Kids tend to dream big. When asked who they want to be when they grow up, the typical answers include “an astronaut”, “a rock star”, “a doctor”, or even “the president”. What makes young minds so bluntly honest and specific? The courage of innocence and the freshness of the human spirit that we would only benefit from nourishing for as long as possible.
Yet, at some point in our development, most of us start losing this wonderful ability to dream big. Shouting about what matters most to us from the rooftops becomes inappropriate. Instead, we slowly but surely close up in our shells built from societal norms, pressures, and expectations. Frankly, it’s comfortable sleepwalking through life like that. Is it freedom? Not one bit.
Capital F Freedom
The very first step to breaking the shell and gaining clarity is to reconnect with the most honest-to-god version of you, and let go of the one the world convinced you should be. From now on, the word “should” (the variant referring to you and your life) is no longer your ally. The only “should” left to consider is that you should be free of shoulds. Stop shoulding all over yourself. Make use of your freedom.
Freedom is our most important birthright that ought to be restricted only by putting others in harm’s way. Causing people pain and suffering is the only boundary to your liberty. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Other than that, your life belongs entirely to you, and you only. If conformity is your conscious choice because it provides you with safety, that’s ok. But if the tiniest fiber of your being feels uncomfortable in it, go the other way. Otherwise, you might wake up one day and realize that years of buried sadness and regret have made you numb to life as a whole.
Dream a Little Dream of… You
Creating a clear vision for your life starts within. Articles like this one offer tips and tricks to guide you, yet, ultimately, all decisions are yours to make. Nobody can tell you who you are or what to do with your life. That’s the beauty of freedom. Bravery to dream will trigger the formation of your definition for what matters most to you in life and what kind of reality you want to build around yourself.
Go deep, follow your curiosity, give yourself permission to dream with childish enthusiasm. Channel that innocent energy of your past or present happiness in its purest form. Forget your rational mind for a while, listen to your emotions. Own the power of possibilities and have fun. If you’re still apprehensive, remember that nobody can force you to act on whatever your mind conjures up as your dream. Run wild, it’s all in your heart (for now).
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Security does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure.” ― Helen Keller
Clarity Comes From Engagement
There are practices to help you uncover your innermost desires, wishes, core beliefs, and values that refocus your energy on what truly matters and bring you clarity on what you want to achieve in life. Self-awareness is not a one-time event, there will be no angelic choirs flying down from above to declare you the enlightened one. Instead, it's a life-long process of constantly rediscovering who you are. The following practices may help you on that journey.
- Gratitude walks – 15 minutes a day should do the trick. Go outside (preferably into nature for maximum health benefits) and think of everything and everyone you feel grateful for in your life. A clear vision for the future is built on the foundation of appreciation for what we already have. Write it down or whisper it to yourself but make sure the feeling takes over you completely.
- Meditation – or, if you’re still uncomfortable sitting still with your thoughts, yoga is the next best thing. Go quiet, focus on your breath, tune out the world, and reach into your heart. Anchor yourself in the present moment, let your inner voices speak, and listen to them closely.
- Journaling – or, morning pages, poetry, whatever works for you, but writing is not for writers only. The written word will help you peek into the nooks and crannies in your mind you never even knew existed. The more your stream of consciousness brings to the surface, the more clarity you’ll unlock.
- Vision board – the act of creative visualization. Whether you choose a digital or physical form, make sure you let the artist within you loose. The process of putting your vision board together can spark enlightenment and excitement. Engage in it fully. Then, look at your creation as frequently as possible. Inhale it. Dream it. Envision it.
- Daydreaming – allowing your mind to roam freely will lead you anywhere you want, especially straight into the thick of your innermost needs, visions, and desires. Follow even the most frivolous of your thoughts. Trust yourself. Nothing is a waste of time when you do it intentionally.
- Finding inspiration in others – narrative resonance. Comparing yourself to others puts unnecessary pressure on you. However, seeking out people who’ve already done what you want to do is inspiration and education. Reach out, connect, learn from them, follow their paths, and, perhaps, adopt their vision if it resonates with you. Somebody else’s truth might be your truth as well (or at the very least, it could guide you towards your own).
Plan for a Fulfilling Life
Once you can see in your mind’s eye what you’d like your life to be, it’s time for forming and executing a clear action plan. Whether you want to look ahead as far as 5 years from now, 12 months, or 30 days, you need personal targets to move you forward. Carve out uninterrupted alone time, pick your power space to hole up, and ideate.
At this stage in the journey towards a more fulfilling life, we will draw inspiration from part three of The Best Year Journal. The tool guides us through three distinct steps that can dispel the last clouds of doubt and uncertainty in our minds.
- Devise a theme – choose a word or phrase that will serve as the center around which you will build your vision. Whenever you stray from it, your theme will help you quickly bring your attention back to what matters most.
- Create a vision – analyze your past for a while, how do you feel about it? Reflect on your mistakes and failures, what lessons can you learn from what went wrong? Rich with that knowledge, picture the future you. What does your success look like? What sparks your joy and excitement? Who are the people you are surrounded with?
- List your goals – set measurable, attainable and precise objectives for yourself. For enhanced clarity group them into categories such as health and wellbeing, love and relationships, spiritual growth, or career and finances.
Studies show that we’re 42% more likely to achieve our goals if we write them down. This is too high a percentage to neglect. Grab your pen and paper or your iPad, and act. The future you will thank you for it.
Clarity from Questions and Answers
The more specific questions you ask, the more clarity the answers will bring. Words have power. Your personal vision statement, your affirmations, and anything you tell yourself has the potential to set the course for your success. Be mindful of how you conduct your inner conversations, be inquisitive, and plan your dream life down to every detail.
- Who would you be if nobody else cared?
- Who would you be if you did not care what others thought?
- What would you go after if it was impossible to fail?
- What would you do if money was not an issue?
- What do you want your loved ones to remember about you when you’re gone?
- If you could have anything you wanted, what would that be?
- If you could live anywhere, where would that be?
- How would you feel if you achieved your version of success?
- How would you feel if your body was the healthiest and strongest one in the world?
- If you could have anyone by your side, who would that be?
Visualization exercise: picture the most utopian and ideal day from your future life.
- What is the first thing you see when you wake up?
- Where are you? Who is with you?
- What do you feel? What do you smell? What can you hear?
- What is the first thing you do when you get out of bed?
- What are you going to wear? How confident do you feel in your outfit?
- What does your work space look like?
- Who are your clients? Who are your colleagues?
- What kind of projects and ideas do you execute?
- What kind of value does your work or business add to the world?
- How much money do you earn?
- What do you do after work? How do you spend your leisure time?
- What and where do you eat?
- What does your nighttime routine consist of?
- Who do you kiss goodnight when you go to sleep?
Utmost specificity brings desired results. Whether you believe in the law of attraction or not, imagining a detailed version of your dream life will focus your efforts on choosing and following the paths that are the most likely to get you where you want to be. Even if the perfect reality you designed for yourself looks different in the end, progress is still inevitable.
Too Little, Too Late
Some people seem to think that at some point in our lifetime it’s already too late to follow your dreams. Well, say that to Ernestine Shepherd, in her 80s, the oldest body builder in the world who started her career at age 56. Or Cindy Joseph, who became a model at age 49 and launched a skincare business in her 50s. Age is just a number.
There’s no rule that says forming a new vision for your life comes with an expiration date. It’s never too late to reevaluate your values, dreams, goals, intentions, and plans. Life is anything but linear. Sometimes we have to go back in time to remember who we started out as. Other times we need to admit to ourselves there are dreams we’ve outgrown. We evolve, our priorities shift, we lose people and we find them again, our kids leave for college, our bodies transform, we retire – life is a revolution. Embracing change is your ticket to an exciting life with opportunities to reinvent yourself whenever you feel like it. You can begin anew at any age and at any stage.
Connecting the Dots
If a ship floats aimlessly on the ocean, it might be a very long while before it reaches the shore. Without a destination, a compass, or a plan it is at risk of getting caught up in unfavorable currents and winds. It is even quite likely to sink before it has a chance to see the land.
Having a clear vision of where you’re going will attract the right opportunities to you, connect you with the right people, teach you the most useful lessons, and help you develop skills that will pull you towards your dream land. Tune out distractions, ignore the naysayers, trust your gut, and follow your vision. Since we only have one life, we might as well live it to the fullest.
“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” ― John A. Shedd