This article was last updated on March 12, 2016
Great visionaries change the world – people like Henry Ford with the Model T, Mother Teresa helping the poor, and Steve Jobs with the iPhone. You may feel that you want to do something great in the world, but don’t really know where to start. What makes great people different?
People who accomplish great things each start with a clear vision of what they want, then follow that vision relentlessly.
Achieving clarity of vision is not always easy. It requires dedication and focus. Here are three steps to help you get started.
How to Create a Powerful Vision
Pour It All Out
The first step is to pour out the ideas of everything that you want onto a piece of paper or into a document. Call this your Dream Big document. Write your dreams down, and don’t be afraid if they sound stupid or too grandiose.
Think of all the things that you want out of life. Think about things you would like to accomplish, items you would like to own, awards or fame you would like to have, people you would like to know.
Dream really big. What would you most regret if you didn’t accomplish it in your life? What are some spoken or unspoken goals that you have in the back of your mind? Get it all down. Take breaks to walk away from the exercise for a moment, then rush back to record new thoughts as they occur to you.
You may be surprised at the thoughts that surface: Ideas that you once dreamt about but had almost forgotten, goals and dreams that you had pushed aside because they seemed unattainable, or goals that you always meant to accomplish “some day”. Take your time and let all these thoughts percolate to the surface.
Focus On Your Contributions
Next start a new document, your Contributions document. Go back through the Dream Big document and look for the things that you want to contribute to the world. In the new document, rewrite and rephrase your dreams so that the things that you want to accomplish or contribute take precedence. You may have many notes about the things you want to own, such as a fancy red sports car, but somewhere in your Dream Big document there are notes about things that you want to do.
For example, you may have a note about “get a job in engineering”. That could be the main topic. You could write something like “Get a job in engineering with a good salary so that I can afford the fancy red sports car”.
Add lots of descriptive terms to the things that you want to do, so that they become more real in your mind. You might have a note about writing a best seller novel. Add some descriptive words about your novel – “Write a best selling novel about a man who goes from rags to riches, calling on my own experiences to bring life to the character.” If you dream to start a multimillion dollar company, put in descriptions about the type of company, the number of employees it will have, the amount of money it will bring in each year.
In the new Contributions document make sure to keep the possessions you want secondary to what you want to accomplish and contribute. Having a beautiful big house in the best neighborhood should be written as a side effect of what you will contribute. For example, you might write, “Build a multimillion dollar company so that I can afford a house in Executive Heights and drive a BMW sports car.” or “Create a wonderful family life in a large rambling house on the shore of the lake.” Make sure that the part about what you will create is really a dream of yours, not just a means to an ends.
One reason for spending more effort on writing about contributions than about possessions is that the happiness of the life you will lead will be dictated more by the actions you take than by what you own. You could own all the fancy red sports cars in the world but be miserable if you are stuck at a job that you hate.
If you find that your Dream Big document doesn’t contain enough notes about what you want to accomplish or contribute, add those dreams now. Think of your bucket list, the things you really want to do before you die. All the things that you put in the “someday” category, for example “someday I would like to run a marathon”, or “someday I would like to write a book”, should also go in the document.
Read over your Contributions document. If something doesn’t excite you, either reword it with greater description until it makes your heart pound, or consider taking it out all together. If an idea doesn’t get you really excited it probably isn’t really your dream. It might have been something that other people told you you “should” do, but not something that you really desire to do.
When you are done you should have an exciting document capturing dreams of the things you want to accomplish in your life.
Make It Real
Now is the time to create your Vision document. You will work from your Contributions document, but make a few changes as you go.
Be selective in which items you choose from your Contributions document. Choose the few accomplishments that mean the most to you. You will always have your Contributions document to refer back to, so don’t be afraid to let a few items go for now. Or perhaps you can combine dreams, for example if you want to “change the world” and “start a company” perhaps your dream could become “start a company that will change the world by doing xyz”.
Copy items from your Contributions document, rewording them as necessary as you go. First, make sure that the items are worded as things that you have control over. In the example of writing a best selling novel, you don’t have control over whether the novel is actually a best seller. You can hope that it will be a best seller, but all you can actually control is what you write. An example of a dream under your control is to “write a novel that brings characters to life while they face compelling problems and experience personal growth”.
Make sure to keep the rich wording and descriptions that you added in step two, and put in the secondary dreams of what you will receive as a result of your contributions. An item in your Vision document could look something like this – “Create new products for people who want to buy items that are ‘Made in America’. I could list the items for sale on eBay or Amazon. Maybe I could get some cool new tools like a 3D printer. The money I would make could allow me to pay off my mortgage, and even possibly buy some collectible cars.”
When you feel that you have captured the most important and exciting ideas, it is time to change the wording once again.
Go back through the Vision document, and everywhere that you find wishful wording, such as “I would like to…” or “Maybe I could…”, change that wording to positive statements such as “I will…”. State everything as if it is a foregone conclusion, that there is no doubt that it will happen. Using words like these helps your brain to believe that the dream will actually come true.
Now you should have a powerful Vision document, capturing items that are of great importance to you in rich detail, and stated in positive words that almost guarantee a successful outcome. You can use this vision statement as a basis for creating well-defined actionable goals that will lead you to accomplish your greatest desires in life.
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