Why hasn’t my life turned out the way I planned? Twice in one week I heard this exact same question. Both times I was surprised because each accomplished, attractive woman would be considered enviable by most standards.
Michelle’s warm personality and infectious laugh attracts a lot of friends. She has a loving husband, two teenage sons who are honor students and varsity athletes, and on the side, she trains women to run marathons.
Sarah, an executive in a Fortune 1000 company, is one of the elite group of women who inhabit the C-Suite. Intelligent and with a quick-wit, she’s a natural leader.
So what was the problem?
Michelle was disappointed that she hadn’t created the successful career she had envisioned when she was in college.
Sarah wanted to have children, and she had not fallen in love with a man who measured up to the standards she had in mind for a father. She was now considering adopting a child as a single parent.
If Michelle and Sarah knew each other, they might have been envious of each other. They each had what the other wanted. In one sense, their situations were very different. But in another way, they had sometime quite fundamental in common.
They each had only a vague plan for their lives which they were now unsatisfied with. Having never created a real vision, they didn’t know what they really wanted. When I asked Michelle why she thought a career was important, it was because she had an idea of what a successful woman does. When I questioned Sarah further, I didn’t get the sense that she really wanted children; it was more of an idea she had about what would lead to fulfillment as a woman.
You’re more likely to get what you want if you know what it is.
To help them get clear about what they really wanted, I began with “The Three Whys.” This is how it works: When you think you want something, you ask yourself why you want it. And then ask “why” again. What do you really want? Getting to the core of what you really want reveals your true purpose and what you care most deeply about, your most precious values. Sometimes when we find the answers to these questions, we discover that the things we thought we wanted were things someone else convinced us we wanted—not what we truly desired. Sometimes we buy into other people’s dreams for us, such as our parents, teachers or friends, and lose touch with our own dreams.
In clarifying her vision, Michelle discovered that she actually had created the life she wanted. The voice that told her she should have a professional career was her parent’s, not hers. Her own vision was grounded in having loving relationships, having freedom and flexibility to be creative with her time, and being physically active and healthy. Her current life actually filled these desires..
Sarah discovered, when she clarified her vision, that something was missing from her life, but not what she had thought. What she really wanted was a committed, intimate relationship with a partner. She realized that having children would not give her the kind of love she really desired. She stopped shopping for someone who would be a good father and opened to the possibility of attracting a partner who could engage in the kind of meaningful, loving relationship she really wanted.
Create a vision for your life that reflects what really matters to you.
If you think your life hasn’t turned out the way you planned, it’s time for a reality check. What do you really want?
Most people don’t get clear about their vision overnight. It requires time for reflection, using both logic and a feeling perspective. Vision comes from your own desires, hopes, dreams and values. When you create a vision that resonates with your purpose and values, it generates energy, passion and commitment; and magical things start to happen.
Here are some guidelines to help you as you reflect on your vision:
The most difficult step in a creating a vision is discovering what you truly want. These guidelines can help you discover what matters most to you.
- Focus on what really matters to you. Ask, “What do I want to do?” — not “What should I do?”
- Use the “Three Whys.” Each time you think you have an answer, ask yourself “Why do I want that?” Dig down to what is fundamentally important to you.
- Be proactive, not reactive. Create a vision for what you truly desire, not what you want to move away from. Focus on where you want to go, not what you want to leave behind.
- Give yourself permission to explore, to dream. Be creative. Be playful. Use your “right brain” – logic can kick-in later.
- Spend some relaxed time dreaming and imagining: What will the results look like; what will be accomplished; how will I feel about myself; how will I feel about others. Focus on the end-result, not the process for getting there.
- Don’t limit yourself by what you may think is possible. A vision can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.