Have you ever met someone so incredibly stuck in their life they make everything and everyone miserable in their path? 20, sometimes 30 years go by and even though they know they aren’t happy, they stay right where they are because they don’t believe there is any other choice. Misery becomes easier than the change that would be required of them. They live in the past, they are stuck on what has always been so they stop dreaming about who they want to become.
I think people struggle with vision because it requires change and imagination of a future reality they can’t see. The definition of imagine is to think of or create something that is not real or present in your mind, an idea that is not based on reality. Have a vision, create a life and plan a future based on what is not real? Yes, it sounds ridiculous and can be uncomfortable. It can also change your life.
Somebody somewhere along the line is likely going to have a vision for your future whether you do or not. Your parent, sister, partner, child, best friend, or boss, someone in your life will have their idea of who you should be and what you should do. Even if their vision for your life comes from a place of love, remember it’s your vision, not theirs, you get to decide. It’s your life waiting for you to step into, yours to create and what it looks like is based on who you want to be and what you want to contribute to the world.
Deciding on the work you do that will fill your heart and precious time, will take time. There will be spoken or often unspoken rules and pressure to decide and commit and go and do, right now. I wish I’d been given the grace and permission, so I’m giving it to you: you can take your time deciding. You can get a month, a year or a decade in and change your mind, change your path, adjust your vision. Your job is to just keep writing and editing. Focus on the story you want your life to tell, you don’t have to know how it’s going to end.
As the vision for my own life has evolved over the years, the most important thing I’ve learned is vision is meant to move, change and grow with us. The first step is identifying how we are doing where we are, right now.
Be engaged and aware enough to notice complacency when it creeps in, your life will depend on it. It won’t always be a dramatic or loud warning, sometimes it’s insidious and slow. Quiet complacency is like a slow growing cancer, pain free and difficult to detect until it’s too late. Gone unnoticed, it’s the most dangerous place to be. To recognize complacency and then move beyond it requires daily connection to your vision and most importantly the daily motivation to see it through.
This is where creating a clear purpose for your life comes in. I use to blur the lines between vision and purpose so I’ll explain the difference between the two, for me. Vision is the 10,000 ft view above the trees, the bigger idea or goal for yourself. Purpose is the map that will guide you through the forest, day in and day out, to get you there. When you are working on your purpose, get specific and define how you want to show-up with yourself and in your interactions with others and WHY it’s important to do so. Define who you want to be and how you want to respond whether you’re faced with challenge or opportunity.
At the end of this post, I will share a couple purpose and vision exercises with you to help better understand where you are right now and where you are headed. Once you arrive at your vision, you’ll need to read it, meditate on it, evaluate your connection to it every single day. It’s a dynamic, moving, breathing document. Nourish it, keep it alive and revisit it often.
When your vision changes, what change is required of you? More clarity and action. Vision is a verb, vision requires action. Clarity and action will bring you confidence in where you’re headed. How do you get more clarity?
When I think about what has kept me from taking more deliberate action in the past, it’s when I haven’t had clarity in my life. When I hadn’t really defined what I want to accomplish and more importantly why. Once you discover the what and why, break down the required action into bite-size steps. Write it down, pen to paper. This life is yours, it’s about you and who you want to be. Don’t allow someone else’s opinion or choices get in the way of living the life you imagine. Here’s some homework:
Get Clear. It’s going to take courage to dream big. Your confidence and belief in what is possible begins with vision. Creating and living our vision requires us to be awake, accountable and actively engaged in the future. Trust in your ability to go after the life you want. More than any dream, job or person, start with loving and learning about who you are, learn what lights you up inside and makes you want to share your light with the world. Your courage and ability to effectively voice the value you bring will be influenced by your level of self-awareness. Your intentions and clarity will determine your motivation to take action on the vision you have for your life.
Take Action. Write a letter to yourself, date it one year from today. Reflect as if the year has already happened. I first heard of this exercise at a sales seminar and it quickly became my yearly discipline for goal setting. For every big vision there are a list of goals along the way. The idea is to write the letter with reckless abandon, no holding back. The exhilarating part is to see your plans in writing, the power of documentation—you almost believe it has already happened. After sealing up the letter, to not be opened or read for one year from the day, tuck it away and go back to the business of living life. In this practice, I’ve been pleasantly surprised how gratifying it is to experience comfort in how closely so many areas of my life resemble what I had set out to accomplish. The creativity of writing a story about your vision for your life, so freely and limitless, welcomes new awareness and breaks a pattern from traditional goal setting. Today is a good day to start something new, consider taking a trip to the future and make your journey well worth it.
Word of the year. I stole this awesome idea from a good friend of mine. The intention is to choose one word as a guide for the year ahead. Choosing one word creates challenge in decision but power in simplicity. What I love most about this exercise is some years it’s more of a declaration of my vision for the year and in others it’s a slow, quiet reveal of even greater things ahead.
Purpose Exercise. Who do you want to be? What will you do and how will you do it? What do you want to give? These questions are worth taking time to answer as you clarify a vision for your life. In the exercise, distill your answers to come up with a few simple words or a short sentence for each to represent your vision for the year, five years or ten years ahead of you.
Your vision for your life will be a faithful North Star as you and the environment around you grow and change. Your vision is your weapon, your purpose your ammunition. Our resilience and ability to adjust course when things you can’t control get in the way will depend on its existence.