Most people in this world drift aimlessly through life. They have no vision, no purpose and sometimes do not even know what they value the most. It is no wonder that they never achieve anything and are never happy. Instead of working on improving themselves, they spend most of their time complaining. That’s no way to go through life.
If you want to be a success, if you want to be happy, then you need a clear direction in life. You need to have a vision of yourself and a clear plan on how to achieve that vision. This includes setting clear goals and then working hard in order to achieve them.
The first thing to do in any process of self-improvement is drafting a vision of where you want to be. The purpose of this vision is to give you a clear direction on where you are going.
In order to draft a good vision, you need to do some preliminary work beforehand. This involves a lot of visualizing and brainstorming. This initial exercise should result in a collection of different elements that will serve as input for your final vision statement. The better you do your preparatory work, the better your final vision statement will be.
Below I outline some preliminary work that you can do in order to better refine your vision. Feel free to pick which of this you do and which you don’t do. If you already have a good idea of where you want to be, you can skip many of the preliminary steps and just focus on a few key steps to help you hammer down the key elements you want to cover.
In any process of change, it is good practice to start by analyzing the present situation. Take a good, hard look at yourself and ask yourself these questions: What do you do, why do you do those things, what is your internal make-up? A good tool to use in order to get a deeper understanding of your internal makeup are NLP meta-programs. These are often at the root of your behavior and drive the choices that you make. Therefore you can use them to understand yourself on a more profound level.
Your behavior often also depends on a particular situation. You might behave differently at home or at work and each of these situations usually has a different need. Thereby your goals might differ based on the role you play. You should create a list of the roles that you play in life (for example individually, at home or in your job). This list will then serve as input later on when you are looking at your future self.
Before writing down your vision statement, you need to have a clear idea of where you are at the present moment. To help you out with this, you can create three further short lists: one listing your values, one listing your strengths and one listing your weaknesses. These can give you a better idea on what things are important to you and what things you can and cannot do.
Once you have this present state down, then you can move onto defining where you want to be and your ideal future state.
To help with the visualization of your future self, you should ask yourself some basic questions. If all things turned out perfectly, who do you want to be, what to you want to be able to do, what do you want to look like? You need to ruminate long and hard on what you really want out of life.
What things do you want to change about yourself? Why do you want to change them? You can use the list of roles that you created before and link them with specific needs that you have in each role. These needs then can serve as an indication of the things that you can change about yourself in order to perform the role better.
A good way of further refining your ideal future state is to look at the positive qualities of the people you admire. Make a list of people you admire and want to be like and then create short lists of the qualities that you admire about them.
All these little preliminary exercises should provide insights into who you are and what you want to be like. They should provide you with enough material to be able to come up with a very good vision of your future self.
Once you have the present and future states down, you need to link them and think of ways to bridge the gap. How do you go from the present AS IS state to the future TO BE state? Jot down some potential strategies and think about how realistic they are.
All these things will then be reflected in your vision statement. You will proceed in a top down fashion in order to draft it:
1) Vision Statement
- create a list of goals to fulfill that vision
- pick the top two or three goals and make them into your mission
2) Mission Statement
- elicit goals for that mission (list of more detailed goals)
3) List of Benefits
4) Values Statement
5) List of Principles
6) List of Potential Obstacles
Drafting Your Vision Statement
Now that you have done the preliminary work, you can start writing the actual vision statement itself.
The main purpose of the vision is to guide you and inspire you, and so in that way it serves as the ultimate source of motivation. The vision comes from a broad perspective and incorporates different areas of life: mind, body, spirit, emotions, work, play and other areas. The statement should be short, consisting of a few sentences and written in the present tense. When reading it, you should immediately be able to visualize where you are going. The vision should excite you and push you to go through your routine daily.
After you have this vision statement, you can move onto the next phase. You need to think hard and make a list of the goals that you need to achieve in order to fulfil that ultimate vision. Then you should rank these goals according to priority. Once you have this ranking, take the first two or three goals and make them into your mission.
Keep the other goals as well, but hide them until the time when you feel that you have advanced far enough in your top priority goals. Once you have accomplished your top goals or are close to accomplishing them, then you can also start working on the other goals. It’s not a good practice to work on too many goals at once, especially if you are just starting out and haven’t yet developed a strong willpower.
Drafting Your Mission Statement
When you have selected your top two or three goals, you can go about drafting your mission statement. The difference between a vision and a mission, is that the vision is more long-term and abstract, while the mission is more shorter-term and consists of a series of steps that need to be done in order to achieve the overall vision.
Here are some guidelines for drafting a mission statement:
- keep it brief
- keep it clear and simple
- describe what you want to focus on
- the statement should be positive (describe what you want to do)
- you need to focus on actions and habits (mission statements are always active)
- keep the benefits in mind when drafting the statement
Once you write your mission statement, you should further elicit more detailed goals that you will need to achieve in order to accomplish that mission. Remember that they need to reflect the SMART criteria (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, time-related).
In this phase, you can even come up with a short, rough action plan. The action plan can be a chart where you first list the area of your specific goal (for example mind, body, spirit), then you write the specific goal itself (for example gain 5 kg of lean muscle), the deadline for that goal, some specific action points that you will do (for example go to the gym 3 times a week), as well as some potential obstacles or other things that can affect that specific goal.
Reflecting On The Benefits, Obstacles And Your Values
The vision and mission statements should be tied to benefits that you will get once you accomplish what you set out to accomplish. What will having achieved your goals allow you to do? This is very important for keeping yourself motivated, as having a list of benefits in front of you at all times, will remind you of why you are doing what you are doing.
After the benefits, you should come up with a short list of values that you hold dear. Who are you and what do you value most? You can complement this with a list of principles that you guide yourself with in going through life.
Finally, you also always need to keep in mind the fact that life is not a straightforward path, but there are many obstacles and problems that you might encounter on your journey. It is a good practice to try to create a list of potential obstacles that you might encounter and think about how you can overcome them. If you think about this beforehand, you will not be taken back once something happens that block your progress.
However if you don’t want to have those obstacles (it’s good practice to link obstacles to potential actions to overcome them) constantly on your mind, you can hide that piece of information somewhere and only have the other parts of the vision visible. Do whatever works best for you.
The strategies above are just a guideline to help you. You don’t have to follow every step, but instead should pick and choose whatever fits you best. The beauty of all this, is that you can revise any part of the procedure at any time. Your vision should remain relatively stable, but circumstances and interests change and your goals can change with them, so your process of individual self-development should be agile and reflect your evolution.
Here is my personal vision statement:
I am a thoughtful, charismatic and refined man, who has the ability to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. I can protect myself and help my loved ones whenever they are in need. I have a wide breadth of knowledge in many areas and very deep specialist knowledge in a few key select areas. I can perform great feats of strength and ability. Women are naturally attracted to me. I have a good mind in a healthy body. I am a true Renaissance Man.
By the summer of 2016: I have gained lean muscle and now weigh 95kg with 8% body fat. I am at C2 in French, and B2 in Dutch and Polish. I have grown as a person, learned about many new things and updated my blog regularly, which has also helped other people grow as people in the process.
List of Benefits:
understand the world better
have the ability to communicate with different people
be more persuasive
feel more confident
be able to protect myself and others
have the ability to perform better at different sports
have women be naturally attracted to me
List of Principles:
1) Family comes first.
2) I am willing to work hard.
3) I will need to change some of my internal make-up and become more assertive.
2) Too much work in other areas
3) Sickness (potential short-term obstacle)
4) Injury (potential long-term obstacle)
5) Not finishing things up (I have a tendency to start things and not go all the way through)
One good practice with mission statements is to incorporate both a body and a mind component. That way you have a balanced and varied plan. You want to be a Renaissance Man after all and not some one dimensional one-hit wonder.
You can use the short action plan as the basis for coming up with a more detailed plan of action and schedule.
Keep the vision statement at a visible place and refer to it often. Its purpose is to drive your action towards transforming yourself and keeping you motivated in the process. For best effects, post it on your fridge!
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