I have a confession to make. I haven’t always been a big picture thinker. I wasn’t always proactive. I haven’t always had aspirations to change the world.

Rewind 7 years, and I was just another dumb kid coasting along in life. I had no long-term plan in mind, no money, and all I thought about was how long I was going to be able to play video games that day.

In high school I did well enough. I operated with the thought that I would go through college, get a good job, and live a nice comfortable lifestyle, but I had no idea what it was going to be like.

I went through college with the same mindset, thinking my degree was going to get me all I needed to life the life of my dreams. I wasn’t much of a go-getter.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was lost, and I was spiraling towards a life of insignificance.

Self Exploration Isn’t for the Birds

But then something amazing happened. One day something clicked for me. I remember it vividly, because it was the point in time that caused a fundamental shift in the way I live my life.

It was actually an assignment I was given in one of my classes. A career planning class of all things.

We were to keep a journal of what we did each hour throughout the day for an entire week, and then share it with the class.

Admittedly, I thought it was pretty dumb at the time. The whole class was full of all kinds of assessments and self-exploration that I thought was for the birds, but little did I know this tiny week long chronicle would change the way I thought forever.

In retrospect, it was the catalyst to the best mindset shift that ever happened to me to that point in my life, maybe even to this day.

Learning The Value of My Time

My professor opened the assignment by saying, “Who likes to waste time?”

Of course no one raised their hand. But I was actually sitting there thinking, “Hm, I actually waste a lot of time. Maybe I should raise my hand?”

I didn’t, but I probably should have given my daily activities.

Because the assignment was part of our grade for the semester, and because I’m a very honest person, I completed it with 100% accuracy.

I found myself writing things like:

  • Played video games
  • Slept-in
  • Watched TV
  • Went to a party
  • Hung out with friends
  • Played golf (I still do this)
  • Went out to eat

All typical college stuff really, but my college career was winding down at the time. I needed to be thinking about the future.

There wasn’t a thing on my weekly chronicle that was constructive towards a future career outside of going to class – and that’s when it hit me.

The Epic Mindset Shift

That’s what this assignment was for. It was to teach us the value of our time and to provide us an inventory of how we were bettering ourselves, or at least that’s what it was meant to be for me.

And boy did it ever work.

When I turned in my assignment, my professor told me she was amazed by my honesty.

I told her that I was humbled to have done this assignment, and thanked her for the exercise in self-exploration and wake up call.

I stayed after class and talked with her about what I should do. I still remember what she said to me:

Time is finite and precious. There is nothing we can do to get it back once it has passed. We all have the same amount each day. It’s what we decide to do with it that makes us who we are. Use your time wisely and always make sure you’re thinking about the future.

It made all the sense in the world to me. In that moment I was transformed. I feel like I went into the classroom that day a boy, and came out a man.

And from that point forward I approached everything with a long-term, big picture mindset.

I went home that night and started thinking about what I wanted to do with my life. I identified my skills and aptitudes, and chose a career in business technology.

I identified that I had a passion for making a difference in people’s lives, and loved to use the written word to do so.

And I figured out that some day, I wanted to use all of those skills together to make a big positive impact on the world.

The Results of Long Term Thinking

Through the change in my thinking, I went on to receive an MBA in Business, started and sold a technology company, built another company to winning awards for its marketing, helped several businesses grow their online presence, wrote two books, read dozens of others, and now work in a Project Manager role that allows me to life the lifestyle I want to live.

I’m not where I ultimately want to be yet, but every decision I make goes to support that ultimate goal, and I realize the more efficient I am, the quicker I can get there.

So I leave you with this. If you don’t yet know where your life is heading, I strongly urge you to find your purpose. You don’t have to map out a five year plan, but at least figure out why you were put on this planet. Figure out what you’re really good at and love to do.

Once you figure that out, everything you do will make much more sense, and your passion will drive you to achieve that goal.

Photo by Ben Cremin

Cody Wheeler

Cody Wheeler is a Personal Finance and Productivity blogger and owner of Academy Success, which was founded in 2012 to help you get out of debt, earn more money, invest for your future, achieve your goals, and lead a more successful and productive life.

Download his Financial Automation Checklist Collection to begin saving hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars per year.
1 FREE Audiobook Credit RISK-FREE from Audible.com