“Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.” ~Oprah Winfrey
I needed a bit of extra cash last month, so I took on a temporary events role working at a local design exhibition.
I’ve worked in events before, so I didn’t think much about it.
I just knew that I needed some money, I liked doing events, and a short contract had presented itself.
It seemed perfect!
So off I went to my first shift, feeling pretty good about myself and about life.
The first event was at a studio in a deserted industrial park. Even at 5:30pm, when it was still light, I felt uncomfortable walking the ten minutes from the bus stop.
When I got there, I quickly realized that the role wasn’t going to be as fun as I thought it would be: standing shivering outside in the cold, wearing an exhibition t-shirt, registering attendees, most of whom weren’t on the guest list but were expecting to be on the list.
So they got shirty.
And the line up grew longer.
So they got even more shirty.
Two hours later, and I was starting to wonder why I’d taken on the role. (And don’t get me wrong—I know there are worse jobs, and that I’d signed up for it myself. I’m not looking for pity.)
I started talking to the other girls who were working there. They were students, and it turns out they were a lot younger than me—nineteen and twenty-four. (I’m thirty-five.)
Now, I know that age doesn’t make a difference, and I’m generally pretty comfortable with my age. (Getting older is better than the alternative!) But in that moment, I felt pretty crappy.
So as I stood in the cold, with two girls ten to fifteen years younger than me, working for a near minimum wage job, I started to feel down.
I started feeling sorry for myself.
And at the end of the night, as I waited for the bus in the cold, dark bus depot, feeling pretty low, I texted a friend who I knew would understand.
My text read:
“What the hell am I doing?! I’m thirty-five years old, and I just worked a minimum wage job in a dodgy part of town, with a nineteen year old, and now I’m waiting for the hour-long bus journey to take me home.
My other friends are doctors or lawyers, own houses, and drive their (nice) cars to their places of work.
Ever feel like you’ve missed the boat somewhere?!”
My friend was sympathetic (she’s temping and traveling around Europe while most of her peers are buying houses, having kids, and generally “doing very well.”)
And then she said something that really stuck with me. Something that brought it all home:
She simply said:
“Think of your long-term vision.”
This is how she explained it to me:
“Yes, you’re doing a minimum wage role (temporarily). And yes, you’re working with people much younger than you. And taking the bus to work.
But you’re doing all this for a reason.
You’re doing this so you can set up your business. You’re doing this so you can create a new life for yourself—a life to really be proud of.
You’re doing this for the end goal.
So yes, it is sucky right now. But think of your long-term vision.”
I couldn’t have asked for a better reminder.
Because that was exactly it: I was working the job to earn extra money while I set up a business I’m passionate about.
I was temporarily in a murky patch so I could get to a better place in the future.
And I had forgotten my long-term vision. I had gotten caught up in the short-term
And this is so easy to do.
So I’d like to share my experience with you, to remind you of this powerful idea: Keep your long-term perspective in mind.
Don’t get caught up in what is happening now, only.
Think of the bigger picture: your big plans, your long-term goals.
If you’re setting up your business and feel like you’re not getting anywhere, think of the long-term vision.
You might not get anywhere in the first few months, but what about the next year or two? How far could you get if you kept going and putting in the effort?
If you’re working two jobs in order to go traveling after grad school, keep that vision in mind.
Think of setting off on that plane with your passport in hand, sipping an espresso in a village in Italy, or seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time.
Keep your long-term vision in mind.
If you’re writing a book and you’ve rewritten the first chapter ten times, think of your long-term vision: being an author.
Picture having your first book published and seeing it on sale in your local bookstore.
If you’re training for a half marathon and you busted your knee running, rest up, and think of your long-term goal: crossing that finish line.
Don’t worry about the things happening now. The crappy jobs you take… the revisions you’re making… the demo tapes you’re sending off with no replies… the manuscript rejections. These are all temporary.
But the long-term, if you keep taking action and putting one foot in front of the other, could be very different.
If you let it.
If you keep going.
If you keep your goal in mind, and keep it clear.
See, I had forgotten my reason for taking on this temporary events role.
It wasn’t to work in the cold while annoyed guests took their impatience out on me.
It was to earn money so I can keep working on my business.
To keep afloat while I follow my dream—my passion.
Something that makes me feel excited and proud and hopeful and exhilarated.
But, hang on, I know what you’re thinking:
Sounds easy, but how do you do it in practice?
How do you focus on the long-term, while you’re dealing with the difficulties of the short-term?
So here’s how I did it. I hope these points are helpful for you too:
1. Get clear on your goal, and display it somewhere prominent.
Post it on your wall. Set it as your phone backdrop. Make it your computer wallpaper.
Anything. Just make it visible. So you have a reminder, day in, day out, of what you’re working toward.
2. Know how your short-term plans are feeding into your long-term goal.
Get clear on how your actions are contributing to it.
E.g.: I am putting up posters in the rain at eight o’clock at night so that people know about my business and I can eventually help people with my successful and inspiring series of retreats.
I am taking the bus to this business event two hours from my hometown so I can meet people who might be able to help me get a job in my desired industry, or give me tips on how I can make it in this competitive market.
3. Team up with someone doing something similar.
Texting my friend was the best thing I could have done because she understood. She sympathized. I didn’t feel judged, or stupid.
So find someone in a similar situation to you. It doesn’t have to be in person—go online and seek out supportive websites, Facebook groups, whatever it is that helps you realize you’re not alone.
4. Know that everyone goes through this.
The people you see at the top of their game didn’t start there. They sweated, and toiled, and kept going when the end seemed unrealistic, or even impossible at times.
No one promised them they would get to the top. So they used their belief to keep them going.
Think of anyone you admire, in any field…
Did they work hard to get there, or did they have it handed to them magically on a plate? Did they take time to get to where they are now, or did it happen overnight?
5. Appreciate where you are now.
See the positives as well as the negatives. Your blog only has four readers? Great—think of all the mistakes you can make without anyone knowing or making harsh comments!
Working a boring job while you pay your way through school? Then sign up with a friend, and make it fun!
Because—without sounding negative—you will still have issues and problems when you get to where you want to be. They’ll just be different problems and issues. So enjoy the problems you have now.
I might have moaned about my long bus journey home at night, but if I’m traveling for business in the future, there could still be times where my flight is delayed and I’m hailing a cab in the pouring rain at one in the morning.
Appreciate where you are on your journey—it is all important.
So there we go. Five ways to keep going when your short-term reality doesn’t match your long-term vision.
Because we all have to do things we don’t necessarily want to do to get to where we truly want to be.
Most people don’t want to put themselves through this.
They don’t want to go through the tough times, the yucky stuff, to emerge out the other side, stronger and clearer on where they’re headed.
It’s easier to stay in the easy, safe zone.
Do the things you gotta do to get to where you want to be.
Because we only have this one life. So why not live it pursuing the things you love—your big goals and dreams?
Why not go after those dreams and adventures rather than moaning that nothing good ever comes your way? (Hint: it’s because you have to go out and get it.)
And now, over to you:
What are you working on now to fulfill your long-term vision?
What are you going through now, in order to create a brighter future for yourself?
What have you learned along the way?
Let me know in the comments. I’d love to hear!
About Claire O'Connor
Claire O’Connor works with people who struggle to get things done. They desperately want to make progress on their side-hustle, project, or business, but keep getting stuck. Through her accountability program, she helps them turn their feelings of overwhelm into progress and moving forward. Check out her blog at The Five Percent.