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It’s been said that people spend more time planning a vacation than they do planning their life. I don’t know if this is true, but the point is that most people don’t do enough of life planning (or do it very well) and planning should not be optional, especially regarding something as important as your life.

Jim Rohn said that “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” And Marshall Goldsmith said “If you do not create and control your environment, your environment will create and control you.” Ouch!

The Opportunity

Just like a business develops a vision to answer the question “What is the company’s preferred future?”, each of us needs to envision our own future. Envisioning your preferred future helps you dream, set goals, build your strengths, address your development needs, and map your path to success. And the clearer your vision and the better your plan, the greater chance you have to reach your goals and live the life you want to live.

The process and outcomes of envisioning may seem somewhat vague and superfluous; however, the long-term benefits are substantial. People use envisioning to:

  • Break away from “boundary thinking” to challenge their thought process.
  • Clarify dreams and values. “What do I want?”
  • Identify purpose and direction. “How do I get there from here?”
  • Set attainable short and long-term goals with realistic time lines.
  • Identify personal assets. “What have I got going for me?”
  • Define and overcome challenges. “What is stopping me?”
  • Promote interest, motivation, and commitment. “I’m in!”
  • Develop a positive attitude, the courage to change, and a trust that they can be successful. “I can do this!”
  • Promote increased effectiveness and focus. “I’m on track and I won’t be distracted.”

Envisioning your future can help you make deliberate choices about what you want in life. The alternative is to be reactive, to “go with the flow,” and to end up where circumstances (or others) take you. You can make your life almost anything you want it to be… so why settle for less?

In his seminal book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl discussed the importance of making quality decisions in the present about your future. He stressed the need to be clear about who you want to be and what you want to do. Without a clear purpose, he wrote, your present loses meaning. This is pretty heady stuff… but it’s important to think about and come to terms with.

The Process

So, how do you go about envisioning your future? A useful approach is to break your life down into meaningful parts instead of attempting to look at everything all together. There are myriad ways to do this, but one is to use a Life Wheel, with categories such as Family and Home, Mental and Educational, Financial and Career, Spiritual and Ethical, Social and Cultural, and Physical and Health. Explore each of these areas to determine where you are currently and where you’d like to be at a point in the future.

For example, would you like to read more? Would you like to spend more quality time with family and friends? Do you need to strive toward a promotion and raise at work? Would you like to eat better, exercise more often, and lose 10 pounds? If you’re in your 30s, what would a great life be for you in your 50s? Or, if you’re in your 50s, what would an awesome retirement be? The idea is to, based on your envisioned future, identify the areas of your life that need to change, be improved, get more focus, etc. And then ensure that you are propelling yourself toward those important needs and wants.

Someone once said that “A fulfilling journey starts with a clear action plan.” You can’t merely dream, not act on it, and expect the universe to conspire in your favor. (The universe is one of law, order, and harmony and is not the result of mere chance or accident.) And since I believe that design beats willpower, it follows that you can’t merely put your head down and work hard, and then assume that your efforts will pay off in a meaningful way.

Moving Forward

So, once you have envisioned your desired future, it makes sense to develop a plan of action. Making meaningful change in your life and, ultimately, attaining what is most important to you, takes time, dedication, and perseverance. And, likely, some sweat and tears along the way. But your journey should provide you with “wins,” chances to celebrate, and a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Striving toward your life’s goals, and making meaningful progress, is something we should all aspire to. And having a clear vision of what you want in life is crucial.