I talk about vision a lot. Because after many years now as a career coach I’ve come to realise that it’s the one thing that, if you haven’t got it, it can make every decision you take about your career feel unsure.
You see when we don’t have the vision of where we’re headed with our career, where we want to be, what we want to have achieved, how it fits in with the rest of our life – it can feel like we’re just floating around, doing what we’re told to do, day in day out. Just going through the motions.
To a certain point this can work for us. It can allow us to show how capable we are by doing the job, by fulfilling the brief and by ticking the boxes and not thinking too much beyond that. But what happens when you wake up one day and realise that it’s not getting you to where you thought you’d be? When you stop and see that you’re not actually enjoying your job or getting a sense of fulfillment from it. How do you start to unpick this?
Well, when I have clients come to me and tell me this, the first thing I check in with is what their career vision looks like. So questions like, “Why aren’t I further on than I thought I’d be” you can ask “So where did you expect you would be?” or “What could I do instead?” you can start with “What would you like to do instead?”. More often than not when we start delving deeper into these types of issues the first answer I get back is “I don’t know”. When we start to talk about their vision most of them haven’t given it much thought.
A lot of us don’t think about it. In fact many of us try and avoid it. I remember I was like it myself, back in the days when I was feeling lost and unsure about my future. I used to dread the question at interviews, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?”. I hated it, I never had an answer and in hindsight much of that was because I never really saw myself staying longer term in any of the positions I was in. In reality though, I did have a clear vision of where I wanted to be, it just wasn’t with them and involved a much bigger picture of carving out my own business and future.
That’s me though so I thought I’d test it out. Just how many of us do actually have a sense of where we see ourselves in the future? When I asked the same question on social media recently, about where you see yourself in 5 years time and whether you loved it or hated it, the vast majority of people responded saying they hated it. Why is that?
Prospection v Mindfulness
So why do so many of us dislike thinking about our future so much and are unable to picture it? Well I guess it could be about conflicting messages we’re being told. These days mindfulness is all the rage, how we’re told that living more fully in the present can help our sense of wellbeing. I agree, tuning into to our present and appreciating all that we can see, touch, feel and being grateful for it is hugely powerful and necessary. But so too is being able to get excited about the possibilities our future can hold, getting a clear sense of where we would like to be headed and enjoying the journey along the way. How many of us have our moods raised when we think about the holiday coming up or the party we’ve been planning? And how many of us had these feelings quashed over lockdown when we didn’t have a sense of future, of not seeing how things could change? Future casting is called prospection in scientific circles and many studies have been carried out to show how connecting to our future can have positive effects. In fact this is a more likely outcome when we can connect present actions with our future selves
As well as wanting to appreciate the present there are other blockers that we face when in comes to thinking about our future. Many of my clients are women and fear is the number one blocker when it comes to how they see themselves in the future. What if they can’t actually achieve what they want? What if they can’t work out how to get there? What if they try and fail? What if it’s worse than what they have now? What will other people think? Often it’s easier to stay in the known and just see where life takes us, then our expectations aren’t raised and we won’t feel so disappointed if our dreams never come true.
This links to fear. Again women can suffer from this a lot but it can be the same for men. Not trusting themselves to know they are capable of becoming the truest version of themselves can often hold them back. Seeing other people go ahead and fulfil their dreams but then quickly thinking that they wouldn’t be able to is common. Often unpicking the truths we have about ourselves, and providing evidence to support our strongest skill sets helps to raise confidence levels up and create the foundations to begin to believe in a better future.
For others, it can be because they don’t want to tie themselves down to one pathway, to be so fixed in their view of the world. Planning too far ahead can feel rigid and restrictive. They don’t want to plan the minutiae of their life and know exactly what’s going to happen next. Where’s the fun in that? But it doesn’t have to be that way. In my experience the best kind of future planning is the flexible type, where we don’t put fixed end dates in place and where we don’t get too fixated on exact outcomes. Not attaching emotion to the end goal we’re working towards and instead focusing on the small, everyday actions to get there allows us to stay connected with our present while working towards our future. This is the key to successful future planning and vision. Not making the goal too big too soon and feeling so far away so that we’re so disconnected from it that it paralyses us, we fear it and don’t have the confidence to even imagine it could apply to us.
When I talk about vision, you see, it’s not about day dreaming or longing. It’s about having a strong sense of your own career and life destiny, tapping into what feels right to you and taking the actions to get you closer to that.
So how do you create a career vision?
There are a few ways you can do it, and we each have our preferences. Some people are already very visual and can easily form pictures in their mind while others find it more challenging, but there are methods for everyone. Thinking about vision also as intentions or bigger life goals may be more relatable to you.
This is one of the most powerful tools I use with my clients. Often it can make the difference between just talking about we want and moving towards seeing it. It also allows us to tap into our unconscious and allow those feelings that we try and control and suppress to come to the surface. Taking some time to be with yourself, in a calm space, perhaps with some music to help you can be so insightful, even if it’s just for a few minutes. I have a recording that you can use for yourself to give it a go, just click here and download it.
I love a bit of vision boarding. This can be especially useful, if like me, you find guided meditations quite challenging. Looking at images that already exist can be so useful in providing focus and reminders of the things you would like to bring into your life. If you see something repeatedly it helps to keep it front of mind. On a subconscious level your mind then begins to continually work towards it, reminding you of what you want to achieve. Some women find it challenging to actually show that they want, for fear of looking greedy or feeling like they’re asking for too much but if you treat it as a bit of fun and a chance to get creative, it can really start to tap into allowing you to start to say what you want and put it out there.
This is another favourite of mine that I use with clients a lot, especially in the first few sessions where there is a lot of confusion and feelings of being stuck or emotional. Just letting the thoughts in our head come out and then seeing what we’re saying about ourselves is so powerful and a great visual tool to see what we’re actually thinking. There’s a famous study carried out by Gail Matthews which showed writing your goals down helps make it happen, so when it comes to seeing what we actually believe about ourselves and tapping into our unconscious it can be really revealing.
Go do it!
So where do you sit with the idea of visualising your future? Have you ever tried it? As I said at the beginning of this piece, it tends to underpin all of the work that I do. When we move around without direction it’s hard to actually arrive anywhere. Simply knowing that we want to get from A to B can often be the missing link. Yes there is still work to be done in moving along that path, and navigation towards our vision is the next step, but unless you know where you’re aiming to get to then you’ll always spend your life just driving around in circles. So if you’ve never thought about what your future could look like, what you want it to look, have a go today. Download my free guided visualisation, grab a glue stick and start sticking pictures to paper or buy yourself a journal and let the words flow. Have fun with it and dare to dream.
Career Empowerment Coach
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