This is a guest post by Stacy Ennis.
There’s a near-universal fact I’ve uncovered coaching solopreneurs and training leaders across all levels: people want more out of life.
Statistics back up my experiential analysis. According to a recent Gallup poll, “only 15% of the world’s one billion full-time workers are engaged at work.” The number gets a bit better in the U.S., with 30 percent of people engaged at work. But the flipside is that a staggering 70 percent go to jobs they tolerate—or even dislike.
What if, instead, those 70 percent could live full lives, do meaningful work, and genuinely look forward to Monday mornings?
Most of us want greater flexibility and autonomy—the ability to control more of our lives, to make decisions without asking permission. We want more time with family and to pursue hobbies and interests that light us up. We want to make an impact, whether in the office, in our communities, or in our relationships. And we want to have experiences, not just soccer games for the kids on the weekends and once-a-year vacations, but monthly, weekly, even daily experiences that light us up and cause us to deepen our engagement in life.
Here’s another truth I’ve uncovered: a clear vision is powerful. It anchors us to our dreams and pushes us to do things that get us moving in the direction of the lives we want. Sure, you can’t control what your work hours are or when your boss will schedule you for a meeting. But you can create a vision for the kind of work you want to be doing one, three, five, and ten years from today—and then act on it.
So, how about you? Are you 100 percent happy with your life, every single solitary aspect of it? Or do you, like the leaders I’ve worked with, desire something more? Maybe you’re not looking for a total 180, like moving across the world or completely switching industries. Perhaps you’re looking for depth and purpose—to have a greater impact, to reach your potential.
Whatever your why, spending time defining your life vision, and then creating a plan to achieve it, can be one of the most powerful catalysts for change. Yes, even if you’re a nine-to-fiver; yes, even if you have kids; yes, even if (insert your own reason here).
Here’s one way to create a vision of the life you want at work. It starts with dreaming.
Schedule time to dream
It’s no secret our lives are busy. That’s why it’s so important to set aside specific, intentional time to think deeply about the life you want to have, both at work and at home.
Look at your calendar. Find time within the next two weeks to schedule three hours for yourself, ideally at a time when your brain is freshest (such as first thing in the morning) and you won’t have to rush off to another appointment right after. Pick a place where you feel most creative and alive, like the sunroom in your home or the woods outside your city.
Give this meeting with yourself the respect you’d give a client meeting. When the day arrives, be sure to eat a good breakfast, hydrate, and arrive “on time.” Bring a notebook and pen. Put your phone on airplane mode. Then, begin building your vision.
Create your vision
Spend the first fifteen to thirty minutes in thought. You can sit quietly with your eyes closed, or you can go on a walk—whichever suits you. Ask yourself, what kind of life do I want to have? Imagine yourself and your partner or family in one, three, five, and ten years.
Dream about the future without adjusting for practicality. Engage your imagination muscles. This might be hard at first because, for most of us, those muscles have atrophied with age.
Once you feel like you’ve started engaging creatively, find a comfortable place to sit, and take out your notebook and pen. For the next hour, write about the life you want in one, three, five, and ten years. Describe each life stage separately, digging into the detail of that future life, both at work and at home. If you’re struggling with this exercise, start with ten years and work your way toward one.
As you write, be a dreamer and storyteller. Use first-person pronouns and present tense verbs: I will, I am, etc. Write about your life as you imagine it, not based on what is practical or realistic. Just dream. Nothing is off limits. Do this without checking your phone or email, and take breaks when you need to by stretching or going for a walk.
Revisit your vision
Take a week or so away from your vision writing, keeping notes in a notebook or in your phone as they pop into your head. After a week or so, revisit your vision. Again, do this at a time when you’re fresh, energized, and not distracted.
Read your vision through once, and then get out your computer. Slowly and thoughtfully, type up your vision, adjusting or adding to it as feels appropriate. If you’ve made notes throughout the week, you can add those in too. Your goal in this exercise is to create a “vision statement” that will be something you can anchor to and reference over time.
Of course, a vision is never static, so don’t feel like putting something down makes it permanent. You’re still dreaming!
Plan your vision
Once you’ve completed your vision statement, do a gap analysis. This is often done for businesses, but you’re doing this analysis between your life now and the life you want. List out three to five action steps you need to take to get to the life you want at work and at home.
Once you have these action steps, make a plan to achieve each, with clear timelines. If you want to be self-employed, what is the first step? Maybe you’ll commit to taking an entrepreneurship course, or you’ll spend more time on your side hustle with clear revenue goals. If you want more influence at work, you might decide to focus on expertise, starting with reading books by all the major thought leaders in your area of study. Define at least three incremental, specific items to achieve within each of the three action steps. Assign yourself dates and deadlines to make it real.
Execute your vision
The greatest thing about a vision is that it influences your decision-making. Now that you have clarity around the life you want, you get the opportunity to make intentional decisions that get you closer to, or further away from, your big vision for the kind of life you want at work and at home.
Check in with your vision
You’re already statistically 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals just by writing them down—and you’ve written your vision out twice! Now you need to stay anchored to this grand vision you’ve created for your life.
Set aside time every three months to engage with your vision and action steps. You may find that your vision has shifted, or it’s become clearer. Just an hour three or four times a year reviewing your vision and thinking about it will have an impact.
As Paulo Coelho writes in The Alchemist, “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” I believe that’s true. I also believe you can have the life you want. It all starts with vision.
About the Guest Post Author:
Stacy Ennis is an award-winning author, creative consultant, and speaker, as well as the cofounder of Next Level Women Leaders, a leadership training company. She served as long-time ghostwriter for a Nobel Prize winner in medicine and executive editor of Sam’s Club’s Healthy Living Made Simple, a publication that reaches around 11 million readers.
Stacy’s latest coauthored book is Growing Influence (Greenleaf Book Group, 2018); her TEDx talk, “How to raise brave kids,” has been viewed thousands of times around the world. She lives in Portugal with her husband and two children.