“… for now.” -James Roche
Those two little words stopped me in my tracks. They represented an idea that was just foreign enough, presented at just the right time, to have a huge impact. Ultimately, those simple words were a catalyst for personal growth, affecting the way I look at commitment, goals, and fomenting change in my approach to life.
Let’s start with a little story. It’s March of last year and I was sitting in the lobby of the Westin LAX Airport Hotel, having a bite to eat, writing, and simply getting out of the room for a bit. Crista was in full day sessions for her Elevate program meaning a free day for me to reflect and relax. As I was working, I looked up and saw James Roche, one of the Elevate program leaders, walking past during a break from leading the day’s sessions. He had a few minutes and we chatted a bit and caught up.
Let’s go back a bit further to 2012. When Crista first joined the program, she had an in-depth mastermind group lead by James. We spent a few weekends together over the course of the year and got to know James fairly well. During that time he shared some of his own personal life changes as he and his wife were planning their move from Miami to Los Angeles and had nascent plans to spend a couple months that following summer living and working in Europe.
Come back to last March and I’m catching up with James in the Westin lobby, asking about those travels that had just been forming the last time we spoke. He enthusiastically updated me on the plans, which had evolved from rough thoughts to fully formed. These included an airBNB rental for two months reserved in Amsterdam, multiple long weekend travels planned, and practical testing of updated systems and schedules to keep him effectively running his strategic coaching business during the entire time.
After a few minutes of chatting, I commented, “Well, that sounds great, you’ve got everything all set up and you’re ready to go.” His response, however, stopped me in my tracks.
“Yep, that is the plan for now.” [Emphasis mine.]
“For now?” I asked, taken aback.
“Well, yes,” he replied. “That is the plan for now. We’re looking forward to it, but something could always come along and change it.”
Those two little words, and the explanation behind it, caught me off guard and made me think. You see, I am a planner, and my analytical side wants to study every aspect of a decision. When I have done so and I know something is the best choice based on every question and answer being known, then the decision is easy. I can be slow to commit and when I do I am so loathe to change it that doing so doesn’t even always consciously appear as an option.
In my mind, it wouldn’t have been just a big deal to have made a statement about change being possible so casually. It wouldn’t have been just a big deal to have carefully considered if making a change to such a large commitment was appropriate based on new data. Rather, the concept of being able to make that change at all may simply have never consciously occurred to me. And if the change had to happen, by the time all of the facts and reality became apparent enough to sucker punch me with its obviousness, it would have caused me massive amounts of stress and further lengthened any decision making process.
Yet here was someone whom I admired and respected so casually discussing how his significant, year-long plans were seemingly so casually dismissed should another business opportunity or a life event occur. Of course such a decision would never have been made casually, but in contrast to what I might have gone through to make the same decision? Casual is probably an understatement.
Now the thought was there and now planted in my brain. For the next few weeks and more I reflected on the idea, turned it over in my head, and tried to think about the ramifications of such a different perspective.
Around the same time, Crista and I had been casually mentioning to each other about perhaps moving to California at “some point” in the future. I realized that “some point” was just a vagary to me, not real in any meaningful way. In the past, the alternative to this would have involved many discussions and lots of research to truly consider if we might actually think about making a move. Identifying every question and finding every answer. At that point, this would feel like an unbreakable commitment to move; a goal that was set and could not budge. And without doing all of that work, there was a gap there between casually thinking about it and mentally making a firm commitment to a goal.
Similarly, for some time I had been ruminating on my future at UConn. In my time there I had been promoted to Director, had a great team, a decent but reliable salary, and a level of comfort and stability resulting in very little concern that anything would rock my boat. On the other hand, I had run out of headroom to grow both professionally and personally and, more importantly, was starting to feel more sure that I wasn’t walking down a career path that made me excited and passionate. However, without knowing what else might be an option, what would be the optimal, best, certain future, and being unwilling or unable to do something else for now, there was another gap.
For Now, and what it embodied, became the focus of reflection and plenty of notebook scribbling. It also was the topic of a number of long discussions with Crista, through which we realized we both thought as differently about that mindset as I had from James.
One way to look at “For Now” is like an Agile way of living life. We have the large scale goals, lots of ideas, maybe even weekly scrums with our partner to work on the next sprint! But we are okay with the pivot, we are okay with not knowing precisely what we’ll be doing tactically in one year because we accept not knowing all of the answers and recognize we don’t even know all of the questions. It is knowing your strategic direction and the core Why and accepting the ambiguity of blazing new trails.
Ask me today and I’ll tell you this. Crista and I are moving to California in two to three years. We’re looking at various parts of the state, primarily around Los Angeles, and are learning more about what it will take to move and live there. And we’re getting excited about it. We don’t have all the details yet but it is a goal to work towards for now.
As for my job and career, I resigned from UConn in January. I’ve recognized I am most passionate about creativity and innovation, and using technology and communication to build exciting new things. I will find and make opportunities to fulfill that passion as best I can rather than just getting another job. For now, I’m taking some time to recover a bit from burnout and putting more energy into getting Nearly Naked running and growing. I’m travelling a bit with a focus on photography and thinking on ways to make that more self-sustaining. And I’m involved with launching a very early stage medical startup which has some exciting potential to make a real impact.
These goals can change. And they will. I’ll make mistakes, learn new questions, refine old answers, and change direction if appropriate. And enjoy the journey.
What are your goals? What are you doing to take those first steps on your for now?