It’s Time to Set a Compelling New Vision for Your Life
[Written version of the talk I delivered at September’s DARETOGROW events]
Why are you reading this blog? I’d guess it’s one of three reasons:
- You’re fed up of mediocrity and all the average stuff happening all around you – you want to do more and be more;
- You feel a little lost, like you don’t quite know who you are or what you want or what will make you happy; and / or,
- You feel impatient – you’ve been working on something so hard and for so long you just want it to happen now.
We all feel like this from time to time. Sometimes I feel all three at once and on those days it’s really hard to get out of bed let me tell you! But there is a remedy. There is a way to get what you want in life, find happiness and grow into the person you know you can be and it’s really simple.
You already have the answers inside you and if you don’t, you have the resourcefulness to figure it out. As a perfect example, you’re here reading this blog to see what you can learn on your journey and you’re ready for the answers.
What I’ll be sharing in this blog is a really simple model for setting a compelling vision for your life, supported by a plan to make it a reality.
Now, before we dive in, let me give you a little insight into my back story so you know who I am.
I am a coach, a writer and a speaker. About 18 months ago I experienced ‘the perfect storm’ in my life which cause me to make dramatic changes. I had a recruitment agency and a digital marketing agency at the time, a team of eight and offices in Manchester and Durham. Things were going well but I felt trapped. One day, I came across the most important question of my life: “What would you do if you only had three months left to live?”. I was on a run at the time, listening to audio book, and I started making a mental list of everything I would do. The question that followed made me take massive action: “How do you know you haven’t got three months left to live?”. I ran home and put a plan in motion that has led me to this very day.
I’ve sold my recruitment agency, I’ve downsized my marketing agency and now only work with a very select few clients. I’ve also launched my dream business as a coach and a writer and a speaker. In doing that, I had to pay off £70k in business loans and make a lot of sacrifices. During that time, I got obsessed with the study of change: how do you change your life? I read tonnes of books on the subject, I tried every technique going and now here I am, sharing what I know.
So let’s get started! Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go through each level in turn and I’m going to share some stories, some ideas and some questions for each stage. I want you to write down whatever thoughts, ideas or questions that come to mind.
Remember, the full picture might not emerge as you read this blog but I’m giving you two things here (1) a process and (2) time. This next hour is dedicated to you so forget about your worries and your woes, this hour is not about where you are. This hour is about where you’re going in life okay?
And you can go anywhere you want. I really mean that. If you want it, and you work for it, you can have it. It doesn’t matter what you don’t know right now, or what skills you don’t have, or what stands in your way. All of that is surmountable.
We’re talking about the future now alright.
Let’s start with vision then.
Now here’s a scary thought. You are living your vision. What you imagined was possible for you ten years ago is the life you’re living now. The money you earn, your living arrangements, your relationships – they’re a reflection of the vision you set for yourself one, five or maybe even ten years ago. Whether you said it out loud or not and regardless of whether this is what you wanted, this is what your vision was.
You see, you will become whatever vision you set for yourself. Good or bad.
What many of us know but don’t talk about is that there are two versions of each of us: our real self and the image we project. We feel unhappy, stressed and depressed when who we are doesn’t match who we project. So, the aim is to either project more of who we are or change to match our projections, yes? Often that means growth, change, pain.
Be ready for it. Setting a compelling new vision for your life and making it happen is uncomfortable. And that’s why so few of us have truly compelling visions for our lives – we think it will be too hard, or we don’t deserve it.
I challenged myself on this very concept when writing this talk. I’ve always had a vague vision for my life but nothing concrete and nothing too far into the future.
Now just start thinking in your life about a vision you had for yourself that you’ve achieved. It can be really small or really big. Did you want to live in your own flat? Did you want a certain job? Did you see yourself on a certain holiday? Did you want a new car? Whatever it is, pull it out of your memories and bring it to the front of your consciousness. It can be really small and the point is that it’s possible to achieve whatever vision you set for yourself. The challenge is to set one you really want. Something compelling that will pull you out of bed in the morning and keep you working through the night if need be.
We’re going to think big and work back and we’re going to look at four key aspects: your financial situation, your health, your social contribution and your business / work legacy.
So, think ahead to the time in your life when you’re old and nearing the end of your incredible journey. You’ve had an amazing, extraordinary life by your own self-determined standards, no-one else’s’. Think about what you want.
Let’s begin with health, write down whatever comes to mind for you.
What kind of health have you enjoyed and specifically, what has this health allowed you to do, where has it allowed you to go? Who has it allowed you to be? We all want good health and a long life but why – why is this important to you? Write down some thoughts.
Often when I do this exercise, people neglect health. They say I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Well yer, that’s a fact but it’s also a fact we need and deserve eight hours sleep a night! We need and deserve time off, all you workaholics like me. We need and deserve good fuel in our bodies.
Now, think about your social contribution. This covers your personal relationships but it also covers what you’ve done for the wider good of the planet, or the world. You may not have been rewarded directly for this but you’ve made the world a better place for doing it. What is that thing you’ve done or achieved? What change or impact have you made on the world? Take a moment, too, to describe your relationships. Socially, who is in your life and what kind of relationships do you enjoy with them?
Moving on to money, finances, wealth. It’s okay to talk about financial goals so write yours down. You could be specific or you could say ‘financial freedom’. Whatever you write down…write down why. Why do you want that money, or wealth or freedom…what will you do with it. If you want other things here, like a villa or a car or your own flat…whatever it is write it down and include a sentence to say why…what will you do with it.
Finally, let’s look at business and work. I’ve left this one until last because it’s the one we always tend to put first. Promotions, pay-rises, projects…what do you want to achieve in your own business, or at work? What level do you want to reach? What impact do you want to have had. Write it all down.
Remember, this is a draft, we’re not writing it in stone. I just want to give you a process you can take away to work on. This is your first draft and it will firm up as you work on it.
Okay, let’s move on to goals.
Do you know the number one mistake people make when setting goals? They set far too many of them, never take the action they need to and then lose hope in the whole process when it doesn’t work.
My technique? Write down all your goals, get them all out your head but bring two or three in focus at any one time.
Why is this important? I remember seeing this model in a book called by Greg Mckeown. It served to demonstrate we put our energy on so many different tasks that we seem to get no-where. When we focus our energy on one thing, however, we can make significant progress.
Coach, author and speaker Jack Canfield, by contrast, has a list of 101 goals. He says that the brain is a goal-seeking organism. Whatever goal you give to your subconscious mind, it will work night and day to achieve it. His reason for 101 goals is that some goals take longer to achieve than others – and if you spend years working toward only one objective, you’re likely to get discouraged when it doesn’t happen right away.
He wrote a list of 101 goals back in 1989 at the age of 45 – and he’s crossed more than 80 off the list. Amazing.
Do you know the second mistake people make? They chase the money instead of living out their passion.
When I was 23 I set a goal to be a millionaire by the time I was 30 and I was very public about that goal. Deep down, all I ever wanted to do was help people to live their dream lives. That desire has never left me but pursuing the money drove the wrong behaviours in me. Last year, I had to go through an awful process of letting my go, of giving up contracts, of starting again.
Stephen Covey, who is the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People puts it beautifully when he says there are two types of greatness we can aspire to: primary greatness and secondary greatness. Secondary greatness is an aspirations of the ego – money, popularity, success. Primary greatness is an aspiration of the soul – peace of mind, a sense of contribution, personal growth.
At the end of the day, we all have to live with the life we build, so what is it you really want and what goals will help you get that.
So, back to the model. As an example of how this process works, pick one aspect of your vision and develop it. Look at what you’ve listed in your vision and pick the one aspect that matters most right now. It could be the one that seems most difficult at the moment or the one you’re avoiding or it could be the aspect you’re most passionate and excited about.
Within that element of your vision, I want you to pick three timeframes. I’d suggest ten years, five years and one year. It might help to get a piece of A4 paper and split it into three columns, headed up with those timeframes. Then, get thinking! Write down all the goals you’d have to work towards to make that vision a reality for you.
Remember, when you’re setting goals, don’t concern yourself with your present circumstances. I set a vision that had nothing to do with my life – writing the book, speaking at live events. I said ‘what if I could start again’? and went for it. Do not allow your past or present circumstances to decide what you want.
Keep going until you’ve listed all the goals you can think of.
Okay, I love this part of the model. We’ve all probably done something around envisioning a new life right, and we’ve all set a SMART goal before, right? But what very few people realise is this. You can’t just set a goal and have it. Hard work alone won’t make it happen.
To achieve something in your life, you’ve got to grow into the kind of person who can have that thing. So, if I want a six pack, I can’t just work out a few times a week and hope for the best. I’ve got to learn about nutrition, I’ve got to change my attitude to food, I need to build workouts in my life…I don’t just ‘get’ a six pack. I become the person who has one, does that make sense?
Money is a better example for me. I had to pay off a significant business debt to do what I’m doing today because investments I took to grow my company became debt to repay when I no longer wanted to do that. The thing about debt is you can’t fake, blag and buy your way out of it. You get out of debt by making changes, by cutting back, by budgeting, by earning more money. Once you’re out of debt, you’re so changed as a person you’ll never go back to being in debt. Your values have changed.
So how do you need to grow in order to make this goal happen for you.
Focus less on the actions you need to take, and more on the behaviours and habits you need to form. When you do that, you’ll see more clearly the actions you need to take.
If it’s lose weight for example, a new habit might be buying fruit or going to the gym.
The great thing about this is that you don’t need to guess what you need to do. You can find someone who’s already achieved what you want and model it.
I want to be a speaker so I study Tony Robbins and Les Brown and Lisa Nichols. I read the Ted book and I went to a TED speaking training day. These guys have already figured out how to do it so I copied them in the beginning, their practices and rituals.
I want to write a book so I have a coach who’s written Amazon best sellers and I’m going to a seminar in London with a woman who’s had three Times Best Sellers. The coach was a little more expensive but spread monthly I can afford it. I learn from them what habits to build through the actions they took.
With the web now, there are so many people on You Tube, social media, Google who have done what you want to do and are willing to share their blueprint for free in most cases.
So, with that in mind, I want you to try this.
- Write down all the habits you might need to develop to make this goal happen. Just write down what you know.
- Think of someone who’s already achieved it – they might even be famous. How can you find out how they did it? Be creative, be resourceful.
Now, the hard part!!!
What habits do you need to replace in your life to make it happen? I say replace but in my experience you can’t just quit sugar, or quit overspending or quit gossiping. You have to replace a bad habit with a good habit.
For example, I used to be addicted to the news. First thing in the morning, I’d check my BBC app on my phone to see what was happening in the world and I’d check it last thing at night too. I’d followed all the major broadcasters on Facebook too so my feed was full of horror stories. It’s perhaps no surprise to hear I had really high anxiety. I felt tense all the time, and depressed too. I was deeply, deeply sad all the time. In a bid to change that I bought books on how to get out of depression and they all said – stop watching the news!!!
So, I stopped watching the news first thing in the morning and last thing at night and I’ve taken to reading motivational books, practicing gratitude and reciting positive affirmations. What a difference.
So what sits behind activity…a plan! Sometimes when you complete this model you need to go front to back then back to front to make sure you’ve got it right.
Here’s what I want you to understand about having a plan. A plan is not a to do list.
A plan is made up of three things: a strategy, tactics and a process.
Your strategy is your general approach. So to make more money, one strategy could be to hire a sales team to sell what you have, another could be to increase your prices, another is to launch a new product. All of these are viable options.
You pick one strategy…each strategy has it’s own set of tactics so trying two strategies at once can be confusing.
Tactics are the little things do to make the strategy happen. If the strategy is make more money by hiring a sales team, the tactics might be to incentivise them with commission or use paid ads to help generate leads, to pay for them to go networking, use a CRM to track everything.
Tactics are supported by a process – routines you develop. So using the example above…the process might be a Monday morning sales meeting each week. You might ask everyone to contact 10 people a day. You might ask for a sales report each month.
Before you have a go at this for your goal, remember this: every goal you want to set, someone has already achieved it. If you don’t know what strategy to employ, write down what ideas you can think of or think about where you could find more ideas.
I want to finish with this. The most important thing behind all of this is you. Without you your vision doesn’t exist, your plan won’t happen and the world won’t get what you can offer.
So what can you offer? How can you change the world if you apply yourself?
And why bother? Why do it?
If you have to ask, you haven’t set the right goals! Your reason why has to be so powerful that it carries you through the weeks and months of no results. It has to be worth it in the long run.
I set the wrong goals, in pursuing that money, in building a marketing agency and a recruitment company and I’m so proud I was brave enough to admit it. I’ve gone back to square one but guess what, I’ve got a great back story now! I had to go through that, that was my journey.
What is your why?? Why are you doing this? Why do you care?
Next I want you to know this. That thing you want, that person you want to become…You’re not there yet and it could take a while. You’re not an expert in your field yet, especially if your goal is way out there. But you can be. If you dedicate time to your art.
When I first set out to be a coach, I was okay but as I learnt more and more and practiced more and more and tried out more and more strategies my skill set developed. I developed. My confidence grew and the actions I took got bigger meaning the progress I made stepped up.
So many people, when in pursuit of a big life goal won’t do what it takes. They’ll do what’s convenient.
I want to end with this.
You will never get what you want in life unless you truly believe it’s possible for you. Look at the goals you’ve set yourself and ask yourself why you won’t make it? It’s okay, it’s okay to be negative when looking for ways to anticipate and overcome obstacles. This is a strength.
Whatever comes up for you, whatever your belief is around that you need to find a way to unhinge it.
Beliefs are nothing more than a pattern. They’re a culmination of what you’re been taught, what you’ve seen, what you’ve learnt and they got reinforced over time. You need to find a way to shake these.
Don’t let the size and scale of the longterm plan deter you from acting now – I want to be the world leading transformation speaker and sell out auditoriums. That’s not possible today, but I can speak to 50 people right now. Before my events had 10 people, then 20, then 30 and now look.
I’ll be writing more and more about this model very soon so watch this space for more exercises, ideas and stories about how to set and realise a compelling vision for your life.