In Praise of Long-Term and Short-Term Pursuits


I have been thinking about this for a while, so I decided it was time to share my reflections on pursuing both short-term and long-term goals. For years, I read the Runner’s World blogs (oh, how I miss those weekly essays) of one of my favorite writers, Kristin Armstrong, and for a while she was also releasing a book a year. I remember wondering, and even analyzing what that might look like: managing both short and long-term projects as a writer.

I remember the shocking part of college, needing to manage the long-term semester projects. I was usually pretty good with the short-term projects: studying for a weekly quiz, turning in weekly lab reports, turning in shorter papers. It was studying for those semester-long finals and turning in those longer papers that weren’t due until the end of a semester that confounded me. This was what I was warned about. In high school, at least when I attended, there were daily homework assignments that could keep you on track. In college, no one was checking in on the progress of the long-term assignments, and that was part of the point, and part of the assignment. It was about learning how to manage your time, effort, and studying over both the long-term and short-term.

In my second job after college, I had a huge utter fail in my first long-term work project. I didn’t get the project done by the deadline, and I not only did I fail in the execution, but I also failed in sharing with my boss and the team the progress, or lack thereof.

That big fail was a huge life lesson and has helped me ever since. The big thing I realized, which seems sort of obvious now, is that a big project needs to be broken down into smaller parts, smaller tasks. When I ran my first (and still, only) marathon, I had to break it down into smaller parts: training and being able to run a mile, running a 5K race, and then training for a half marathon, and then finally looking up to the longer distance.

Sure, you might have long-term and short-term work projects, and finding that balance can be tricky. I think that’s why the saying, “If it weren’t for deadlines, nothing would get done,” always seems to apply. I have never been a freelancer, so I haven’t had to manage long-term and short-term projects in an ongoing way. I am in a transition period, both in my work life and personal life, so I have been considering this more and more. However, I think having ongoing short-term and long-term pursuits, is a wonderful thing, for your mind, for your effort, for your interest, for your mental and spiritual health, for fun, for living. Regardless of your work life, do you have personal passions that include both long-term and long-term goals?

Right now, most of my short-term and long-term pursuits are in the hobby/sideline/amateur line of things. There is something to having a short-term goal and a long-term goal, and working on both. It could be that your short-term goal is a step within your long-term goal, or something else entirely. I find that it keeps my mind and spirit fresh. I love the victory of achieving a small goal, and the time and attention that a long-term project takes.

A short-term goal can keep you in the moment, in the now. A long-term project can be big and challenging and scary. It’s nice to have a choice for things to work on, part of a short-term thing or a long-term thing. For me, it’s all about keeping a balance and enjoying the dive into what feels like the unknown. The completion of a goal can help me with a feeling of accomplishment, and also the joys of just working and pursuing in the moment. The completion of a long-term goal is another kind of joy. It’s a testament to perseverance, to keeping going, to rugged determination.

Right now, I have some short-term and long-term writing projects in the works. I also am pursuing some quilting, running, photography, and educational goals, all of which have both short-term and long-term components. I think it’s a wonderful thing to consider those short and long goals, even when they are for your amateur (as in not professional) and personal passions. Right now this is what gives me a mission, after months of feeling listless and directionless. It’s helping to get me back on track, to even find a track.

I wrote once, on this blog about how having something to look forward to, like a trip, can keep us engaged. I realize, though, it doesn’t have to involve a trip, or a job. Short and long goals, of the personal kind, can keep us going, can keep us excited. If you’re feeling stuck in a rut, see if some short and long directions might give you a way out, a way in. If you can find something to do, that is outside of work and family obligations, I think it can be the thing that keeps you going. Indeed, it has been mine.

These might be the things that get you out of bed early in the morning, because that’s the time you have before work and family duties kick in. Sit down and think about the things you want to do, and to complete. Put your dreams into a timeline, with both your short-term and long-term passions paving the way. It might make all the difference, to you, and maybe to the world.

One comment

  1. When engaging in a long term endeavor, we must break it down into smaller components to be successful. When writing a term paper in high school or college, we must break our thesis down into smaller topics that are to be analyzed. When running a marathon(I have successfully run three of them), we must psychologically break the 26 miles down into smaller distances. Hence, in the long run, we will have produced a well written paper with an “A” grade. Also, we will have successfully run a marathon in a very efficient time.

    A well written essay.

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