In my post, Dig Below Your Dreams to Discover Your Vision, I discussed why it is important to re-connect with your dreams. If you’re not clear about what you really want, you are likely to set goals that will not be truly satisfying once accomplished.
For most of us, vision does not appear like a bolt of lightning. It’s like mining for gold. We gather nuggets, and eventually they coalesce into a cohesive picture.
These three activities can surface some nuggets that help you discover your vision of what you truly desire.
The First Step for Each of These Activities
Getting in touch with what’s below the surface requires relaxation of your normal thinking, judging mind. Suspend your internal critic and allow your thoughts to arise unedited as you hold these three questions in your mind:
What do I care deeply about?
What do I deeply desire?
What do I really want?
Activity 1. Make a collage.
Flip through several magazines, and tear out pages with pictures or words that appeal to you. Then select the ones you like best, and paste them on a poster board. Just have fun, and create something that is appealing to you. Later, after you have finished, look at it with an eye toward what it is telling you about yourself. It is a good idea to revisit it over time as new thoughts will emerge each time you contemplate it. (Time: 30-60 minutes. Materials: a stack of magazines, scissors, glue stick and poster board.)
Activity 2. Free-writing,
This technique, originally developed for “writer’s block,” is quite effective in contemplating these three questions. In his book Accidental Genius, Mark Levy describes how it works:
“Freewriting is deceptively simple: Start writing as fast as you can, for as long as you can, about a subject you care deeply about, while ignoring the standard rules of grammar and spelling. Your internal editor won’t be able to keep up with your output, and will be temporarily shunted into the background. You’ll now be able to think more honestly and resourcefully than before, and will generate breakthrough ideas and solutions that you couldn’t have created any other way.”
Choose one question. Set a timer for 15 minutes and start writing. Don’t stop. If you don’t know what to say, write “I don’t know what to say.” Just keep writing even if it feels silly until the timer goes off. Often, the most important nugget emerges in the last 10 seconds.
Activity 3. The Five “Whys”
You will need a partner to help with this activity.
- Your partner should ask you one of the questions listed above.
- Respond with the first thing that comes to mind.
- Your partner should then ask either, “Why do you really want that?” or “If you had that, then what would you have?”
- Again, respond with the first thing that comes to mind.
- Your partner should repeat that question 4 more times. Each time, you should answer with whatever arises.
Keep mining those nuggets because they truly are precious. If you know of other activities that help surface gold nuggets, I invite you to share them here.
My friend Whitney Johnson has written a lovely new book Dare, Dream, Do: Remarkable Things Happen When You Dare to Dream that includes stories of real people who made their vision a reality. My post is in honor of the launch of her book.
Leaders don’t spend enough time thinking about vision. It’s hard to do.
Funny how the word vision, in regards to looking to the future, is so difficult to see.
On paper, the exercise outlined makes a lot of sense. Journaling is powerful. Speaking with a partner about where you want to go is also a great idea. I’d strongly recommend a professional executive coach. Someone that has no emotional attachment to the outcome.
Having said that, I’m just not sure how many people will do one, let alone both exercises.
Love the 3 what questions!
I agree that working with a partner who does not have a personal emotional stake in your answers can be a big source of support as this is an ongoing process and not a one-time activity. An executive coach can be quite helpful. It can also be helpful to find a partner you respect and support each other. Todd Nielsen describes how working with a partner keeps you accountable in Four Strategies to Make Your Vision a Reality. Thanks for sharing your insights, Steve.
I like this post very much. Anything that helps people break through habits, obstacles, and boundaries to reach beyond is tops!
I read many of Mike Brown’s posts at Brainzooming with tips on creativity, innovative thinking etc…
Thanks for expanding our minds!
Thank you, Kate.
It occurred to me that I already have a collage. It is my Pinterest page. I love going there because it reminds me of who I am. My boards are visual representations of the things that are relevant to me. Okay, the things in there may not all be things I care about deeply, but it does give clues to the kinds of things that resonate with me and bring me joy. It is life-affirming on so many levels. Why do I enjoy it so much? I think it has to do with how it connects me to others with similar interests. It is so humanly, and emotionally relevant.
What a wonderful use of social media. Thanks for sharing this, Monica!
I think there should be three more steps
One Breaking Down that Vision into smaller Milestones (Projects)
Second Oath or Standards to live by, Rules like What are things I will consistently do,
For what I will never settle for , What are the things I’m going to believe, like that
Second Step : Reality Check
What Kind of person I will have to be in order to achieve that vision?
What are the ways to make it happen?
How is my life going to be in next 5 years if I fail to achieve those milestones?
What I will loose?? What I will suffer from if I failed?
What are the joys of living that dream? How I will Creat? How I will Contribute?
What I will be thankful for?
What I’m thankful for?
Third Step: Getting Back on track
Series of action steps, thinking process and questions , when I will be struggling
Hi Mahesh, I hope I did not give the impression that this is all one needs to do to create a vision. My intention was to drill down on this very important first step that too many people skip over or only touch on lightly. Without connecting to what you deeply desire, you will have a shaky foundation.
I especially like your list of self-reflection questions. I think some of them would be helpful in connecting with what you deeply desire. You might appreciate a few of my earlier posts on how to create a vision. Click on “vision” in the list of categories in the left sidebar of this page. And (at the risk of being a little self-promoting), I also suggest you check out our book Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision which outlines all of the steps in creating a vision in detail.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Mahesh.
I am smiling from ear to ear reading this Jesse. I also 100% agree with Steve, “Leaders don’t spend enough time thinking about vision. It’s hard to do.”. People really get stuck in “go mode” and focus on delivering the objective/ goal rather than focus on what it is they actually are looking to achieve. It will take a while to wipe the smirk on my face as I really enjoyed this given my unexpected change of events recently.
Taking time out to look at the bigger picture is so important. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and your smile, Thabo.
I love exercises like these, and I highly recommend them, especially to the squeamish, who may be unaccustomed to such things.
Your 3 questions are elemental to one broad question I heard recently, which is: What does it mean to be complete, i.e. to be fulfilled?
If we don’t inquire like this, then the answers elude us – and so, we easily can go through life not doing what’s important to us. Which is very scary.
Thanks to you and Whitney, there’s a different and better approach. How great that you both articulate it and break it down so well, so people can (and will want to) get started.
Very well done! Thank you.
I’m glad you encouraged people to try these activities. I have done all of them myself and personally found them quite interesting and revealing. I was especially surprised by the value of free-writing, which I did only because Mark Levy pushed me to.
Thanks for this great question for inquiry: “What does it mean to be complete?”
I will give it a try.
i find that practice of visualizing goes hand in hand with having a vision. One exercise I do each morning is to visualize two things: 1) the day going well; and 2) the things that I’m working toward actually happening. I ask myself what those things would look like, and I try to see them in my mind, broken down by component parts. It takes just a few minutes, but it serves as a nice foundation for the day (along with a few other exercises I do as well).
At this point I have some solid answers to your 3 questions, so this daily visualizing serves as maintenance for my vision.
Hi Susan, Thanks for sharing your practices. I hope people are reading through the comments because these are quite helpful suggestions for others to use. Sports medicine studies in the 1980’s on mental imagery revealed there is a tremendous amount of power in visualizing the end result. Your practice of visualizing the day going well reminds me that recent neuroscience research shows that we are actually rewiring pathways when we create positive images.
Collage and Free-Writing are really useful tools.I have been using them for quite some time and encourage my team members to try them.I learnt about Collage during a Goal Setting workshop about 5 years back and have been using it since then.Free-writing is a very power decision making tool as well and I love it.
As Susan mentioned,both these are a part of my Visualization-to-manifest efforts and they have never let me down.
Hello Harsh, thanks for the endorsement that you have found these to be helpful tools. Hopefully it will encourage those who have not tried them to experiment with them. I appreciate your taking the time to share your experience.
I know this is an older post but it will always remain relevant. It came up while searching for “ways to write a compelling vision”, as this is one of the goals that my mentor and coach has set for me as a new CEO. Reading Tom’s comment posted in 2012 nudged me to also write a post. He mentioned how leaders don’t oft take the time. This is a critical point unto itself and, in my opinion, the most important aspect of mission, vision, and true company leadership, taking the time for the important items. I have been challenged to set aside 2-3 hours per week away from the office, away from email, phones and interruptions and to dedicate this time to strategy, which include all of the above as well as identify future goals, future state for the next 10 years, 5 years, 1 year, monthly, weekly and daily. This has been the toughest one goal for me to keep. I have been given one rule, I can postpone the session if I am travelling or if sudden bookings steal a planned weekly session, but I cannot cancel a session. I do fall off the schedule, but because I have a support network and executive coach, I am always brought back to being disciplined and stay on task to address these critical issues before the minutia steals my time and they are never addressed.
The commitment to setting aside time regularly for reflection is so important! It’s impossible to see the big picture and where you’re going when you’re constantly on the ground running. Working with a coach is another great way to ensure time for reflection. It’s one of the first things I set up when I became a chief executive. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your insights, Garry. Good luck in your new role!
p.s. I appreciate your pointing out that newer does not necessarily mean more relevant.