Yesterday, I shared 12 personal development books to read over the next 12 months. The goal is to read one book per month and apply the ideas in your life for the entire month. One of those books is the classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey.
The second habit of the seven habits is to determine the outcome you aim for. This is a critical step in your personal success.
You need to have a compelling vision to work toward. That vision must be crystal clear and viable.
Let’s admit it. Most of us don’t have a crystal clear, viable, compelling vision of where we want to be in our lives ten years later. This might be the most essential task in our lives, but we never take the time to get it done.
We all have some vague ideas about what we want in the future. Most of the time, these ideas aren’t congruent. They contradict each other. As a result, they aren’t viable, and we don’t believe that we will realize those dreams.
Here are some reasons why we don’t come up with a vision for our future.
Dreams vs. Visions
Most of us think that dreaming about the future is the same as having a vision. That’s incorrect. There’s nothing wrong with dreaming, but a dream isn’t the same as a vision.
A vision can be based on a dream, but unlike a dream, a vision is specific and feasible. A vision doesn’t have any contradictions. It has sufficient details for greater clarity. If you have dreams, that’s great, but you have to process them to turn them into a vision.
It’s the last sentence in the previous paragraph that keeps many people from having a vision. Some of us consider working on a vision a waste of time. We spend most of our time on tasks that benefit us within a month.
Most of us spend our time on two things.
- Working toward the paycheck next month.
- Instant gratification, e.g. entertainment.
When is the last time you did something for a goal that would take more than a month to accomplish? A vision would take at least a year to achieve.
If your attitude is “why bother with something that would take a lifetime to create,” then that’s why you don’t have a compelling vision.
Working on a vision can trigger some intense feelings. You might be worried about the future or get too excited to come up with a reasonable vision.
You might feel apathetic, and think “what’s the use? I won’t accomplish these goals anyway.” You might feel overwhelmed by the number and magnitude of the challenges that you face in the future. All of that might keep you from working on your vision.
If that’s you, keep on reading, because I’ll share some tips to overcome your worries.
Lack of Know How
You might not know how to approach the task of creating a vision document for your life. That’s exactly why I’m writing this post. My goal is to provide you with a step by step exercise to come up with a compelling vision document.
Invest the Time
First of all, block some time in your agenda to invest in your future. We’re all busy with all kinds of tasks for our next paycheck or for our immediate survival. Yet, if you don’t invest any time in your future, your future won’t be any better than your present.
It would be ideal to block a complete day to work on this document, but if you can’t do that, it’s also OK to work on it for an hour a week until it’s complete.
Write Down Your Complaints and Worries
The first step is to write down your complaints and worries. The self-help literature tells you to be positive and not complain or worry. But for the sake of this exercise, do it once.
Write Down Your Desires
Write down everything that you want to attain in the future. Your dreams, wishes, and wants.
Now, go over both lists and pick the item that is the most important to you. It could be a complaint or a desire. Write a scenario for that item only.
- If it’s a complaint, what would be the ideal solution to it?
- If it’s a desire, what would be the ideal manifestation of it?
Don’t think about limitations. Don’t think about how you’re going to realize that goal. Focus only on the end result.
Imagine you have magical powers and you can create a parallel reality where this ideal solution can be real. Add as many details as you want.
Once you complete this exercise for a single item, repeat it for the next most important item. Repeat it for as many items as you want.
You can even come up with several scenarios for each complaint or scenario. The idea here is to let our imagination loose so that it can come up with the most interesting solutions.
We also call these solutions scenarios. That’s a lighter approach and allows us to be more creative and overcome our worries and limiting beliefs.
Another tip to overcome your worries is to approach this task as if you’re working on the life of another person. Imagine you’re a writer that’s working on a character in a fiction book. That will help you set aside your worries.
Merge Your Scenarios
At this step, we’re going to merge all the scenarios into a single vision. It’s OK that some of your scenarios contradict each other.
You might be living in New York in one scenario and in Paris in another one. You might be a businessperson in one scenario and a free spirit in another one. This is expected, because we all have contradicting desires, wants, and wishes.
With the previous step, we acknowledge all of our desires. In this step, we have to make a decision. We will create a single, coherent vision.
Look at all the different scenarios from the previous step and merge them into a single vision. If there are contradicting scenarios, look for ways of integrating them.
You might be a businessperson during the week, and a free spirit in the weekends. You might live in New York throughout the year and spend your vacations in France.
If you can’t integrate them, it’s time to make a decision. You might need to let go of some of your scenarios. Don’t throw them away, keep them in a separate section. It’s also important to be aware of which desires you decided to not realize.
Every time you feel those desires again, you’ll remember that those desires don’t fit your vision, and you’ll let them go. That way, you’ll free up some considerable mental capacity in your mind.
Focus on What, Not How
This exercise isn’t about how you’re going to realize your vision. It’s about finding out what your vision is. Don’t jump to conclusions and look for ways of realizing each scenario at this moment.
Your goal is to come up with a congruent, viable, compelling vision. How you’re going to realize that vision is the subject of another exercise.
Having a congruent, viable, compelling vision is a critical step in personal success. Yet, most of us avoid it. Some of us don’t have the time. Some of us get overwhelmed by the idea. And some of us don’t know how to do that.
You can come up with a vision in four steps.
- Write down your complaints.
- Write down your desires.
- Write down the ideal solutions for the most essential complaints and desires.
- Merge the solutions into a single vision.