“I will only be happy when…” was the phrase I lived by for most of my college and early career. At some point or another, most of us experience points in our lives where our long-term goal isn’t aligning with current circumstances.

Bliss ashley
Financial Analyst / 2020 Consulting LLC

Our thoughts and attitudes come from a place of displeasure, disappointment, sadness or frustration. If a thought is repeated enough, it becomes a truth in our head. This doesn’t only apply to being happy when something follows through; it can also morph into “I’ll be profitable when, I’ll be motivated when,” etc. So, by sticking to our if-then statements, will you really be happy, profitable or motivated when that one thing happens for you? And if so, this is also stating that you’ll be unhappy, not profitable and unmotivated until it does. Is that thought pattern really helping you through what you can change now? Being caught in this trap blinds you from the opportunities you can take today that will make a difference.

When I realized it was useless to mope around about things I can’t control, I began making “the list.” The top of this list is the question: “What opportunities can I take advantage of right now that I’m not actively pursuing?” My first few items were things I wanted to focus on at work, then it led to other ideas like getting involved in local organizations and picking back up hobbies I had forgotten about. As I wrote something down, more ideas popped in my head. By the time I was done, it was a list of 15-20 things. Yes, I know it’s unrealistic to pursue 15-20 opportunities at once, but the exercise focused my attention on the present.

When it comes to strategic planning or goal setting, we begin with what we want to achieve in the future. This is helpful in prioritizing opportunities, but those long-term goals usually include multiple steps and can seem daunting. Thinking about improving milk quality involves retraining staff, which means getting the right materials together, diagnosing what steps in the routine they need to change, planning a time when everyone can go through the training, then monitoring to ensure everyone is following through with protocol. That’s a lot of steps crammed behind one thought. When you pose the issue from the present perspective, you shift the focus from waiting for this training meeting to happen to now taking five minutes to correct an incorrect procedure when you see it.

This list can also be used to dump all possible solutions on a paper. If calf mortality is an issue, make a list of everything holding the farm back from reducing it. That list may include employee training, better cleaning schedules and ventilation. But by looking through that list, it’s helpful to sort what ideas take little to no investment and which ideas should be focused on for a longer-term goal. By fleshing out all the details surrounding your opportunities, you’ll soon realize there are always more ways to act on it today than the one solution you’ve been fixated on.


Feeling stuck where you are comes from a place of not being able to act or feel progress. By focusing on what you can control in the present, you can unveil what opportunities you can take advantage of despite the resources you think you might need. The overall opportunity you’re working toward is likely not completed with one big swooping action but a thousand small and tiny changes to make an impact in what you do. By listing out what those are, you pick your head up from the world of inaction and ground yourself to the present moves you can make.