As youngsters, many of us were idealists who dreamed of a better world, and we could see ourselves in that world helping to make positive changes. As we go through life repeatedly butting our heads against many different walls, we tend to become “realists,” or even “defeatists,” and we put our idealistic notions in the back of our minds. As we grow older we get caught up in the search for success and happiness, and we may convince ourselves that even small changes, either in the world or ourselves, are not possible. We become trapped on the road of life that we have chosen to travel — a super-highway with no exits. Our dreams for the world and for ourselves are forgotten. They remain hidden, buried deep within our subconscious, unfulfilled. Gradually, we give up the notion that meaningful change is possible.
But change is the only thing we can count on in life. To make our lives meaningful, and fulfill our unique purpose in this life, we need to return to those ideals that we once had, or formulate new ideals based on the information that life has provided us during the intervening years. To do this, we must use one of the most powerful capacities that human beings have. That is the power of imagination. Einstein said, “imagination is more important than knowledge.” Knowledge tells us what to do or how to do it. Imagination makes it possible.
Imagination is the key to our future. It is the most potent characteristic that sets human beings apart from other animals. Imagination is what enabled us to walk out of the cave and onto the moon. As Walt Disney said, “If you can dream it, your can do it.”
Imagination works on two different levels simultaneously: the conscious and the subconscious. Consciously, imagination gives us a clear picture of the goals that we are aiming at. It permits us to define in detail what it is we’re after. It provides us with the motivation to achieve those goals. By “seeing” the end result in our mind’s eye, we know that result is reachable. We begin to stop questioning whether a particular goal is achievable – because we’ve “seen” it. We know it can happen.
The most powerful effects of imagination happen at the subconscious level. Imagination gives our subconscious something to work on. If we imagine our future, as vividly and as often as possible, our subconscious will help to work on achieving that future, and to achieve the goals we have set. Our subconscious mind cannot distinguish between what is actual and what is potential. It accepts all things that we think of as possible. Our subconscious believes what we tell it, and if we tell it that a particular goal can be attained, it will believe us and begin to help us work toward it.
The first step in formulating your personal vision, and achieving your life purpose, is to clarify your view of the future. Start by engaging the power of imagination to visualize your ideals. Visualization is the tool that helps us to make our future a reality. This is not a mental exercise or thought experiment that can be performed in a few seconds. Take your time. Get “lost” in your imagination, and write down what you see in your mind’s eye.
- Visualize your ideal world. What does it look like? What do you hear? What does it feel like? What are people doing? How do they interact? How do they live, work, and play? Go into as much detail as possible. Write it down. In the present tense. Imagine that ideal world is happening right now.
- Next, visualize your ideal life in that ideal world. What are you doing? Where do you live? How do you spend your time? Who do you spend it with? What is your day like? How do you live, work, and recreate? Write it down. In the present tense, as though you were describing to someone else how you live your life right now.
- Now that you have practiced imagining the future, and with the focus on your ideal world and your ideal self, make a list of your unique personal qualities. These are attributes that are natural for you. You may be adventuresome, creative, entertaining, sociable and so on. There are many possible personality traits so spend some time thinking about yourself. After you have made your list, select those few qualities that that you feel most describe or define you.
- Finally, make a list of the ways you enjoy using those qualities. Do you enjoy building, leading, organizing, teaching or writing? The list of possible activities is limitless. These may not necessarily be things that you’re good at, these are the things that you enjoy doing. List the one or two activities on your list that you enjoy the most. These are the activities that you would prefer to spend most of your time doing.
What you have put together is a basic sketch of your personal vision. It may not come together right now but the rudimentary outline is there. These are pieces of the life that you have imagined. By writing down the results of this exercise during each step, you can now begin formulating your personal vision statement using what you “saw” in your ideal world, and combining it with your knowledge of your unique qualities and enjoyable activities. Take some time to look over what you wrote, and edit your rough draft as much as you like.
Writing down your vision of your ideal life was a logical step in this process to shift the focus of your imagination to yourself and consider your unique place in your unique world. What you considered to be your ideal life will become important when you begin identifying your goals. For now, you can begin to formulate your personal vision by beginning with your unique qualities, and using them with your enjoyable activities, to contribute to your ideal world.
Keep in mind that your personal vision statement is a rough draft at this point. You will most likely fine tune it as you continue to ponder your unique qualities and consider those activities that illustrate how you would like to spend your life. Your vision statement may undergo some changes as you consider your goals. Certainly, it may be revised throughout your lifetime whenever you review it. But it is important to formulate your first draft to provide a general direction, and serve as a starting point for the rest of your life.
Is change really possible, or is this just dreaming? Henry David Thoreau told us,
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundation under them.