Before the Thanksgiving weekend, I issued a challenge to the DON’T SETTLE community. The challenge was to create a written vision for how they want their lives to look in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years. I also followed that up with a post on the 7 key areas of life your written vision should include.
If you followed my challenge and created a vision for your life, you’re now ready to move on to the next step. (Note: even if you’re still working on it, I encourage you to read ahead so you know what’s coming next.)
Visions Are Incomplete
The problem with a vision statement is that, on it’s own, it’s incomplete. In fact, this is where most people stop when creating “goals” for themselves. They know what they want to happen, but they have little to no idea how to get there.
I want to start a business is a wish or a dream. It’s not a goal. It’s not even a path. In reality, it’s a destination. We need destinations; they’re important to our success. But we must not mistake them for goals.
Your Vision is Your Destination
I remember the first time we went to Europe. It had been a dream of mine for quite some time. Of every place we were going to travel, Rome was the city I was most excited about seeing.
I had a vision of Lisa and I walking through the ancient ruins and cobblestone streets, drinking coffee in sidewalk cafés, and eating incredible Italian meals.
By itself, though, this was just a dream. We needed to begin planning out steps that would actually move us closer to the destination. We began by examining our vision and working backwards from there.
- In our vision of Rome, it wasn’t cold and raining, but it wasn’t too hot either. We also didn’t feel like fighting large crowds during the busy months. This meant we would need to plan a trip for late spring or early fall.
- In our vision, we were within walking distance of the majority of attractions. This meant we had to pick a hotel that made attractions accessible on foot.
- In our vision, we had romantic dinners on a plaza. That meant we needed to do some research to find both plazas and romantic restaurants with good food.
- And so on…
You see, once we knew what we wanted out of our trip, we could make plans to increase the chances of us actually experiencing those things as we envisioned.
Life works much the same way. If you’ve created a vision for 5-20 years out, you’re now in a position to begin making plans for getting there.
Creating Your Path to Success
We love instant gratification. That’s why our first action once we have a vision is to try to create a list of things we need to start doing immediately.
But that’s not the best step to take at this point. Why?
There are a lot of paths that will get you to your destination and you need to spend some time thinking through them. Instead of jumping immediately into your to-do list, take some time to think about what the logical milestones (or stepping stones) are between where you want to be and where you are now.
Let me give you an example.
Suppose that in your vision you wrote that you want to be a published author. There are a number of milestones you need to keep in mind. I find it best to work backward from the goal:
Goal: Book Gets Published
Milestone: Final revision submitted
Milestone: Draft submitted
Milestone: Final chapter written
Milestone: First chapter written
Milestone: Book proposal accepted
Milestone: Book proposal written
Milestone: Sample chapter written
Milestone: Outline created
Milestone: Idea brainstorming
There are probably better milestones than these for getting a book published (especially if the book if fictional). But that’s not the point. What is the point is that most people who have the dream of writing a book think that the first step is to sit down and write. It’s not. The first step is to figure out what the actual steps are.
The Maze of Life
I remember when I was a kid and our family would go to a restaurant that had “kids menus.” Those menus and a few crayons would keep us occupied through dinner. Nearly every one of those menus included a maze to work through. I remember the first time my dad told me that the best way to complete a maze was to work backward from the the middle of the maze. All of sudden, mazes weren’t that difficult. In fact, they were so easy they became a joke.
Some people might think it’s easier to work in chronological order as opposed to reverse chronological order. And you’re free to do that in much the same way that you’re free to work on a maze from the expected starting point. However, you should be aware that doing so may cause more false starts and direction changes. This can lead to frustration and cause you to give up to quickly.
In my example above, “Write the book” might have been used as the first step. However, that would be a mistake and would set the person off on the wrong course. This would be like saying “book the flight” is the first step in going to Rome. It’s a critical step, but it’s not the first step.
Your Next Challenge
Now that you have your vision, it’s time to create your own Path to Success. Take the different elements of your vision and break them down into major milestones.
A word of caution: You don’t need to write down every action you’ll ever need to make. In our book example, I could have written “Write chapter 2″, “Write chapter 3″, and so on. But those are implied in between writing the first chapter and writing the last chapter.
All we want here are major milestones. Once you have major milestones, it will be easier to break them down into yearly, monthly, weekly or daily action items.
So here’s your challenge: in the next 5 days, create a Path to Success for each of the major items in your vision. What are the major steps along the path toward starting that business? What are the major steps along the path to running a marathon? What are the major steps along the path to having a successful marriage? What are the major steps along the path to becoming financially independent or retiring?
My offer to you: If you’re having difficulty thinking of the major steps, or if you’d like me to review your steps, leave a comment below with your vision (destination) and the steps you’ve currently got in place and I’ll help you work through them in the comments.