6 weeks, 6 months

Set checkpoints for your life and career

When is the last time you stopped to reflect on whether or not your life was going in the direction you wanted? I’m not talking about sitting in a bar thinking about how you should really take guitar lessons or how you should update your resume, you know, just in case. I’m talking about taking the time to reassess all the simple choices we don’t make on a day-to-day basis because it’s easier to maintain the status quo than it is to throw everything away and change your life.

Early life comes with frequent stops & restarts where change is easier to stomach. Schools and extracurriculars begin and end, friends move in and out, and there are many life and family milestones that interrupt routine. Each interruption gives a reset point allowing for someone to change with less risk either because it is expected, encouraged, or it occurs over a large audience all at once. Leaving this structure can quickly lead to stagnation with years going by without progress. There may still be relationships, breakups, layoffs, leases ending, and other events that interrupt routine but even those disappear over time.

Eventually all that is left is New Year’s eve when everyone tolerates the played-out cliché of resolving to fail for another year.

An emotional decision is a decision made too late

No one starts a job in order to quit. If you get to the point where you feel like you need to leave it’s not that decision which was made too late, it was the decision to change the environment that was never made at all. Without regular interruptions we generally rely on an external catalyst to push us into an emotional decision. Whether or not those decisions are good or bad is irrelevant, but waiting on an external force wastes time. People rarely look back on life-changing decisions and think “wow I’m glad it took me so long to do that.”

If you choose to not rely on external pressure then you need to devise your own system. Mine is extremely simple and has given me surprisingly effective results over 11 years. The gist of it is…

Start with a simple question.

Are you satisfied with the direction your life is headed?

Yes? Mark an event on your calendar 6 months from now to ask this question again.

No? Mark your calendar 6 weeks from now and determine whether or not your opinion has changed or if you’ve impacted it in a positive direction.

You should always find something to improve and affect for each period but a shorter timeline should involve more dramatic changes in order to move the needle faster and a longer timeline allows you to commit and play things out without being disproportionately affected by the inevitable ups and downs life throws at you. It is important to stick to the timeline unless there is a compelling, unique reason not to. Obviously, if a once-in-a-lifetime opening shows up at your door then this cycle takes a back seat. This plan is meant to prevent stagnation not to limit opportunity.

If you have two or three “No” answers in a row then you need to make a bigger decision quickly; figure out a plan, give yourself a timeline (2 weeks is a good start), and make it your primary focus. Maybe it’s a proposal or a divorce. Maybe it’s quitting a job or changing major aspects of it. Maybe it’s just getting braces or signing up for Jiu Jitsu.

Whatever your choice is, it’s up to you. You will always wish you had made a decision earlier, so make sure you give yourself the chance.

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Jarrod Overson Written by:

Jarrod is a Director at Shape Security, speaker, O'Reilly author.