You’ve probably heard of the “Law of Attraction” at this point. If you haven’t – think of it this way: If you envision something you want hard enough, you’ll get it. You envision yourself wealthy, and wealth will come to you. However, VISION without ACTION accomplishes nothing. That’s obvious to most. What doesn’t seem to be as obvious to so many people though is that…
ACTION without VISION is also pretty worthless!
You must have a vision to know where you are headed. You need a goal point to go toward. Without a goal in mind, actions are just random and there is no way to measure if they are helping you or not. You could be, and likely are, wasting your time.
What is “Vision”?
Having vision goes beyond just having a plan. A plan is part of vision but the most important aspect is defining what it is you WANT. WHERE you want to be, and WHO you want to be. What kind of life do you want? Everything comes into this equation. Your vision is your snapshot of your “perfect” (perfect in the limited human sense) life at a certain point in time in the future. That could be 10 years, or it could be 10 months. It is important that your vision is truly your own – tailored to your needs, desires, and values. Your vision needs to meet that criteria – it needs to satisfy. It isn’t laid out for you in a book or on someone’s blog (not even from here, sorry). You must develop it on your own.
“By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be. Put your future in good hands—your own.” —Mark Victor Hansen
Developing your vision is a process. It isn’t simply a fantasy or lofty daydream. Think of this like choosing a place to go on a map. If you know of a place you want to be heading to, then you can define a path to get there. To be able to reach any destination it must be a real place. Before we go further it’s important to understand that you will be setting many smaller goals to reach your vision. Think of them like checkpoints along the way. Having those checkpoints keep you clearly on the path toward your vision, and reward you with smaller successes along the way that keep you motivated.
As a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, I have this discussion with clients setting their fitness goals. Client’s goals when they first talk to me are often unclear, unrealistic, and open-ended. To fix this we use a system of goal setting called SMART Goals. SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. In setting your life’s vision, following the SMART Goals system can increase your success rate and help you achieve your vision. Let’s use your personal fitness as an example to learn how to set SMART goals.
Clearly define what you want. “I want to be fit” isn’t specific. There are many ways people define what is “fit”. For some people that may simply be being within a certain healthy weight range, while for others being “fit” might be defined as being competition ready for bodybuilding, or it may mean running a marathon. So “fit” would look very different for each of those people, and getting to those specific definitions of “fit” require different paths. Having a specific goal lets you take SPECIFIC ACTION that leads you where you want to be.
Your goal needs to be measurable. This is how you track your progress toward your goal. It lets you know if what you are doing is working, or not working, and lets you take corrective action to get back on track and not stray too far from your path. In fitness this would be weighing yourself, comparing biometrics, and taking body measurements with tape measure or calipers, or it could be your record lifts – all depending on what goal you are striving toward. If your goal is weight loss then you need to be weighing yourself periodically. This lets you track your progress. The same applies to any goal. Check yourself. How well are doing?
This is a big one, and one that is sure to set you up for disappointment if set incorrectly. Make sure your goal is something that is feasible. If weight loss is someone’s goal then choosing an appropriate amount of weight to be working to lose is important. Losing 15 pounds over the course of a few months is attainable. Trying to lose 50 pounds in a month isn’t. You may need to reign in your goal to a level you reach that won’t leave you frustrated and feeling like you did something wrong.
While it may sound very motivating to “always aim for the stars” it doesn’t usually produce the best results in the long term. Setting an unrealistic goal is a recipe for certain failure. Failing is inevitable in any endeavor but it isn’t the end-all; you get back up and keep trying but if your goal is unattainable in any realistic fashion then you are doomed from the start. It might sound like a bummer that we can’t all look like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime, or be as rich as Bill Gates but this reality check and the self-acceptance of our own limitations, and potential is part of maturing in life. This shouldn’t be demotivating – it should be FREEING. You are YOU, and not someone else, and you are only accountable for living your own life. This means you can feel success without having to be Arnold or Bill Gates, and that your chances of feeling successful at attaining your vision just greatly increased.
We all want things as soon as possible, and thanks to many aspects of modern life we are used to getting many things very fast. It takes time to achieve great things. Understand your goals will take time to achieve. When setting a goal it is important to give it a time frame. Fitness certainly doesn’t happen overnight. If you are trying to build some serious muscle it takes YEARS, not weeks. However, you can set your goals in a way that you can progress through those checkpoints on your way to the larger goal. Your timeframe for a goal should challenge you and keep you from becoming complacent. It keeps you on track for achieving your long term vision. Having a timeframe lets you check yourself along the way as well. So if you have set a goal to lose 15 pounds in 3 months, you can check yourself about 6 weeks in and see if you are half-way there, analyze the situation, and take appropriate action to get back on track if need be.
Destination Set, Now Define The Path
Using the SMART goal method you now have a clear, realistic destination you are able to get to within a certain amount of time. Now you need to plan the course of action that gets you there. It’s time to define the path. Every action you make is either an action that helps you get closer to your goal, or doesn’t help you get closer to your goal. It’s simple when broken down to this level.
Ask yourself: “How is this helping me?”
You can check yourself with this question throughout your day. Ask yourself this frequently and you may find a lot of habits to discard that will make room for more productive activity. This works with anything.
Life isn’t static so naturally our vision may change over time. That’s perfectly okay, and it is quite likely to happen. You don’t have to commit to something you are no longer feeling passion for – that would be a waste. Make sure your vision is truly a good fit for you. If your values, desires, or needs change it is important to still be heading to a place you want to be.
Have Compassion For Yourself
Failures are inevitable along the way to reaching your goals. It happens to us all on occasion. We can’t be perfect and it’s important to forgive ourselves for being human. The quicker we can forgive ourselves for our mistakes – the quicker we can keep going. The important thing is to not give up on ourselves. Giving up is the only true failure. Every other time we make a mistake we learn from it and use that knowledge to do better the next time. That’s the process of growth we all go through from the time we are born. Also remember that all things take time and to be patient with ourselves if we aren’t reaching our goals as quickly as expected.
Even if we run out of time in life and never reach our “perfect” vision our lives will be much better having tried our best than having never tried at all.