Hold a Clear Vision For Your Future

Your self image is the key to defining your future

By Sharmadean Reid

12 January 2024

hat your 2024 Vision Plan looks like will vary according to your lifestyle, personality, or how you best motivate yourself. The point is to start defining it. The Stack World Members get access to a full Vision Setting Journal template as well as a live workshop and writing space this Sunday, on January 14th 2024. Members also get access to previous workshops in the On Demand Library. If you want to start designing your life, you can sign up for the session here.

Every year in January for the last five years in a row, I write a new Vision Plan and a new story about my life and shut my laptop, trusting that it will come to fruition. It almost always does. I raised funding for my business, I won several awards, I moved into my dream apartment, I conquered some trauma issues and above all, I feel really really good.

I’ve always straddled the lines between fantasist, daydreamer and actual planner. Even as a young child, I would be able to hold strong visions in my mind of who I wanted to be and the life I wanted to lead. I would formulate clear pictures, as clear as a movie, of my future world garnered from hours and hours of watching TV.

Although we didn’t have much money, we had Cable TV from when I was 5 years old which exploded my worldview of what was possible. My school friends were watching Eastenders, Brookside and Coronation Street. Grey, glum English telly with long suffering protagonists sucking on cigs, wearing C&A and M&S. I was watching The Bold and The Beautiful, The Young and The Restless and Dynasty where the women were powerful, glamorous and always had the next move up their sleeve. I had MTV, Sky Movies and Oprah. Everything I consumed was much bigger and shinier than what was on terrestrial TV. It was the 1980s and it was all about the American Dream. Anyone could win. Even if I was just a little girl in Wolverhampton.

I’ve always straddled the lines between fantasist, daydreamer and actual planner.

I became adept at lucid dreaming, chuckling with glee as I tucked myself into bed while planning what scenarios I would see inside my mind that night. I would repeat certain images as a self soothing mechanism. Almost like a drug, I would use my vision for my future self as a relaxation exercise - everything’s going to be ok because I can see it will be. Having source material for your future is important. A big blocker in being able to visualise, is not really seeing the world you want to live in represented anywhere. At this point, you have to dig deep to create wholly new images or seek out the images that make you feel aligned. I would attribute much of my confidence and ability to visualise from having access to Cable TV and a spectrum of representations of women.

But at this age, I wasn’t actively linking my daydreaming with my future. Like most ambitious little girls, I had a Filofax as a teenager and instead I would always write long goals in its wirebound page, a never ending list of all the things I wanted to accomplish. It was only in my late twenties, while working with coach Cheryl Clements, that I encountered a more powerful way to plan my future. One that I had actually been preparing for since a child. Here’s how it goes:

You’re going to write a narrative of your life to the last detail. From your bedsheets, to how you feel in your body, to your relationships, everything. And then you are going to picture it in your head. It is really as basic as that. But you are going to write that narrative in the present tense. This is the hurdle at which everyone falls. You’ll feel compelled to write the words will, should, want and others. These words remind you that you do not have them yet. They create a gulf between you and your future self. Instead use present tense language as if it’s already your real life, so words like me, I am, I have. Your brain can’t really differentiate between the truth and the lies you tell yourself so why not paint a rosy picture?

Like most ambitious little girls, I had a Filofax as a teenager and instead I would always write long goals in its wirebound page, a never ending list of all the things I wanted to accomplish.

So instead of writing;

“I want a penthouse house in New York.”

You can say:

“I have a big, beautiful home that makes me feel proud of my work and achievements. It is in a vibrant area of my favourite city and when I look around, it really represents who I am.”

This fundamental difference between goal setting (lists and wants) and vision setting (narrative and haves) has been powerful for me over the years. This exercise is the last piece in the puzzle to Personal Protocol. You’ve self reflected, you’ve set your principles and you know what drives you so now you can put the outcome down on paper. Every January, instead of making resolutions or judgy goals, I use around 50 different prompts to write the story of my life for the year or the decade to follow. I do this alongside my community, feeling the buzz in the room of hundreds of women all writing their futures. Once completed I lie down, meditate and go through the images in my mind. Sometimes I read it aloud and record it on my phone as a long voicenote and play it back to myself. Then I close my laptop and check it again on June 21st, Summer Solstice. I don’t read it regularly and stress myself out about how little I’ve achieved. I trust that I have told my brain and the universe what my life is like and I subconsciously begin to operate in that way.

When I work with my community to help them create a Vision Plan, I often hear a lot of fear - "I can't write that I want to earn £100k. I only earned £30k last year..." but your Vision Plan has to be allowed to be completely bonkers and your imagination has to reign free. You have to scare yourself a little for this work. As we mentioned you wouldn't list the number metric anyway - this isn't about SMART goals or OKRs - you would list the feeling and the outcome - of what £100k will get you or how it will support you. You might find that £70k will suffice to satisfy your feelings and £100k actually gives you more problems. Either way, do not hold back on your Vision for yourself. If you find your inner critic rears, reminding you that you cannot do something, write it down on a separate sheet of paper or a post it note so that it's off your mind, then go back to your main Vision Plan with your wonderful future. At the end of the session, burn the critic's notes. They don't serve you.

The first time I did the vision exercise, it was challenging. My vision for my life was based on a populist version of what success looked like. It also sounded like a shopping list. It took me two months of tweaking my first document to really get to the kernel of my happiness. This is normal so after you’ve gotten your initial visions down, question yourself constantly - do i like this? Do I want this? Does it make me feel good? Somewhere inside, I believe you know what you want for your life, we just need to chip away at societal expectations to reveal it. Remember, you were born into a narrative that was prescribed for you, so consider this your opportunity to define and design your life exactly the way you want. Like any design process, it will go through iterations. You will keep evolving as long as you keep chipping away through a constant and self directed questioning. Be observant and present as you move through the world and you'll be collecting a ton of intel on what keeps you at optimum.

This fundamental difference between goal setting (lists and wants) and vision setting (narrative and haves) has been powerful for me over the years.

Your Vision isn’t a list of proposed achievements. This is a story, written about the future but in the present tense, of how your life will look and feel. It can be difficult at first to know how you want to feel. That’s understandable, given that we have long been encouraged to suppress our emotions. But you can reach for what you want with storytelling. It’s important that your Vision is a narrative story rather than a list, as stories are how we learn and make sense of the world. A story of pure achievements would not make a good story. Bring the human element to your desires and write the story of your life that you would be proud to tell others.

Here’s a list of categories you can break your 10-year plan down into which are commonly known as the Wheel of Life.

  • Money & Finances
  • Career & Work
  • Health & Fitness
  • Fun & Recreation
  • Environment (home/work)
  • Community
  • Family & Friends
  • Partner & Love
  • Personal Growth & Learning
  • Spirituality

Take these sections and start by writing a paragraph for each. Do this task with friends so that the Personal Protocol compounds and you can hold each other accountable. Remember, creating a clear vision for your future is a dynamic process that requires self-reflection, planning, and ongoing effort. Stay focused, adaptable, and persistent as you work towards your desired future. When I first completed my 10 Year Vision Plan, I was so excited by the incredible life of the woman on the page, that I decided to become her today.

The Short Stack

Writing a Vision Plan isn't simply about listing your goals. How do you step into the picture of what you've created in your mind, for yourself?

By Sharmadean Reid

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