Bronnie Ware an Australian palliative care nurse who provides specialised medical care for people who are in the last 12 weeks of their lives. Whilst working with dying people, Bronnie recorded the dying thoughts of her patients in her book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”. She found that the top five regrets of people on their deathbed were:
- I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
- I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
- I wish that I had let myself be happier.
These top five regrets, reflect the life lived by modern man, a life lived in response to the dreams, visions and goals of others. Living a life reacting to circumstances and events.
These regrets are the result of things you fail to do, the result of apathy, the result of a life lived on auto pilot, the result of a life lived by default.
To avoid having these regrets you need to make a new set of commitments. You need to decide to live your life deliberately and with intention. This begins with the development of a personal vision.
Success Begins with a Long Term Vision
You’ll never live a life that matters until you define what matters. Defining what matters is the purpose of vision. Yet only a handful of people actually make the time necessary to develop a vision for their lives. And without a clear vision you are unable to live your life with intention.
This post will guide you through the steps necessary to create a personal vision for your life. To get the most out of this process I would strongly encourage you to do this when you are not going to be interrupted, in a place where you can brainstorm and think creatively.
Let’s dive in….!
The Personal Visioning Process
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw
This process and the supporting exercises are not entirely mine own. I have adapted this from others who have developed similar processes, specifically the work of Chris Guillebeau from “How to Conduct Your Own Annual Review”, the funky team from Fizzle and their podcast on “How to do a Yearly Review” and Andy Drish and his podcast on “Your Yearly Life Plan – Deciding What you Want from 2015”.
The visioning process is an opportunity for you to look back and to use what you have learnt to take a giant leap forward into the next year.
Here is an overview of the visioning process:
- Review the Past. The end of a year is an opportunity to pause and reflect on the highs, lows and lessons learnt from the previous twelve months.
- Assess the Present. Assessing the present provides a snapshot of where you find yourself today. This lays the foundation on which to build a vision for your future.
- Create a Vision. In this step you look towards the future. You will create a future vision for your life covering the next three years.
Let us explore each of these steps in more detail.
1. Review the Past
Reflecting on the past year is an opportunity for us to evaluate what went well and what did not go well. The purpose of this is to learn from our past experiences. Learning from the past helps us to better deal with similar situations and problems as they arise in the future.
Not only does reflecting on the past help us learn. Reflecting on the past helps close the chapter on the previous year. There are many things that happened to you over the past twelve months and it is important to close them off before committing to the year ahead. Closing out the previous year means letting go of the past baggage and helps us get ready for what lies ahead.
What went well this year? What did not go well this year?
In this first exercise you will need to write a list of all the things that went well this year and the things that did not go so well. The best way to do this is to open your calendar and scroll month by month through the past year updating the list as you go. If you keep a journal take a few minutes to review your journal entries to see if anything stands out for you.
As you go through each month the following questions can be used to trigger your memory.
- What are the events and experiences that stand out for you?
- What places did you visit?
- What were you doing?
- What did you create?
- What goals did you achieve?
- What goals did you fail to achieve?
- What did you change in your life?
- Who did you spend your time with?
- Who impacted your life?
- What frustrated you?
- What made you excited?
- What are the experiences you want to forget?
- What were your struggles?
- What challenged you?
Think about each of these questions. Then write down what comes to mind and what stands out for you as you reflect on the past year. Take 10 to 15 minutes to complete this exercise.
What lessons did you learn this year?
“We do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience.” – John Dewey, American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer
Review the notes you have just made of what went well and what did not go well over the past year. Considering all the events, memories, challenges, experiences and people you interacted with, what are the lessons you have learnt? Take 10 – 15 minutes to write down all the lessons you learnt from the past year.
Learning the life lessons from the past twelve months helps you make better and more informed choices going forward.
What sums up your year?
The last step in reflecting on the past year is for you to take a step back and consider the question “what sums up your year?” To do this rate on a scale from 1 – 10 (where 10 is excellent) how satisfied you were with the past year. Then considering your accomplishments and lessons learnt, write a short sentence or paragraph as to why you rated your year as you did.
That is it. You have just completed a review of the past twelve months. Next we are going to assess the present.
2. Assess the Present
You have just complete an annual review and extracted important. The next step is to assess the present and get a snapshot as to where you are at right now. This involves assessing each of the critical areas of your life and how you are doing.
To do this exercise I use the following eight categories:
- Family: What is that quality of your family relationships? Are you making time to spend with your spouse, children and extended family?
- Work: Do you enjoy your work? Are you making a contribution? What are you creating? What does your body of work look life?
- Finance: Are you satisfied with your level of income? Are you saving? Are you giving?
- Physical: How satisfied are you with your current level of physical health? Do you get enough exercise, sleep and nutrition? What kind of shape are you in?
- Personal Development: Are you investing in your personal development and continuing education?Are you growing? What are you learning?
- Emotional: Are your emotions under control? Are positive, engaged and happy?
- Relationships: Does your circle of friends enrich your life and contribute to your sense of fulfilment and well-being? Who are you spending time with? Do you have interests outside of your work and family?
- Spiritual: Do you have a clear purpose? Do you have a relationship with your creator? Are you living your personal values? Are you giving back and making a contribution to your community?
You can use these eight areas for your assessment or alternatively create your own. The way to do your assessment is to rate the health of each area on a scale from 1 – 10 (where 10 is excellent). Then write a paragraph or two as to why you rated the area what you did. In assessing each area ask yourself. What do I feel about this area at the moment? What are my strengths in this area? Where can I improve? Write down whatever comes to mind and how you you are doing in each area.
To wrap up this section take a few minutes to reflect on the overall health of each area. Where did you rate yourself the lowest? Where did you rate your self the highest? What are areas that if improved will provide the biggest improvement in your overall life? Where are your highest points of leverage?
3. Create a Vision
You have reflected on the past and assessed the present. Next you are going to create a compelling vision for your life.
The goal of this step is to help you create a compelling vision for the next three years. Research has shown that the longer the time span you take into consideration when planning and acting the more likely you are to achieve success. People who are willing to make sacrifices in the short-term are more likely to get better results in the long-term.
Creating Your Three Year Vision
“I can do less than I think I can in a year. I can do more than I think I can in five years.” – Rick Warren
To create your personal vision you are going to answer the question, “what do you want your life to be like in three years time?” To answer this question you will need to develop a vivid picture of all the important areas of your life, what they will look and feel like in three years time.
To create a vivid picture of your future go back to the eight areas you covered previously when assessing the present. Then write down how you want each area of your life to be different in three years time. In addition the following questions can also be useful to trigger further ideas and thoughts about your future vision.
- What am I working towards?
- What kind of person do I want to become?
- What do you want to have accomplished?
- What do you want to create?
- What do you want your finances to be like?
- Who do you want to spend time with?
- What would a perfect day look like?
- What do you want your body of work to look like?
- What legacy do you want to leave behind?
- What do I want to be doing?
Don’t worry about creating a perfectly worded vision. The important thing for now is for you to write down all your thoughts and ideas. You can tidy up the order of ideas, wording and grammar at a later stage.
Create a Theme for the Year Ahead
“Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by traffic from both sides.” – Margaret Thatcher
The last step is for you to create a theme for the year ahead. Your theme is a simple statement that captures the essence of your vision and a summary of your focus for the year ahead.
To create your theme for next year write short sentence in response to the question, “what is next year going to be all about?” Where are you going to focus your time, money and energy?
You are done. You have just created a future vision. A touch stone that you can use as a guide for your decisions and choices in the year ahead.
I know that if you follow this process you will end up with a fantastic personal vision. Wishing you a successful year ahead.