Personal Vision from Start to Finish
Many people write about personal vision and why it’s important. Here are a few different exercises that I myself enjoy and which I have found to be effective when working with others.
Step 1: Brainstorm
Below are several options for brainstorming personal vision. Brainstorm rules: get ideas flowing, no wrong answers, get all the ideas out first & sort/edit later, etc.
For each of these areas (or choose your own), quickly jot down the first 10 wishes that pop into your head (refrain from evaluation of anything you write down please)
- I wish…2. I wish…3. I wish….etc.
career, intellectual, hobby, finances, material (things I want to own, see, visit, etc), love, adventure, spiritual/inner life/personal growth, physical health and body, family/friends/community
Imagine a genie came in the night and waved her magic wand over you so that all of your most deeply-cherished wishes came into full fruition in the here and now. Now describe the day you would have upon waking up to find that all your dreams had come true. There is no wrong way to do this. Use as many concrete, sensory details as possible, such as “I roll over and see a stack of cash next to my bed and feel happy to see it there, because I am going to spend it today on getting myself equipped with all the music recording gear i ever wanted. I get up, take a nice hot shower in my wonderful bathroom and go out the door to the music store” etc etc.
Quickly jot down…
- 5 things you absolutely LOVE doing, that make you smile and laugh and feel full of glee
- 5 things that when you do them, you forget about time passing
- 5 objects or places in the natural world that you love
- 5 famous people you admire, whose life you’d like to have for any reason
- 5 things you dreamed about doing or becoming as a child
- 5 movies that you love, or movie worlds you would want to exist in
Draw a big circle on a piece of paper. Inside the circle, write down anything that you would like to have in your life, big or small. It could be “a trip to the Bahamas” or it could be “peace of mind”, doesn’t matter and again, no wrong answers. Outside the circle, please write anything that you would like to no longer experience or explore, such as “getting in long pointless fights with my wife” or “being underpaid and feeling resentful about it”.
Free write an over-the-top glowing fan page of yourself, imagining yourself to have achieved everything you ever wanted to, and what a future geeky fan of you and your general existence and work might say. Example.
Imagine that you win the lottery and inherit more money than you will ever be able to spend in one lifetime. Write out your full fantasy of what you would do with your time. What will you buy, what places might you visit, what circumstances would you choose to live in, what kind of projects would you undertake, etc.
Step 2: Identify Themes
It’s good to identify something like 5–7 strong pillars or themes of your personal vision. To define your pillars, look through any of your above answers and highlight what seem to be repetitive themes, asking yourself what pops, stands out, and comes up again and again. See if you can group it in 7 or so key categories.
Example: financial success, romantic partnership, distinguished career in gaming, etc.
Step 3: Boil it down to the Essence
For each of the desired pillars, ask yourself why you want that. Describe in detail what the fulfillment of it would look like & most importantly what you hope you will feel if you have this pillar in your life. Everything that we desire symbolizes something for us. Identifying the essence helps us not be too narrow in defining what fulfillment of our life purpose could look like in the physical world.
Pillar: Be a Full-Time Musician for a Living
Essence: I want the feeling of being in the flow and creating, I love focusing on music and I want to have the feeling of pride that I made something beautiful. I want to make pieces that mean something to people, that touch or stir them in some way. Most of all I want to feel like it’s ok to make music the most important thing in my day, not always secondary to other things.
In the above example you can perhaps see that the “essence” level could be different for two different people. I may want to be rich because I want to feel proud of myself for being able to succeed in life, while you may want to be rich because you love the feeling of not having to do anything you don’t want to do.
Step 4: Identify cognitive dissonance
For each of your pillars, look at the essence and ask yourself, do I believe I can have this? If yes, wonderful — that means it is very likely to show up in your experience at some point soon (if it’s not there already).
If there is anything that sticks in your gut, throat, chest, etc that says, “no I don’t think so”, ask yourself why & write down the answer.
In the above example, I may notice that I have the thought,
“but I don’t know how to make beautiful songs. I am a bad musician.”
“just making music all day would be selfish”
“how would I make money?”
Just take a note of all of the beliefs that come to the surface when you ask yourself, “do I believe I can have this?”.
Step 5: Reprogram your beliefs
For each dissonant belief that you have, ask yourself,
A. Am I willing to consider changing this belief? If not, why not? You may find out that you want to keep this belief for some reason. Many of our beliefs make us feel safe. That’s ok. If yes, though, proceed to b.
B. Find beliefs that are more permissive of your dream. This is often gradual. One option, for example, is to find 3 different thoughts for every 1 negative belief. Example: I may counter “I am a bad musician” to “Everyone is allowed to sing” “I have a unique voice that no one else has” and “there is no such thing as a bad musician”. Over time, I may be able to say, “I have a great musical perspective to contribute”, etc.
C. Practice any new beliefs in writing and/or in your mind for at least 10 minutes of focused time every day for at least 21 days. Many find this helps change persistent thought patterns to be more aligned to permitting the personal vision to come into physical expression in the outer world.
Step 6: Plan
When you feel confident that your answer to each of your pillars is yes, I believe I can have this, take yourself through several passes of planning. This is very much like project planning. Remember that plans are not set in stone but the process of planning is very powerful. You may start with a date you would like your personal vision to be accomplished.
Define success very clearly — “I consider this pillar fulfilled if…” “I consider this pillar not yet done if….” Then begin breaking it down into concrete timelines.
It may be helpful to look at project planning and how it goes from the widest scope to the smallest:
- Release Plan
- Sprint Plan (eg “next 2 weeks” plan)
- Daily Commitment
Describe your vision in present tense, as though it is already the case.
I am a distinguished engineer in my field, working in the games industry making indie games with small teams of other smart, focused engineers. I live in America with my husband and we have 2 kids and we live in financial comfort. We have a good life balance and we enjoy our daily work. On a daily basis these are my activities…etc.
Ask yourself a realistic time frame for this to occur for someone. Then break it down into large chunks, thinking practically.
In order to bring this into fruition by 2020, realistically I need to have secured a job in a cool company in America by January 2017. By 2019, I need to have progressed in this company to the point of having a leadership function, etc.
Make it even smaller, and demarcate the path from “here” to “there” in 3–6 month chunks.
By end of this year, I have wrapped up my project and identified my top 10 favorite companies that fit my dream. By midway through next year, I have assembled my resume, completed my side project that I will use to demonstrate my skills, and have applied to 3 of these companies, etc.
In the next two weeks, here are the actions I will take
Today I will…
Step 7: Make it Visual
In general, it helps the subconscious mind to entrain to the vision if you can use images to make it feel real to your imagination. For example, it helps to draw a cartoon of your fulfilled vision, and/or to draw out the roadmap and key “milestones”, put it somewhere you can see. The more you look at it, the better, so if you have a place to keep the vision that will refresh it in your awareness daily, that is recommended. You may also want to collect images, for example on a Pinterest board, that resonate with the pillars you identified.
Credit where credit is due:
I have thrown this guide together from lots of open source material and things that have influenced me over the years. If you like this direction, please check out Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way, and Christina Merkeley’s Magnetism Map.