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5 Steps to Design Your Life

Photo by Hannes Caspar
The soul cannot think without a picture. ~Aristotle

Lately, I have observed that many of us feel we are reacting to life versus creating it.

Perhaps some of us are stuck in a job we feel is not challenging or is not utilizing our potential.  Or, we are constantly feeling behind — the demands from errands, tasks and bills have us constantly playing catch up. Some of us struggle with finding a meaningful balance between our family and career.

Or, simply, we have become the victim; unconsciously, we have decided to be the effect of each day versus the cause.

Recently, as I was faced with a disconnect in varying interests, I realized I had to refocus, quickly, before I went astray.

I found by designing my life through a vision statement, it has been a tool for providing more direction: Instead of becoming reactionary to whatever arises in my day, I have regained the role of creating it.

The Inspiration

Last week, I made my way to the Phoenix Zoo for a board training. I’d recently been nominated for the chair of board development for our local Boys & Girls Club and happily accepted as this is an organization I am passionate about.

On Friday mornings, apparently the zoo is a popular destination. I parked in the first available spot — the farthest spot in the parking lot — and made my way to the entrance.

I stood out a bit in my high heels and dress, amongst comfy moms in sneakers pushing strollers, hip toddlers with their matching outfits, cool sunglasses, and big smiles in anticipation for a day of fun at the zoo.

I couldn’t help but wish I was there with a family of my own — on a gorgeous Phoenix spring morning — sunshine beaming, walking slowly, looking at koalas, and the latest reptile exhibit.

I found my way to the presentation: I listened intently, took notes and brainstormed on how I could contribute in leading our board toward greater impact in the community.

During a break, I chatted with the president of an organization whose purpose was to serve children who have lost a parent.

I found myself deep in conversation and shared that perhaps my husband and I could volunteer at one of their upcoming summer camps. After all, we had both lost a parent at a young age, we understood the hardship and had compassion for kids who are walking a similar path.

The break ended and the consultant began speaking about the importance of a vision statement for non-profit organizations. He stressed how an organization’s vision statement shaped, inspired and guided the members to achieve with purpose.

Swayed and Overcommitted

I couldn’t help but momentarily leave that training, mentally, and start to reflect on my own personal vision statement. What is mine? I am intimately familiar with the non-profit’s vision statement, but why didn’t I know what my personal vision statement is?

Why is that I sway so easily from trading in my corporate heels for mommy sneakers? What compels me to freely commit my time to any organization I felt passionate about, when I already have plenty of commitments? How can I regain focus on the true intentions that are authentic to my future?

I need a personal vision statement.

That night, I came home and picked up an issue of Inc. Magazine, remembering an article I’d read on a recent flight home. The article was The Power of Visioning and stressed the importance of visioning for companies.

I have translated the article into creating a vision statement for individuals.

Your Vision Statement

The key points I extracted from the article are:

  • What is a vision? It’s not as mystical or out there as it sounds. A vision, quite simply, is a picture of your success at a particular time in the future.
  • A great vision is inspiring. It gets you excited to get out of bed every morning.
  • A vision must be strategically sound. You have to have a reasonable shot at getting there.
  • When we do effective visioning, we’re moving toward the future we want, not just reacting to a present-day reality we don’t like.
  • Spend time working toward the future you have chosen to create: life is short and time spent agonizing over opportunities that seem too good to pass up — but aren’t going to get us where we really want to go — is time wasted.
  • A vision makes it much easier to handle the decisions that present themselves in each day: The only opportunities even worth considering are those that are going to help us attain our vision.

Get Started!

Here’s what’s needed in order to start designing your vision statement:

  • 30 minutes of time (somewhere with no interruptions)
  • A pen and a piece of paper
  • Organize the piece of paper into 4 categories: 1) Topic/Time Frame, 2) Questions, 3) Senses and 4) Draft

Step 1: Pick your Topic and Time Frame

When does your vision take place? Is your vision for when you graduate college? Or when you reach retirement? Or when you’re ready to start a family?

Select your destination for your vision statement, so you can zoom in on the specifics.

Perhaps there’s not a theme or topic — simply a timeline — a vision statement for the next three years? Or five years?

Step 2: Answer Questions to Guide You

To get your creativity flowing, answer some probing questions:

  • What are three things in your day that you find most fulfilling?
  • What are your most important values?
  • What intentions do you have?
  • What are your greatest strengths? Feel free to ask those that know you: “What are my greatest strengths and weaknesses? What do you admire the most about me?”

These questions help move you in the direction of your vision by identifying with your authenticity.

Should you need more questions in order to explore deeper, Tina has created 15 questions to help you.

Step 3: Senses

One key difference between a mission statement and a vision statement is this: A vision statement you can feel, experience, touch, even smell — you can see it.

Write a few key words with how your vision statement feels. Connect with the senses at a point in time of your vision

Perhaps, as part of your statement, you want to be a healthier version of who you are today. What does that feel like? A few key words that come to mind might be: energetic, happy, awake.

Or, you can elaborate even further. For example, perhaps your vision is to someday open your own coffee shop, beachside. Fast forward five years, you are now celebrating the first anniversary of your coffee shop:

What are the customers doing? Are they on wi-fi reading the latest news? Are there artists sketching next to a window with a view of the ocean? Is there an aroma of espresso in the air? What about the patio — can you feel the breeze from the beach? Zoom in on the way the coffee smells, what the customers are doing, how they are interacting, how your employees are serving them.

To connect with the vision statement, at a level of engaging all your senses, deepens the reality.

Step 4: Draft

 With steps 1 through 3 brainstormed, you can begin to move toward the vision statement:

  • Go for Something Great. The objective of the vision statement is to create a life that is awesome and authentic. Don’t settle: Go for something great.
  • Write from the Heart. Whatever pours into your heart, allow it flow onto the paper: Go for it. Don’t judge it. Just write it down, even if people along the way have convinced you that it is not possible.
  • Step Into the Future. Envision yourself at the arrival of your vision statement. Put yourself there. Incorporate the senses from step 3. Imagine the vision statement as a movie of your life: Be in the movie, not in the audience. Write as if you are there.
  • Go Quickly. Avoid editing; just write. Often times, the most inspiring, honest, insightful thoughts are those that come freely. Do not stand in your own way with editing thoughts. Nobody will be reading your vision statement — it is for you — so allow the creation to be done whole-heartedly.
  • Go for It. Now, with all these tips, create your vision statement.

Maybe your vision statement is in a series. Perhaps it’s in three parts, three paragraphs, to create your entire vision. Or, perhaps your vision statement is one concise, simple paragraph that adequately sums up your vision.

There is no guideline to the length of the statement.

Take no more than 30 minutes, draft it, and then go back to your day.

It will still be there waiting for you when you return from your other responsibilities. Enjoy your vision statement: play with it, connect with it, be creative and be you.

Step 5: Evaluate

Do you feel connected to it? Does it bring you inner peace and bliss when you have completed drafting? Do the words resonate with you and empower you to create your future?

If so, you have created your vision statement in its perfection at this point in time.

Do remember that we are always evolving and changing, so revisit the vision statement to include new changes and chapters in your life.

What have you envisioned for your life? If you already have a vision statement, or are in the process of creating one, what have you designed thus far?

What part of your vision statement drives you to move toward it?

Please do share. We’d love to know what you have planned for your amazing future, and how we can help empower your vision.


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About the author

Cat is a recent corporate escapee, now practicing as a full-time Zen Student. Her home, for the next year or so, is on various meditation cushions in the world.

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1 thought on 5 Steps to Design Your Life

  1. Lovely article! I think this is a great first step, but the only thing that will eventually help you design your life is – doing things. One must put plans and ideas to action and keep evaluating the vision as things progress. Nothing is ever going to be exactly as first envisioned.

    I do my vision statement once a year but leave it aside. I will let opportunities come my way as if you are too hang up upon your plan you may miss the path that would actually be more fruitful for you.

    It is great to look at where I got to once a year, evaluate and create a new vision. Very often things that I’ve put in do happen, but often take a slightly different form than I’ve envisioned.

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