Personal Visioning Pathways and Pitfalls
"If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." - Henry David Thoreau, 19th century American naturalist, poet, and essayist
• My wife, Heather, and I have found that spending at least once a year in a quiet evening of uninterrupted time "daydreaming" has kept our marriage strong and our lives in focus. We look at family, house or home, our careers, our physical health, our financial health, community involvement, spiritual growth, and social life.
• A "dream list" can help us find the core of our deepest and truest inner desires and vision. Recording every dream, desire, or goal that pops into our mind is a good way to start. Once the list is complete and exhaustive, we can start sifting through it to look for patterns or clusters. These can be grouped and prioritized to our dreams until they're narrowed down to a manageable number. This is our personal source of energy and passion.
• Imagery is what "emotionalizes" and energizes a vision. It's a vitally important leadership skill. We seem to have a natural ability to image what we don't want and then bring it into being. Reversing years of negative conditioning and bad habits so we can learn to vividly see what we do want isn't easy. We have to work very hard at it. Since we're all different, there is no universal "one approach fits all" way to increase our picturing power.
Here are a few ideas or keys that may can help develop this critical skill:
o Imagery often works best in a quiet relaxed place at our peak time of day (for me, that's early morning just after vigorous exercise and a shower). We can start by focusing on our breathing, closing our eyes, and watching our thoughts on a big movie screen at the front of our head.
o Here is a practice exercise - Count the windows in a very familiar home by mentally walking through all the rooms. Smell those distinct smells of each room. Feel the carpet or floor on bare feet. Hear the happy sounds of others in the house. Taste a favorite meal that waits in the kitchen.
o Focus on an aspect or area of our preferred future. We've been wildly successful. Explore that success. Hear those ideal conversations. See the perfect setting or physical elements. Smell the air. Taste the food or champagne. Feel the presence or touch of others or the material manifestation of our dream. Savor the scene. Wallow in it. Enjoy it.
o We might try tape-recording our descriptions of our vision. Play it back and use it to make notes. We can continue taping our visioning sessions until we've intensified the emotions and sharpened the clarity of the scenes to such a degree that listening to them sends shivers of excitement up and down our spine.
o See the Appendix of Bernie Siegal's book, Love, Medicine, and Miracles for his suggestions and other reference sources on relaxation, imagery, and visualization.
• I have found developing a number of personal affirmations is very useful. Napoleon Hill's bestselling classic, Think and Grow Rich, is based on his twenty years of research on hundreds of highly successful business and political leaders commissioned by Andrew Carnegie early in the 20th century. He found that "auto suggestion" or "self suggestion" was a key to the success of the giants he studied. Today they're often called "affirmations".
• I have used a private "blessings and brag list" to build my confidence and reinforce my vision. It contains every accomplishment, strength, or success I've ever had along with all the blessings I've enjoyed. We have much to be thankful for. I keep adding to it. I review it frequently, but especially when I am having a "doubt day" or down on myself.
• If our job drains energy and we can't get passionate about it, we'll never be an energizing leader of others. We need to invest the time and effort in visioning our ideal job. Sometimes making changes in our current job will give us a dramatic energy boost. Richard Bolles' book, What Color is Your Parachute, has an exceptionally useful Appendix called "How to Create a Picture of Your Ideal Job or Next Career". It's an extensive step-by-step workbook exercise that I, and others I've recommended it to, have found extremely useful.
Only share your vision with people who truly want to see you succeed and will encourage or help you get there. However, share, broadcast, brag on, take bets toward, or otherwise publicly declare your improvement goals. That paints you into a corner. Your pride will push you to keep going toward that goal when you've got to pull yourself out of bed early, pass on the dessert, or practice those new skills.
Have a question for Jim? Ask or leave a comment below!