Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
— Helen Keller
At the end of 2019, I practiced a lot of self-reflection. It took me several weeks to dig deep into my belief systems and understand why I was not satisfied with the results I produced throughout the whole year.
Unfortunately, this process was not always fun. Sometimes, being honest to myself and admitting all my mistakes were quite tough.
Yet, all the reflection was totally worth it. I guess it was my only chance of rediscovering myself and setting a strong foundation for a new year.
Once I was clear about all my mistakes and what I don’t want to repeat in 2020, it was time to set new goals for the new year.
Because that’s what everybody does, right?
I feel as if the #1 rule in personal development is to have clear, precise goals for all areas of your life. And as a coach and trainer in personal development, I should be a role model in having clear goals — at least that’s what I thought.
Yet, I didn’t manage to create a set of goals for 2020. It wasn’t possible.
I had a look at the different areas of my life, I broke down anything I could into smaller steps, but I just couldn’t come up with yearly goals that made sense. I certainly could’ve set intentions, yet, they would not excite me in any matter.
One year is a long period. You can achieve a lot in twelve months. And I am sure I will accomplish great things, yet I don’t know what precisely these things are going to be. At least not for all areas of my life.
I am an online entrepreneur, and I am still finding my way around, so I can’t really rely on numbers or previous experiences I had.
However, even though I struggled to set specific, smart goals for 2020, I could easily create a vision for my year, even for my life.
A vision is different than specific goals. For me, a vision consists of more emotions than harsh goals and numbers.
“A vision is a picture of the future that produces passion.”
— Bill Hybels
Once I realized I couldn’t set specific objectives for the year, I started thinking of a vision for my life. I created a vision board on Pinterest collecting pictures I liked, quotes that appealed to me, and everything else I found inspiring and attractive.
Then, I focused on each area of my life specifically.
For instance, I spent time thinking about my health and how I want this area of my life to look like in twelve months.
Here’s the thing: Once you have a clear vision, it’s easier to set specific, short term goals and build habits that support you in creating this particular lifestyle.
Once I was done with my health, I created a vision and clear objectives for the other areas of my life: relationships, business, finances, legacy, hobbies, personal development, spirituality,…
Getting through all of these areas and having a clear picture of my ideal future indeed took me some time, yet, it was worth every second.
As Stedman Graham stated:
“Having a vision for your life allows you to live out of hope, rather than out of your fears.”
Once I had my vision, I still had no idea how to make this beautiful imagination my reality. I had no clear objectives and no milestones, to say nothing of an action plan. However, the vision itself was a perfect guidance, and it empowered me tremendously.
I started 2020 with no goals, but an incredibly strong vision for the whole year, or even a complete decade. Even though this beautiful vision was the only thing I had, I am already incredibly satisfied with the results of 2020 so far. In my private life as well as in business.
I can’t believe it’s just the second month of the year because I’ve already outperformed my vision in some areas of my life, which is pretty crazy.
Ignoring the advice of setting yearly goals and just doing what felt best (in my case: creating a broad vision and breaking it down into monthly objectives) was probably the best idea I had, and it certainly saved me from ending up being frustrated and disappointed.
I swear on this structure, and I promised myself to pass it on to as many people as possible.
1. Collect a broad, general set of ideas regarding your ideal life
It all starts with a general outlook on your life.
You first need to start broad, so that you can end up with monthly objectives and short term to-dos.
If you don’t have this big picture in mind, you might end up lacking motivation and not knowing why you should even keep going.
In my opinion, these are the two most straightforward ways of creating a broad, general vision for your life:
That’s probably the easiest, most effective way to create a stunning vision board with lots of emotional pictures. Pinterest is a search engine for photos, thus, it will show you more of the images that you like, which, of course, is beneficial for creating a huge vision board.
If you don’t want to get involved in Pinterest, start collecting magazines
…or buy some toner for your printer.
In fact, a vision board is not a must-have. You can also create a vision for your future without arranging pictures.
However, most people are visual creatures and love processing what they see.
According to the Social Science Research Network, 65 percent of all people are visual learners — that’s also why infographics work so well in social media marketing.
If that rule doesn’t work for you, just skip creating a vision board.
If, however, you find images appealing, a board full of pictures representing your ideal future can be incredibly powerful.
Whenever I feel lost or lack motivation, I take a look at one of my vision boards, and I instantly feel a rush of inspiration.
I can strongly advise trying this type of visual board to get a clear image of your ideal future as the first step of the whole process.
“Have a vision, think big, ignore the naysayers, work your ass off, give back and change the world.”
— Arnold Schwarzenegger
2. Have a precise look at the different areas of your life
Having a great vision for your life is the first step. Once that is done, you need to break this vision down into different areas of your life.
These are the most common life-areas used by many coaches and mentors:
- Career / Business
- Finances / Wealth
- Relationships (some people divide this section into several areas like romantic relationship, family, friends)
- Fun / Hobbies
- Personal development / Spirituality
- Contribution / Legacy
For this step, I bought an online course and worked through the first few weeks. However, the whole course was around the same exercise: finding your vision for different areas of your life. It was nice, and I guess it hugely helped me in the first few areas, but it was incredibly time-consuming.
I believe the whole process can be done much quicker.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Reflect on the status quo
Let’s take your career or business as an example to go through the whole exercise:
The first step when setting goals or creating a vision always consists of self-reflection.
What’s the status quo?
How happy (or unhappy) are you with your career or business right now?
What is your belief system about your career? For example, many people believe having a fulfilling career, and a job they thoroughly enjoy is not even possible.
Dig deep, for example, through meditation, and try to find out which limiting beliefs hold you back in this area of your life.
What do you feel when you think of your career? Which decisions do you make because of your job? Which good or bad experiences do you make because of your profession?
Ask yourself all of these questions and take your time to answer them.
I’d highly recommend writing your answers down in a journal as hand-written words are so much more powerful than thoughts.
2. Create an appealing vision
Once you’ve reflected on the status quo, you start creating a vision for the future of this particular area of your life.
As you already created your vision boards, this exercise will be more comfortable than the last one.
This time, ask yourself who you want to be in your career.
How do you want your workdays to look like?
How much money do you want to make?
Which specific tasks do you want to accomplish?
Answer any question that comes up in your mind, in as much detail as possible, and again: write those answers down.
3. Do the same for all areas of your life
Even though it’s hard to improve all areas of your life at the same time, having an overview is incredibly useful.
It just feels good to know what’s going on in your life.
For some areas, your current reality might already be your desired life, that’s, of course, a reason to celebrate!
3. Decide what to focus on and create an action plan
So far, we…
- created an overall vision (board) for our perfect future
- analyzed the different areas of our life and set specific visions for the multiple areas
Now, it’s about taking action.
As a productivity coach, that’s actually my favorite part.
I love dreaming big, and I love visualizing, but let’s be honest: creating an awesome reality is more fun than daydreaming.
Once you are clear on your vision, there is one next step: creating a precise action plan to make your dreams come real.
As mentioned at the beginning of this story, setting yearly goals was my initial struggle, it was the reason why I came up with this 3-step-formula.
In the end, of course, we have to set specific objectives. Otherwise, we wouldn’t know what to do and how to create a reality out of our beautiful vision boards.
Here’s what I did once I was clear on my vision:
First, I decided which areas of my life were the most critical and which were the ones I was currently unsatisfied with.
I realized I was quite happy with some and super unhappy with some others. So, I decided to keep my existing habits in some areas and to recreate my life in the fields that I was not fulfilled with yet.
For example, I was unhappy with my body shape. Thus, I came up with a few daily habits on what I could do to become fitter and healthier.
In my case, this meant exercising daily and eating healthier.
Both of these habits are applied daily and are measurable, so I had a concrete action plan for the upcoming month.
I decided to do a reflection on my whole life and check on my commitments and my vision regularly. Thus, I set those monthly intentions.
I believe quarterly goals can be very impactful, yet, for me, monthly ones are the most powerful right now.
If you are similar to me, living a pretty independent, chaotic life and struggling to set long term goals, this 3-step-formula might be your rescue.
- Create a broad, general vision of your ideal future
- Have a detailed look at all the different areas of your life
- Choose a few areas to focus on and create a monthly action plan