I have never been more aware of the strong and ever present need of purpose and vision in life. It was two years ago. From when you are a little kid wanting to be just like your older sibling when you get to be their age, to when you are mapping out your career, to your last days on earth wanting to maximize purpose and impact on others to keep you going.
If you are really honest with yourself – you will never receive a promotion big enough to disqualify you from this need. You will never hit an age where it all becomes clear without effort.
Let’s talk about it. What is vision? Here is a definition I think does a nice job of summing it up:
Vi•sion – a mental image of what the future will or could be like.
And it is said that for a happy life you need 3 things. Someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.
I am not here to counsel you on the love part. And lord knows we are all good at finding “something to do” since we are all busy bees running around with endless to do lists. But having something to look forward to actually requires effort, intention, and a commitment to a lifelong process.
I have had the chance to spend time with my ninety year old grandmother in the hospital recently as she recovers from her most recent flare up of chronic health issues. She is still sharp as a tack, and it is a pleasure to go sit with her for hours and talk about her life, my life, my work, and what is on the top of her mind. It is fun talking about the past, and hearing stories of what happened years ago. But she gets the most color in her cheeks when we talk about the future.
It can be as simple as talking about what day she thinks she will get released, exploring an idea to start a writing group when she gets settled back in at home (she is a prolific writer), and making plans to use the van from her community more so she gets out and about more than she has.
Undoubtedly, her current physical and mental hurdles are enough to take anyone down. But she still finds the strength to map out a vision of a future that is worth pulling through for. Because here’s the deal. If your vision for the future is big enough, and clear enough – it will drive you through hurdles you wouldn’t have predicted overcoming. But if your vision is weak, small, or wishy-washy – the smallest hurdle will knock you over.
It all comes down to your line of sight. If you can only see hurdles – it becomes crippling. But if you have a mental image of what the future will look like, or what you are moving towards creating in your life, that is bigger than the hurdles – then why would you stop working towards it?
Here’s a little glimpse into the fact that I know of which I speak.
As I sit down to write this blog post, it marks almost 2 years to the day when I stepped away from a life that was no longer serving me, with 2 bags in hand, driven by determination that I deserved better and wanted more in my life. I headed to my sister’s house with no real plan other than knowing that I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing. I crammed all of my personal belongings into 1 room in her home that we converted from an office and moved a twin bed and shelf unit into. We had no idea how long I would be there, but she and my brother-in-law let me get set up, no questions asked.
The hurdles were huge. I was walking away not only for a marriage, but also from my livelihood (work and marriage were intertwined to say the least). I was leaving the community I had strong ties in, to be closer to family and regroup. I was giving myself permission to acknowledge that I had successfully created a life that looked nice from the outside, but was tearing me up inside. If I was going to fall back in love with life, I needed to tear everything down and start over. It felt raw. The process was honest. I have not allowed anything back in that is not on congruence with the integrity and vision I hold for my life and how I want to impact others.
One of the first things we moved into my tiny nest (we fondly called my room) was a series of whiteboards on the wall. I constantly wrote and re-wrote my vision in different forms. I mapped out morning routines to keep me in a positive mindset. I wrote out health goals. I brainstormed what I wanted my next relationship to look like. I set boundaries, goals, and priorities.
I fell in love with the process of growing and clarifying my vision for my life voraciously. I was not willing to jump into massive action until I knew which direction I wanted to move in. I didn’t halt everything in my life – but I let creating this vision consume me. I multi-tasked listening to Ted Talks on planning and vision. I went to seminars and courses to immerse myself in options. I journaled. I meditated. I kept moving through life, but with an overarching theme of being open to clarifying what I wanted my next chapter to look like.
I know that the same level of hurdles could have derailed me for years. I know people who have gone through similar hurdles as I did, and never quite recovered. I just wasn’t willing to let that be my story.
I am sure you can see where I get my grit from. My grandmother has one of the most active imaginations and “vision-making” faculties I have ever interacted with. I can think back to even when I was little – when we would be mapping out some craft or project. She would always let me be the director of what we would do together – and when I would hesitate or be unsure of what we should do she would get exasperated – and she would say “Chelsea – what do you really want? It’s up to you.”
And it still is. And so it is for you as well.