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How to Create a Vision for Your Life
I used to think it was a silly waste of time to think about a vision for my life. Who does that? It seems to touchy-feely, too Tony Robbins-ish.
But then, as I started learning how to change my life and my habits, I realized something: people avoid creating a vision for their lives because they believe the exercise is futile. Why make a vision when it's impossible to accomplish those things anyway?
I've also noticed something over the past several years: the most interesting, accomplished people I know all have a vision for their lives. They seem to know what comes next, like they've seen the future.
On the other hand, people I meet or know who are stuck and have that hopeless look in their eyes, like they're just passing time in life without joy or aspiration, those people don't have a vision. In fact, many of them don't even have long-term goals. This was painfully clear at my recent high school reunion.
Does having a vision make you better able to change your life, or does being able to change your life make having a vision possible?
Being able to change your life and having a vision for it are the yin and yang of living a great life. They're interdependent and complimentary of one another. One will jump-start the other. Find the motivation to change your life, and you'll be able to create a vision for it. Or, create a vision for your life and then learn how to change it.
What's the difference between a life vision and long-term goals?
Goals are individual experiences and accomplishments you strive for. A vision is the bigger picture. Your life's vision defines who you want to be, what you want to be known for and the set of experiences and accomplishments you aim for. Your vision helps define the goals by giving you a framework to evaluate those goals.
Your vision becomes your why.
Your vision should aim to answer questions like:
What life do you want to have lived at age 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70 and 80?
What kinds of people do you want to be surrounded by?
What do you believe you're capable of in life? What are the greatest things you could accomplish, given the right circumstances, resources and motivation?
What do you wish you could change about the world? What could you contribute to the world that would make you feel proud and content?
When you die, what would you want people to say and remember about you?
In fact, start by answering those questions and your vision should be easy to create.
How to Create Your Life's Vision
First, you need to identify what matters in life. This is where that college philosophy class should come in handy. You need to go deep and existential here. What is the real meaning of life? How should you live your life?
Your answer to "what matters in life" won't be perfect, and that's OK. The point is to put a stake in the ground to work towards, and you can change your answer whenever you review your life's vision.
Regardless of your answer, there will be things you want to do or be, and there are resources needed to support those experiences and accomplishments.
Next, make a list of the categories of things that matter to you.
Here are the categories currently on my list:
Health — exercise, diet, mindfulness, perspective
Ability — skills, knowledge, character
Relationships — curate and cultivate them
Time — using what time you have wisely
Wealth — creating the value necessary to support goals
Contentment — being happy with who you are, perhaps the ultimate goal
Your list can and should look different. It's all about what matters to you, and what you want out of your brief time on this planet.
Now, for each of your categories, write down what you want or need from each. Think about the things you want to accomplish or experience, and work backwards to understand how the other categories should support your life's vision.
Finally, craft a statement that describes what your ideal life looks like. I know, it might seem cheesy, but this entire exercise can be incredibly fun and rewarding. I just refreshed my life's vision while on vacation in Hawaii for 10 days. It was the perfect setting to get all introspective.
Your vision statement will consist of an overall description of your ideal life, combined with a list of areas that matter most, and high-level goals for each area.
If all you do is this exercise, you will likely see some benefits, as your vision will stick in the back of your mind and you'll unconsciously work towards it.
However, if you want the best chance of making your vision happen, you'll need to go further.
You need to build a system for yourself, where you review your vision and goals regularly, and update your action plan for accomplishing those goals.
Your main priority should be making your system a habit, something that you do no matter what, that you don't have to think about or remind yourself about. Start with calendar reminders and task list items and build life planning time into your daily and weekly routines until it becomes habit.
When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. –Marcus Aurelius