Like I confessed to you in Monday’s post, I love formulas and rules and instructions. I constantly try to boil things down into steps and procedures. I dislike gray areas. I choke on ambiguity. (But clearly, not on hyperbole.)
This is why I’m a full-time copyeditor who just happens to write, instead of a full-time writer.
So please forgive me for trying to take a critical, creative process and simplify it into a finite number of steps and questions. My hope is not that this confines you, but that it helps to dispel some of the cloudiness surrounding what I meant here by creating your life vision.
What Is a Life Vision?
A life vision is a set of core beliefs, values, and priorities. This vision can help you to make sense of all the noise competing for your attention every day and make conscious choices to prioritize doing what matters most to you. It’s a tool that helps you live the life you want to live, with what you already have, right now.
Other than that, I don’t think there’s a prescriptive definition or format. Your life vision might be written down and neatly outlined; it might be painted or drawn or sketched in a journal; it might be a series of words or phrases; it might be just floating in your head. You might have an individual vision, or you might have a shared vision for your marriage/family (or both!).
And here’s the thing that I love and loathe in equal parts: it’s fluid.
Your life will evolve over time. Sometimes abruptly, sometimes imperceptibly. So naturally, some parts of your vision will need to change.
Some parts of your vision might be cemented in. For me, my trust in Jesus is and always will be a constant. My vision will always be rooted in becoming more like Him. But my faith will grow and change, and God will reveal new passions in my heart and opportunities in my life. My vision can shift as my faith grows.
Prioritizing loving, open, honest relationships and investing quality time in people will always be an unchanging priority. Though, in some seasons, I may need to emphasize certain relationships over others.
Simple living and adventure/travel are also key components in my vision, as are issues of social justice and compassion. These will still be priorities when Dan and I have kids, though how I take action on these priorities may need to change.
The important tension in creating a life vision is this: it needs to be fluid enough to grow and change with you, but static enough to be a solid filter and to not be swayed by the softest (or swiftest) cultural wind.
The beauty of this process is that you never have to call your life vision “finished.” You can always change it. You can always go back. You can always edit.
4 Questions to Help You Develop Your Own Life Vision
Ready to get started? Here are some questions you can reflect on as you create your own vision:
1. What are your core values? I mean “values” literally here. Values such as love, peace, justice, responsibility, loyalty, etc. It can be tough to narrow it down, but here’s an exercise that I’ve found very helpful. Start with a list of values. Thinking about how you make decisions, what you look for in other people, perhaps even what you get hung up on when it’s violated, cross off all but your top 20 values. Then go back and narrow it down to 10, then to 3-5. (Hint: An excellent way to “cheat” is to choose love. Actually, maybe I shouldn’t say “cheat” when talking about values. Make a strategic decision to choose love? Either way, it’s the perfect umbrella for values like care, loyalty, and compassion.)
2. What are you constantly worrying about, thinking about, or regretting? Of those things, what will matter in the end? I know this sounds super negative, but the things we wish we had more time for or that consume most of our thoughts are often the things we care about most. I worry that someday, I’ll regret not having spent more time just being with Dan, doing simple things. Walking, going on spontaneous dates, saying “yes” when he begs me to go get milkshakes. I worry about his safety. I worry that my mom and siblings will die suddenly. I regret every time I think about calling a friend, make a mental note to do it later, and then realize weeks later that I’d forgotten. These worries and regrets shed light on how I should be spending my time now.
3. What are your gifts, skills, passions, and talents? Here are a few sub-questions to help you uncover this one: How would you ideally like to spend your free time? What are you naturally good at? What do people praise you for? What is a practice that someone else might consider to be “work,” but you’d do it just for the joy of it? Perhaps you love to write, enjoy community by playing in sports leagues, have a gift for coaching and encouraging people, or are talented at playing an instrument. Consider how making time to use your gifts more often can benefit your own mental health as well as other people.
4. What kind of legacy do I want to leave behind? There are so many places where we leave our legacies, our footprints, our whispers. Consider the kind of marriage legacy you want to leave for your children and grandchildren. Think about the mark you want to leave on your coworkers and your workplace. What do you want to accomplish for your company or your field? Much like question 2, consider what you would want other people to remember you for at the end of your life.
This is definitely not an exhaustive list, nor is it a prescriptive guide for creating your vision, start to finish. I hope this does get your creative juices flowing and gives you a starting point for this conversation.
Putting Your Vision into Practice
To put your vision into practice, this is all it takes: Do things that align with your priorities. Limit the things that don’t. I’ll be the first to acknowledge that this is much easier said than done.
What helps me stick to this is remembering that every “yes” I say to something that does not align to my biggest life priorities is a “no” that I’m saying to something that really matters to me.
This does not mean I have to (or should) cut out everything that doesn’t fit into a me-centered mentality. For example, one of your values may be serving others or investing in relationships. This is about weighing the cost of your “yes” and your “no” and making conscious choices to live according to what matters.