Are you living the life you have always dreamed of? Are you on the path you had hoped to be on? Are you doing what you love?
According to Gallup’s 2017 State of American Well Being Survey, purpose, described as enjoying what we do each day and motivated to achieve our goals, took a sharp decline highlighting that we’re becoming less satisfied with our lives and failing to live a life of purpose and meaning. This, coupled with data that suggests that 83% of the US population doesn’t have goals, further implies that many of us are simply getting swept along in life. For some of us, this may not necessarily be a bad thing. To live in the present moment and to see where life takes us, and heck, it can sure take us to some wonderful and unexpected places! But, it can also lead us down a rabbit hole. Life takes over, time keeps ticking. We get sucked into the daily grind and the routines until one day we realize we’re unhappy, unfulfilled, tired, burned out and perhaps living somebody else’s dream that’s likely in conflict with our own aspirations and values. And we’re stuck.
It’s this cycle that can lead to regrets later in life. Researchers have found key distinctions as it relates to these regrets in our later years. Firstly, we tend to regret inaction more than action and so in reality, it’s not the things we do, but the things we fail to do that has a longer lasting negative impact on our conscious. Secondly, subsequent research has determined that our deep-rooted life regrets stem from not living our ‘ideal selves’ (essentially the person we want to be based on our hopes and dreams), as opposed to our ‘ought selves’ (being the person we should be based on our duties and obligations, or what other people expect from us). What this research tells us then is that people wish they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves and wish they had taken action to follow and achieve their dreams.
“One day you will wake up and there won’t be any more time to do the things you’ve always wanted. Do it now.” ~ Paulo Coelho
Setting goals allows us to think mindfully about the things we want to get out of life, so we can focus on what’s important, ultimately leading us to a more fulfilling and purpose driven life. Having a clear vision and goals can serve as a reminder for what we’re striving for, especially during the tougher times, keeping us motivated along the path we’ve consciously chosen.
When we know what we want, it’s easy to start formulating goals, but what if you don’t know what your future vision is? What if you’re confused about what you want or what direction you want to head in? That unknowing can be rather unsettling, but from a growth mindset perspective, can also be exciting as you start to think about the realm of possibilities available to you. This is your opportunity to carve out a vision for what you’d like your life to be and to a live a life of no regrets. The alternative is to ask yourself, what if I do nothing?
You have a choice. In this moment, you can take control of your destiny.
Taking some time out to think about and to plan your future is an important first step in determining what it is you want to get out of life. Schedule some time that you can focus without distraction. Grab a notebook and pen and get creative; doodle, mindmap, write, draw. Just start! Think about the following questions;
Most of us haven’t stopped to think about these questions before and they’re purposely designed to be thought provoking. Once you’ve answered them, notice if there are any key themes or areas that evoke deep emotion since these will give you clues as to what’s important to you. When we’re living a life that’s in harmony with our passions and values, life tends to be fulfilling and effortless. What goals can you create that will honor your values and bring you long lasting happiness?
In his book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, Stephen Covey believes we should begin with the end in mind and provides an eulogy exercise whereby you visualize your own funeral and imagine what your loved ones would say about you. A little depressing perhaps to think about our own mortality, but actually doing so can be rather eye-opening. It gets us thinking about what’s really important and how we want to be remembered. As you think about the end in mind, consider the following questions;
As you reflect on your answers, explore how well you’re achieving your aspirations currently. Are you honoring your values and the things that are important to you? What action can you take now that will help you to achieve your life goals and help to fulfill your legacy?
I first learned about vision boards in a workshop facilitated by Dr Sam Collins, the CEO of Aspire where she shared her own experience of placing on her vision board a picture of a man who looked like Sean Connery holding a young boy. Years later, a photo of her husband and son looked eerily similar to that same picture. And, it’s not just this example that gets me excited about vision boards.
It’s a little spooky, but this stuff works! Having a vision board not only serves as a reminder for what you’re aiming for, but the more you see it and visualize it, the more your brain becomes wired to be on the lookout for opportunities for you to achieve your goals. Sifting through magazines helps to generate ideas so don’t despair if you’re still not sure what you want in life, just cut out images or words that make you feel good and that resonate with you on a spiritual level.
Grab a selection of magazines and cut out images and words that resonate or speak to you. It could be an image of a holiday destination, your dream house or career, or perhaps an ideal partner. Stick them on large poster or pinboard and have it displayed somewhere you can see it daily. You can also get some friends and do it together. Have fun with it and hold each other accountable for living and achieving your dreams!
Once you have determined your vision for the future, it’s time to start taking action and breaking down your vision into specific goals. As you start to formulate these, consider the following;
Going through this process can be an emotional journey but the benefits of doing so can literally change the trajectory of your life. Dream it, wish it, and do it. Take control of your destiny and start living a life of no regrets.
Originally published at happydayspsychology.com