When sitting down to plan out a career, it's important to have a set of goals to work for. Those goals may change as you move closer to them, but it's important, none-the-less, to find out where you want to go. Otherwise you could spend your life chasing an intangible "perfect future" that will never come, which leads to frustration, discontentedness, and eventual depression.
As a writer, one of my goals is, obviously, to get published. I've known people who opted to take the self-pub rout to reach that goal, and they work their butts off to make that a successful venture for their careers. That can be a very tough path, and I have a lot of respect for anyone who can put out a high-quality book without the support network of the "publishing industry."
But, as of right now, that path isn't for me. Which makes writing a high-quality book my first, immediate goal, followed closely by getting an agent. I've discussed this before, so I won't bore anyone with the detail.
From there, I know the next step is to pursue publication through traditional publishing houses, then write a new book and repeat.
There are "big dream" types of goals I would LIKE to reach, but I see those as a possible result of doing the best work I possibly can and not the end to which I strive. Getting on a bestseller list would be great, and getting my book made into a movie would be awesome. Having people cosplay as my characters is fun to think about. But those are side effects of my actual goal.
And that's to build an audience. An audience who enjoys my stories enough to tell their friends to read them, too. And their parents. And teachers. And children. The desired result from that goal? Not fame or glory or riches. I simply want to replace my income. That's going to take a LOT of work, and I wouldn't be surprised if I end up having a part time job for a decade or more after I get my first contract. But writing full time is my "big dream." In the grand scheme of things, I'm not asking for much. I'm not a lawyer or doctor or engineer with a high income. I haven't "grown accustomed" to a "certain standard of living" (and I'm sorry that this turned into a Chris Farley sketch). In fact, after two years without a smart phone and five years without cable, I think there are many things in my life that I would gladly REMOVE from my budget. But that's a tangent I don't need to follow.
Anyway: I recognize that my goal is big. And it may take years and years to get there. For that matter, my kids, who haven't even been conceived yet, may be out of school by the time I reach that goal. And that's fine. Right now, I'm focussing on reaching the next step. And I'm not frustrated by constantly-moving goalposts. They may move when I get an agent. Heck, they may move by the end of this year. But I'll never know if I simply stop pursuing them.
So what are your goals? What do you hope to accomplish in your life? And what are you willing to give up to reach those goals. More importantly, which goals would you abandon to seek even better ones?