that as your destination date.

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Work within the time frames for each goal destination, make a note of realistic dates by which you will complete each of the small steps.

6. Schedule Your To-Dos

Now take an overview of all your goal destinations and make a schedule of what you need to do this week, this month, this year – in order to progress along the road towards your goal destinations.

Write these action points on a schedule, you have definite dates on which to do things.

7. Review Your Progress

At the end of the year, review what you have done this year, mark things off the check-lists for each goal destination and write up the schedule with the action points you need for the next year.

Although it may take you several years to, for example, get the promotion you desire because you first need to get the MBA which means getting a job with more money to allow you to finance a part-time degree course, you will ultimately be successful in achieving your goal destination because you have planned out not only what you want, but how to get it, and have been pro-active towards achieving it.

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Featured photo credit: Debby Hudson via unsplash.com

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