Do you have a vision for your life?
You might be thinking, “You’ve got to be kidding! I’m just trying to keep the lights on or put my kids through school or run my business.” Or maybe, “Do you know where I live right now? I’m in prison.” And some of you might be thinking, “I want to have a vision for my life, but I don’t know how.”
Whatever the situation, I encourage you to establish a vision for your life. Having a vision for your life means having a clear picture of a positive future state, one that is realistic and desirable. It doesn’t matter where you are or what your situation is; anyone can have a vision for a positive future. A compelling vision pulls you into a different future than you would otherwise have. If you don’t want to return to your past and you don’t want to perish, then creating an attainable life vision would be time well spent.
Let’s try a little exercise that professional athletes use all the time. Imagine that it is three years from today. Your life has improved significantly from what it is right now, whether that improvement is emotional, mental, physical, financial, or all of these. What does your life look like? Remember, this picture needs to be realistic and desirable.
Now write it down. Describe your desirable, realistic future in great detail. For example, you may desire to have a better relationship with your children, spouse, roommate, or parent. Maybe you want a new job, one that you like, with better wages. Whatever your desire is, describe it as specifically as you can. Really put yourself in the future. It’s three years from today—what does your life look like? What are your days like? What kind of work do you do? Who do you work with? What do you do in the evenings?
Dream a little. Spend time on this—hours, days if needed. Hone the vision until it is crystal clear in your mind. Make it something that you really want and something that is truly possible if you begin to work toward it.
Okay, now to the next step. What is your current state? Describe your current reality. This part of the exercise is meant to establish the gap between where you are and where you want to be in the future. The only way to do that is to be completely honest with yourself about where you are now.
Write out all the barriers that are in your way. What currently or potentially has the power to keep you from your life vision? Be thorough. This is an exercise in reality. List everything that stands in your way.
Once you have listed your barriers, the fun begins. Now it’s time to break through some mental walls. Many times, the barriers we face are merely mental. They are the stories we tell ourselves that keep us from moving forward. For example, let’s say I want to get out of debt, but I live paycheck to paycheck. I might tell myself it’s impossible to reduce my debt unless I stop feeding one of my kids, which is clearly not very motherly and also not very legal. But with some brainstorming, maybe with a few trusted friends, I could come up with some options. Maybe I could ask for a raise or reduce or eliminate my cable package. I could take the “year without a purchase challenge”—a year during which I don’t buy anything that isn’t absolutely needed, and I use every single other dollar to pay down debt. I could call and get better terms on my debt. I could get a better job. I could get a second job.
You see where I’m going with all of this. Okay, it’s your turn. Start brainstorming ways to get around your barriers. If you are having trouble, bring in some friends.
Examine the options you’ve identified and think about what support you will need to be successful. Determine who you can ask for help and what you need from them. Support might include asking someone to teach you a new skill or make an introduction so you can get a new job. Maybe you need to arrange child care or even elder care. Whatever it is, list anything that can help you get to your positive future state.
Goals and Actions
Now that you have envisioned your future, established the gap between where you are and where you want to be, identified your barriers, brainstormed ways to get around them, and asked for support, you can get started on your goals and actions. This is the tactical part of the plan. Until now, we have been dreaming and thinking—but this is where we start doing something. Identify no more than five goals that will move you closer to your vision. Detail those goals with action steps. Here’s an example:
Goal: Get a better job.
- Complete computer programming class by April 1, 2017.
- Identify jobs where I can use my new skills by April 1, 2017.
- Prepare a resume and cover letter highlighting my new skills by April 15, 2017. Send out that resume to every potential job source.
- Network with people whose connections can help me find the job I want.
- Continue to improve skills, network, and send out resumes until the new job is achieved.
- Ask for feedback from others if unable to find a job after a few months. Make adjustments and keep trying until successful.
Getting a better job is not the vision. The vision might be living a debt-free life. Getting the job is one step toward reaching that vision. Goals and actions help you achieve your vision. They’re like stepping stones on the path to your desirable future state.
Remember, set no more than five goals, but include detailed actions under each one. If you need only three, that’s fine. Set only the goals that will help you toward your vision.
You now have a blueprint, a plan to guide you toward your vision. Keep it close. Refer to it often. Check your progress and work steadily forward. Ask a friend to help you stay on top of it. The vision may seem far off, but if you start working toward it every day, you will make progress. Before you know it, you will realize that it’s within reach because you envisioned it, just like athletes envision the successful execution of their sport.
I once heard a saying that you can count the number of seeds in a bushel, but you can’t count the number of bushels in a seed. I think of this often when I help people establish a vision. There is more inside you than anyone knows. Having a life vision will help you bring that out. It will help you bring your dreams into reality.
A man without a vision is a man without a future.
A man without a future will always return to his past.
Where there is no vision, the people perish.
Proverbs 29:18 KJV
Written by Bonnie Hagemann
Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters