How to Jump-Start Your Vision—FAST!

“There is no use trying; one can’t believe impossible things,” said Alice in Wonderland. “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” replied the Queen.

In these tricky post-recession days it might seem ridiculously idealistic to urge belief in impossible things, but great strategic thinking starts with having a vision—even a seemingly unachievable one—of where you want to go.

Women are sometimes judged to be less visionary than men. It may just be a matter of perception, but we often seem to have a block of some sort around vision.

Making Vision Enjoyable

The task of coming up with a vision often feels somewhat daunting. Where on earth to start?

The key is to find genuinely fun and interesting ways to create a vision. Otherwise it risks being bland, dull and passionless—one of those awful platitude-packed statements that you see adorning the wall in some grey office where you’d rather not be.

Speaking to an audience, UK businesswoman and BBC TV star Rachel Elnaugh preferred not to use the word vision. For her, having vision is about being a daydreamer, thinking about possibility and wouldn’t-it-be-great-ifs.

A great way to jump-start your vision is by creating your own “vision board” or “dream board.” It’s an enjoyable, practical and very tangible exercise that you can do in just one hour (although when your creative juices start flowing, I’ll bet you’ll want to take a bit longer).

Having a vision board—a visual representation of what you are aiming for, what is most important to you, whether in your professional or personal life, or a combination of both—is an extraordinarily powerful tool to help you get there. It becomes something compelling to aspire to, something to get you out of bed with a bounce rather than with that “Oh God, here we go again” Monday-morning feeling.

Too often, we try to be visionary only by using our left (logical) brain—and become stalled. Getting your right (creative) brain involved in the visioning process allows more subconscious ideas to flow and, quite literally, a picture of your ideal future to emerge.

Vision Boards Are Effective!

It may all seem a bit far-out, but there are plenty of people who have directly experienced the benefits of creating a vision board. One of those is Dr. Samantha Collins, the CEO of Aspire, who created a vision board in 2006 while single, child-free and living in London, with her company’s reach entirely UK-centric. Fast-forward to 2010 and Samantha, now living in California and happily married to a man who looks remarkably like the man on her vision board, has two children and a thriving company whose reach has gone global. What could be next? Another vision board!

The new vision board focuses on Samantha’s current vision to dramatically grow Aspire in new ways alongside its not-for-profit mentoring wing, The Aspire Foundation, and expand her sphere of influence among some of the most high-profile women in the world.

Does Samantha have a precise plan worked out for how to achieve her vision? No (though she’s working on it). Does it slightly terrify her, wondering if and how she will actually get there? Yes, but in a good way. The whole point of a vision board is to dream, to expand your thinking beyond normal, safe realms. As a wise soul once said, if you reach for the stars, you might just land on the moon.

Three Steps to Designing Your Own Vision Board

1. Clear Your Head

Do yourself a favor and create your vision board away from the distractions of your normal work environment, at a time when you are feeling positive, energized and good about yourself. You might want to start it first thing in the morning, or just after you’ve been for a short walk.

2. Reflect Silently

Settle down to think strategically about your vision, about what you really want, in a quiet place with no interruptions. With notebook and a pen in hand, use the following prompts to trigger your thinking:

  • If there were no obstacles at all, what would I love to achieve in the next couple of years? What would I love to be involved with? What is my ideal scenario?
  • What do I want to be remembered or known for? How do I want people to describe me and my work?
  • What is a bigger stretch for me/my organization?
  • What impact do I want to have in the world? What would I want my legacy to be?

If you find it really hard to get into these questions, try expressing some of them in the negative. For example: What would you hate to be involved with? What is your worst-case scenario? And so on. After you have noted down your thoughts, go back through your list and change each of your responses into a positive statement. “I’d hate to be unknown and always in the background” could become “I’d love to be known as a leading authority in my field.”

Pick a timeline that suits you when contemplating these questions—it can be one, five or 10 years, whatever works for you. If you struggle with visioning, it may help to focus on a shorter timeline of a year or so.

It’s up to you whether you choose to focus your vision board on your professional life, your personal life, or a mixture of both. I would always advocate combining the two, as your vision for one area of your life will obviously impact the other areas.

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