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Long-term goal = no short-term solution

June 12, 2013

Lately I’ve been very stressed. Major life changes ahead, plus some major hurdles at work. Lamenting that I wouldn’t find resolution on any of these worries in the immediate term, I realized that I was not used to dealing with this kind of worry.

Formative years involve segmenting your life into short-term goals. Kindergarten, elementary school, highschool, college, postgraduate degree. Each of these steps lasts only 1-6 years. So until this past year, my entire life has been segmented into epochs of finite duration with a visible end goal. Projects, hurdles, complications - all of these would have a clear end date.

Suddenly, my life is no longer about getting from point A to point B. The home is on a mortgage that will take decades to pay off. The job is, for all intents and purposes, a life-long career. Marriage is a promise of lifetime committment. Even if you break down each component of work, each action is part of a career-long plan. Each little step not only affects your life for the next day, week, month, or year. Suddenly, life is working on paths with no end point. (Yes, death is the ultimate endpoint, but isn’t really a goal. So it doesn’t count. You can’t live your life planning on how to optimize your death.)

The irony is, I spent my career and life to date yearning for this kind of stability, of not having to make major life shifts in a finite period of time. Worry about something now? It won’t be an issue in a few months. But now that I’ve finally found stability, I find myself not entirely equiped to deal with long-term worries that have no expiration. It’s an entirely new skill I need to figure out.

How do you overcome worries if you don’t know when they will, if ever, end?