One of my clients is totally not in love with her current job (understatement), and in our work together we’re focusing on her vision for what she’d like to take on next. I asked her: “What do you want in a new job?”
She proceeded to say: “I don’t want to be chained to a desk all day. I don’t want to be a slave to the computer. I don’t want to be limited to a regimented schedule.”
It’s surprising how often when we try to think about what it is that we want, we actually focus on what it is that we don’t want.
Knowing what you don’t want is very useful information - it helps you to narrow down your search for that next great thing and make sure that you don’t find yourself in a situation that you know was not successful or conducive to your style and needs that last time around.
But focusing on what you don’t want is not very useful when you are creating a vision for yourself.
A vision is a detailed picture of what it is that you want to move toward - how you want to feel, what you want to do, where you want to be, and how you want to show up to your life. It’s a useful tool for anytime when you’re trying to picture what you’d like to do next - like finding a perfect new apartment or home, finding a grad program to suit you, or developing a new website and branding materials for your business.
Why? Focusing on what you don’t want is about pushing feelings and circumstances away from you. A vision is meant to pull you forward and to invite the kinds of feelings and circumstances that you desire into your life. That pulling energy inspires your sense of motivation and inspiration, and your drive for getting to where you want to go. That’s fuel for change!
Creating Your Vision
1) Carve out some time and a spot where you can focus and reflect.
2) Gather any supplies you’ll need, whether you’re creating a vision that’s written in a journal, diagramed in a sketch, or collaged together with images and words from magazines.
3) Start thinking about what it is that you want. If your mind naturally goes to what you don’t want, that’s an a-ok place to start. Make a list of your undesirables, and then go back through and flip them so that they are phrased in the positive. In the example of my client above, the vision-version of her wants might look like this:
I want a job that allows me to move around physically.
I want a job that involves variety in modes and settings of working.
I want a job that includes a flexible schedule.
4) Run with it and get specific. Take down as much information about your vision as you possibly can, the more detail, the better. It is impossible to be too specific, so pull out all the stops.
Feeling resistant to getting too specific? Check it out: Have you ever shopped for a new car? A few years ago, my husband and I were looking for a used Honda Civic. I never really noticed them before, but suddenly, they were everywhere. We’d be driving down the highway, and all I would see were Civics all around us.
A detailed vision is kind of the same - when you know what you’re looking for, you’re tuned into it, and you’re primed to recognize it when it comes along. It might feel like specificity is limiting you to only a few possibilities, but getting specific actually opens up more. Limiting ourselves to looking for only one model of car was way specific, but seriously, they were swarming all around us. If you know in detail the job that you’re looking for, right down to the office culture and distance from your home, when you see the listing you’ll know that it’s the job for you.
5) Keep your vision handy and use it. Creating a vision is not a one-time activity, it’s a tool to use whenever you need to reconnect with your sense of motivation and inspiration. Post the visual or diagram in a spot where you’ll see it regularly, or keep the journal on your nightstand where you can read it before bed. Staying connected with your vision will ensure that you stay on track for moving in the direction you’ve laid out.
Your turn: What’s one thing that you don’t want in your life, and how would you phrase that in the positive for your vision?
Thanks for asking: Carole Ann Penney, CPC, coaches professionals seeking more meaningful careers and new & emerging leaders who want to lead more authentically and effectively. Carole Ann has a B.A. in Education Studies from Brown University and holds certifications in nonprofit management & leadership (Tufts University) and professional coaching (Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching). She is a member of The Lady Project Board of Directors. When she is not coaching, she’s developing the most important emerging leader in her life—her two year old daughter, Avery Jean.
Photo by Jen