'Tis the season when self-reflection becomes mainstream for a week or two.
And as it does social media will be buzzing with public professions of resolutions and "year in reviews" while news feeds fill up with ten-step plans for happiness in 2017. And we'll all collectively compare where we are with where others seem to be in life.
Yes, it's the time of year when we come to terms with the difference between who we are and who we want to be. Sometimes for the first time in a year.
Viktor Frankl, author of Man's Search for Meaning, termed this tension "Sunday neurosis." He wrote,"...it's the kind of depression which afflicts people who become aware of the lack of content in their lives when the rush of the busy week is over and the void within themselves becomes manifest."
For many, the end of a busy December results in a certain "New Year neurosis" when the void within can take center stage. It's also a time when we can get mired by the tension and stuck in a cycle of negative self-reflection. On the other extreme, we are susceptible to making thoughtless, unrealistic, and shortsighted "resolutions."
Both reactions can be unhealthy in our personal and work lives.
Embracing The Creative Tension
Accepting and engaging in the tension between who we are and who we want to be can be exhilarating. In fact, it's where creativity, imagination, and innovation thrive. Taking the time to step back and ask, "What do I want?" "Why do I want it?" and "How can I actually get there?" is powerful.
Unfortunately most personal visioning stops after a few journal pages of brainstorming "what" we want.
The result is not a vision but a simple list of wishes. Which is a good start only if we go deeper to design a vision that prompts clear, aligned, and decisive action.
A wish becomes a vision the moment it has a plan.
A Framework for Setting a Clear Vision
Through my work with individuals and teams who set and achieve visions, I've found that an actionable vision connects and aligns three critical facets of our lives: Feeling, being, and doing.
The concept of alignment is critical. A clear and aligned vision answers the question: What do I have to do, to be who I need to be, to feel how I want to feel?
First, before you work on a vision set aside a good amount of uninterrupted time. Shut off your phone and your computer. Take a social media fast for at least twenty-four hours.
Visioning is far too important to squeeze into a few impulsive minutes before bed or over a lunch break.
To start designing an aligned vision, it's important to ask three critical questions.
Each of these elements are found here in this free visioning template.
"A year from now..."
1. How do I want to be feeling?
In a year from now if you were living your ideal life (you define what that means), how would you be feeling? It's important to be as specific and imaginative as possible. Make sure to focus on emotions. Here is a helpful list.
For example you might say, "I would feel content or enthusiastic."
As you imagine your life a year from now put yourself in that future. How would it feel to wake up? How would it feel to talk about your life? What would it feel like to be at your job?
2. Who do I have to be to feel that way?
Now what qualities would you have to exhibit to feel each of the emotions you wrote down? Here instead of identifying how you would feel make sure to make statements like "I need to be..."
Brainstorm a being quality for each feeling you wrote down. While this may seem tedious, it's powerful to bringing your vision into reality. For example you might say, "I would be feeling content, so I would need to be mindful."
Starting to think about "being" starts to focus our minds on personal development and away from to-do lists. "To-be" lists are far more powerful.
3. What do I have to do?
Activation is the final and most important step in clear visioning. What are the activities, people, places, and sensory objects that will help you to be who you need to be to feel how you want to feel?
What specific actions will you take? When do you need to take these actions? Align each of these actions to each of the being qualities and finally to each of your feelings. Be specific.
Based on our example above you may say, "To feel content, I need to be mindful, and to do that I will learn techniques to manage stress."
Now your actions are firmly rooted in your vision.
Instead of a rushed list of goals or unrealistic resolutions you'll have the start of a plan to make it all happen.
We can avoid New Year 'neurosis' by taking decisive action rooted in a thoughtful vision.
Happy New Year!