Vision. A woman being specific about her life vision and goals.

What We Really Want—Making Our Vision a Reality

When you think about what you want from life, what do you immediately see?

Like anything we try to achieve in our lives, we will be much more likely to be successful if we are specific and intentional. Creating and continuously honing our idea of what success looks like is an important aspect of achieving our goals as well as developing goals that will make our lives meaningful. Most of us, if asked what we want from life, should at least be able to answer in general terms—raising happy, healthy children, providing for our families, happiness. But how many have a deeper or more specific answer at the ready—a vision for their lives and a path to making that vision a reality?

What do you really want?

When asked this question, many of us either give a responsible adult answer or turn to our inner child to answer it. We may think about our nest egg for retirement or paying for our children’s educations. This makes sense—we do spend a lot of time and energy trying to earn money so that we can achieve these goals. It’s only natural that goals related to our financial stability are often at the forefront of our mind. We might also answer the question from the perspective of the child within us—the new toy we’ve had our eyes on. We may be thinking about that new camera, a new car, or some other special and shiny desire that we’re honestly very excited about but that is unlikely to give our lives any long-lasting happiness.

We may answer the question from the perspective of love and romance. For those of us who are pursuing a romantic relationship, it can be hard to think about anything else. We tend to get obsessive about the object of our desire, to the exclusion of everything else in our lives.

If we look deeper into our lives—into the heart of who we are, our purpose in life, and the nature of our life force—we may find a vision for our lives that is more fundamental, a vision that will help us to actualize our true selves and become the genuine version of who we are. To understand this vision, we need to look beyond all the drama in our lives—beyond the everyday frustrations, challenges, and headaches—and discover our essential selves (see Finding your Essential Self and Connecting with your True Identity).

Whatever our goals are, it’s important to be specific and understand why we want to achieve them.

Aligning our desires and our actions

When thinking about how best to achieve our goals, devoting time toward them may seem like a blinding flash of the obvious. But for many of us, our actions are actually not that closely aligned with what we want to achieve in life. Many of us go through our days reacting to events, getting bogged down by details, and/or aimlessly filling our time. It’s easy to understand why. Life is hectic—we have seemingly unlimited demands on our time. At work and at home, we have responsibilities, and the end of the day, we are exhausted and need some downtime.

But it is possible to be responsive to our duties, take care of ourselves, and still make progress toward what we want from life. It’s all about being intentional and proactive. Put simply, we have to be specific about why we do what we do and ruthless about not doing what we don’t have to or don’t want to do. We can achieve this through a series of regular check-ins on what we want and how we spend our time.

Do what you have to do
‘till you can do what you want to do,
‘till you can do what you’re meant to do.

~Oprah Winfrey

We can do this on several levels, and each level is just as important as the others.

  • Big Picture. It’s important to have a vision for your life. This is “big picture,” “what will be written in your obituary” level stuff. It should be connected to your strengths, your values, and your passions. It might be something you aspire to create (write a symphony), but it should be more about who you want to be (become a successful composer) or some influence you are trying to have (teach a generation of children to incorporate music into their lives). It should be descriptive of your identity—who you are at the core.
  • Major Components. These are the major goals you have in life. You should be able to link everything you do, either directly or indirectly, back to one of these goals. Some of these will be personal, and some will be professional. Some of these will be related to your responsibilities, but you should give all of them considerable thought and ensure that they are related to your vision and that they align with your passions and values. You should also make sure they cover all aspects of your life, including work, family, health, interests, spirituality, and socializing (see Busy).
  • Day-to-Day. This is the category that’s the hardest to be intentional about. With our busy lives, demands seem to come in waves, and it can be very hard to stop and reflect on which are necessary or desired and link back to your life vision and major goals. Like everything else, you have to be intentional. You have to make time to prioritize your to-do list and remove anything that isn’t required or desired.

For each of these categories, you should schedule time to check in on them, make sure they are still in line with your values and passions, and adjust as necessary. For your vision, perhaps once a year is sufficient—pick a time when you have some space for reflection, and think about what you want from life. Think about what your ultimate desires are. For your goals, you might want to check in once a month to assess your progress and adjust your goals as necessary. Checking in on your day-to-day tasks is just as important as checking in on the other two categories. You should set aside time once a week to develop a plan for the upcoming week. Schedule your tasks based on when they are due and how important they are. Be ruthless about dropping tasks that aren’t required and/or do not support your goals and vision.

Focusing on your vision

If we regularly reflect on what we are trying to achieve, we will be much more likely to achieve it, not only because our actions will be aligned with our goals but also because our mental and sensory filters will be more likely to notice the elements in our lives that are related to or might contribute to our goals.

There’s even a name for this tendency—it’s called the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (or sometimes the “frequency illusion” or “recency illusion”). It happens when you’re focused on something and, as a result, constantly see it or see things related to it. This can happen in what you read, how you interact with people, and even how you think. Your brain becomes wired to “tag” elements in your life related to what is important to you.

But for this to work, you need to focus on what’s important to you—don’t let the trivial details of life get in the way. If you are able to focus—to keep your eyes on the prize—events and circumstances will seem to more easily fall into place.

What are you doing? What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to be? Pay attention to these questions and think hard about your answers.

Don’t let your busy life get in the way of the life you were meant to live.

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