David Caulfield

Don't know what to focus on? Develop a vision

How to know you're not focusing

Do you ask yourself any of these questions?

  • Where am I going in my job?
  • Why do I feel demotivated even though I have the position I always wanted?
  • How do I get rid of the feeling of being stuck?
  • Why am I not motivated to improve anything?
  • Why do I feel the need to try everything?

I've had some of these questions in the past. Sometimes, I've achieved exactly what I wanted and set out to do, but I still had the feeling I wasn't progressing. Some people say "I'd love to be the CEO of a company some day". But when I hear that, I hear "I'd love to achieve the title of CEO some day". And this tells me that they probably have no idea what being a CEO entails. Because achieving the title is arguably the easiest part of being a CEO. The real journey begins after that.

And this is what I admire about people in big positions. Think CEOs, presidents, politicians, sports people. They understand there is no final destination. Once they have accomplished something big, they know they have to wake up the next day and keep moving. This mindset is different to the mindset most of us have. We generally treat the goal as the final destination. The CEO treats their accomplishment as a milestone along a bigger journey. When we treat goals as final destinations, we can get caught asking ourselves the questions like "Ok I achieve my difficult goal...what's next?". The CEO needs to start leading the company. The graduate needs to start looking for a job. The PHD graduate needs to know what to do with their PHD. The Wimbledon champion needs to prepare for next years' competition.

Developing a Vision

Goals need to have a bigger picture that include ourselves and the people around us. When the CEO wakes up everyday to a new problem that could end the company, they need to be able to say "This is worth getting up for because...". When the PHD student is feeling burnt out in their 3rd year of consecutive study, they need to be able to say "I'm going through this pain because...". The same goes for any difficult task. You need to be able to say "This is worth it because...".

The "because" is our vision.

  • What will solving this problem get you?
  • What step of the journey will you be closer to after today?
  • Why is the pain today / this week / this month / this year worth it?

The answer is unique to everyone and can include visions like family, career, health and finances.


Writing it down

For some reason, writing down our vision and integrating our current goals gives it more power. It is difficult to write down what we want for the future, because acknowledging what could be means acknowledging what might not happen. But doing so organises our messy thoughts. We might think we know what we want becuase we've said "I've thought about this a lot". But we haven't really thought about it unless it's written down. The future is too complicated to analyze in our heads. There are too many variables, conflicts and outcomes.

For example, I recently wrote down my vision of the future. After identifying the main goals and defining the steps to getting there, I realised two goals were in conflict. I saw that developing my new hobby required me to be away every Saturday for a few hours, conflicting with another goal to spend more time with my family. Until I wrote this down, I didn't see the conflict, even though it seems obvious in hindsight.

Steps to developing a vision

If you want to try this out, you can start developing a vision by answering the following questions:

  • Where do you want to be in 5 years with your job?
  • Describe what your ideal family life would be like. Include parents, siblings, children, partner...
  • Combine everything and describe your ideal future:
    • Where do you want to be?
    • What do you want to do?
    • What kind of person do you want to be?
    • Why do you want these things?
    • What steps will you take towards these goals?
    • When will you start each step?

Vision Outline

Finally, describe the kind of vision you don't want. As you right out a future you dislike, you will realise that it is not only possible, but likely to happen if you don't work towards your vision.

  • If you failed to achieve the above, how would you feel?
  • What does the future look like with none of the above goals achieved?
  • Would failing to achieve your vision cause pain or anxiety on you or your loved ones?

While the previous exercises describe a vision to run towards, this will help you build a picture of the kind of future you want to run away from.

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