Our twenties are a very exciting time. It is the age people begin to recognize us as adults, which is a big deal in terms of gaining individual independence.

Many people do not know what they want to do at 20. Yes, they are getting a degree in this or that; sure, they know what apartment they want to live in next semester, but what about the bigger picture?

Is it important to plan ahead or is it better to live in the present and just let things happen?

From my own life experience, I have learned that there is a careful balance that must be found.

We need to set long-term goals but also maintain living in the present in the process of achieving those goals.

I realize this sort of comes across as contradictory, so I will elaborate a bit on what I mean by the balance of future/present planning.

To determine what you should do today, you have to have a goal for the future.

Whether that goal is to graduate from college, learn to play a musical instrument or to participate in the debate club, you must determine the future goal in order to be present today.

When I was 16 I got my first job. I had determined that my long-term goal was to travel Europe after college.

I set the goal back then and over the course of the past four years have lived with the intention of fulfilling it. As I approach graduation in December, I look back and thank my 16-year-old self for figuring out that I would like to travel after college. I have managed to keep a job for most of my years as a student and have slowly built a travel fund.

Another consideration is the impossible costs of a college education.

While I describe my own approach to achieving a long-term goal, I recognize that in many circumstances it is unrealistic to expect that certain costs would be affordable at 20 years old.

Sometimes when setting long-term goals, the best approach is to work backward. If your goal is to restore a vintage car, first you might consider the cost of materials.

You should think about the time it would take to restore and the cost of the car itself.

If your current job doesn’t allow you to save for the restoration then it may be wise to decide to attend school, whether it be college or trade school, to gain skills for a better paying job.

From there you will be able to start saving. These are the reasons  why we call them long-term goals.

Do not get discouraged. I want to remind you that the long-term goals are usually a big deal. It might take long hours of working hard, but the end result will have been worth it.

It is better to set goals now than to look back in regret years later after you have simply chosen to settle.

Set a goal and then live in the present by dedicating yourself to each moment of each day leading up to achieving your goal.

Setting goals can help us to daydream about something productive. Imagining myself exploring architecture and cultural differences across the Atlantic has served as an anchor for me.

While I work hard to finish college, it feels simpler knowing that when I graduate I have a life changing exploration planned.

Perhaps your goal does not require so much planning. Perhaps you simply plan to learn to knit before Christmas.

Thinking about it is step one. Next you must get the materials. The hardest part about any goal is finally stepping up to the task and going for it.

This is when presence is crucial. Each day you must dedicate yourself to your intentions. If the long-term goal is to learn to knit, you should set aside time every day to learn and practice the skill.

If you simply tell yourself you want to plan to knit, but never put forth the effort to actually knit, you’ll never accomplish your goal.

It’s quite simple when you really think about it. Come up with a plan, commit to it and actually do what it is you desire to do.

Although I admire people with no plan who seem to be floating freely through life, acting on impulse and fulfilling desires as they come, it is unsustainable to act without a larger plan. I value the effectiveness of setting goals.

Even if those goals change or evolve, a starting point will make what you do today all the more effective and important.

Arline Votruba can be contacted at avtoruba@kscequinox.com