Have you dreamed (maybe more than once) about having a full, rich life – one that includes a different kind of working life? A dream where you are living where you want, doing the kind of work that fulfills you most, and you are surrounded by people you love.
I can't think of anything better. But, the truth is that most of you will go on dreaming because you can't fathom how to make it all real.
So may I share a little secret? Bringing your dream into focus is well within your control. It starts with a well-crafted vision – that can inspire you to action, time and again.
The Value of A Work-Life Vision
Deep in your heart, you know that life is what you make it. You have a choice to accept what comes your way or to approach life consciously – being clear about your values, aspirations, goals and priorities. Without question, the conscious path dramatically improves your odds of getting what you want out of life. And it brings about deep satisfaction as a result of taking charge of how your life unfolds each day.
At the heart of "being clear" is your life vision – a document that spells out your intentions and ambitions – in all their glory. The very process of developing your vision helps you gain clarity about what you want. And, by putting it in writing, you take a giant step closer to having it become your reality. Once your dreams are codified, they become more concrete, and you become more committed to achieving them.
Craft It – From Your Heart
You can use any format to write your vision – your journal, a letter to a friend or simply write it down on a lined pad. There is no set length, but if you aim for a page, or possibly a bit more, you will be able to capture the important elements of your vision without getting lost in tiny details.
Before you begin, put yourself in a mellow space. Go for a walk or ride your bike. Let go of your day-to-day pressures and give yourself the luxury of some quiet, thoughtful time. Since it's rare for most us to be so reflective, don't be surprised if you have a little difficulty getting in the groove at first.
Be patient. Jot down random thoughts – even bullet points are fine – in no particular order. Don't feel you have to pour out a polished version right off the bat! Capture your thoughts and desires first – and, afterwards, spruce them up with the right structure and words.
Use these few guidelines to get started.
- Your vision should look out about 3-5 years,
- It is about where you want to be – not where you are at
- It should be very big – the best visions give you something to grow into
- It is directional in nature -- the essence of the new life you seek, not every detail. (Details come later as you establish goals and activities to move you toward your vision.)
- Write it in the present tense – as if you have already achieved it
Most importantly, let it flow from your heart. It is what you want most for yourself in work and in life, not what you feel you should do…or what someone else wants you to do. Give yourself permission to capture the biggest, most glorious vision imaginable. Don't worry one whit that it's too big to achieve…the bigger, the better. If you aim very big and achieve a piece, what an amazing accomplishment that will be!
Include Some Or All These Points
- What do you value most in life?
- How would you like these values to be honored?
- Have you accomplished something that reflects your values?
- How will your "juice" (from Lesson 1) be honored in your vision?
- Where are you living?
- How do you spend your time?
- Professionally, what kind of work excites you?
- Is anyone else with you?
- What is your relationship with God?
As you begin to write, use lively, colorful language that inspires and compels you to action. When complete, your vision will be your benchmark against which you will calibrate future choices, behaviors and activities.
A Personal Example
Here's the vision that I wrote in 1999 as I began my career-change journey. At the time I wrote it, I did not know that I would become a career counselor, but I did know that I loved to write and that I wanted to incorporate that into my new career.
I wrote my vision in the form of a letter to my niece, Jenna. Notice the date of the letter…I post-dated by five years. My overarching goal was to have more personal time for "everyday kinds of things". This vision clearly reflects that desire.
August 30, 2004
What a glorious week this has been! The Berkshires never cease to amaze me with such beauty and grace. Even better, the city folk have departed, returning our sleepier pace -- and parking spots -- in the village!
You asked about visiting over your birthday next month. Absolutely! And now that I'm no longer working full time, let me share what our week might be like...
My days have taken on a softer rhythm – active, but not crazy; focused, but not intense. I'm up early and by 7am I've fed the creatures, gazed at the new day (it's always perfect regardless of the weather!) and completed my spiritual reading.
After breakfast, I'm ready for action: a brisk walk or a little house keeping, and then to my office by 9am. It's a colorful, happy place – light years from my corporate corner, and just right for the writing that I love so much. By 4pm, my creative energy is usually going downhill, so I call it quits and head for yoga.
While I'm occupied with work, you can bike, explore or even weed my garden. It truly has become a magical spot – initially out of dumb luck but now the result of thousands of questions about sprouts, pods, roots and soils asked of myriad gardeners and friends.
So, I look forward to seeing you and laughing over a Bloody Mary or two. You haven't lost your touch, have you?
With great affection,
P.S. Hope you won't mind accompanying us to a social engagement or two. Gary and I have integrated well into this community. And maybe you can help me plan a wardrobe for our trip to Italy in October. We will be house-sharing in the Italian hills once again with our dearest friends, Ellie, JoEtta and Steven.
Let It Pull You Forward
Your vision can be a powerful and inspirational force for change. I read my vision every day for many, many months. It was a constant reminder of my commitment to myself about how I wanted my future to unfold.
And I can honestly share that my life now is pretty darn close to my vision – well, except for the 9 to 4 part. It's more like 8 to 5, plus a few evenings. But with lots more flexibility, a relaxed home-office environment and work that reflects my own special brand of purposeful work.
Your vision holds the same power for you. Give yourself lots of time and space and write from your heart. You may go through several drafts, in several different sittings, until it feels just right. Then, each time you read it, feel expanded, joyful, recharged and re-committed to a more meaningful life and career.