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How To Kick-Start Your Vision In Just one Hour

“There is no use trying; one can't believe impossible things,” said Alice in Wonderland.

“I dare say you haven't had much practice. When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast,” replied the Queen.

It might seem ridiculously idealistic, in these tricky post-recession days, to urge belief in impossible things. Yet great strategic thinking starts with having a vision—yes, even a seemingly impossible one—of where you want to go.

And women are judged to be less visionary than men, according to a study by Professor Herminia Ibarra and Otilia Obodaru of INSEAD. This might get you (like me) screaming silently in your seat, but they call it ‘Women and the Vision Thing’ . It may just be a matter of perception, but there often seems to be a block of some sort for women around vision.

Making Vision Fun

Setting yourself the task to ‘come up with a vision’ often feels somewhat daunting—where on earth to start?

The key, we have found at Aspire, is to find genuinely fun and interesting ways to create a vision—otherwise it risks being bland, dull and passionless, one of those awful platitude-packed statements that you see adorning the wall in some grey office somewhere you’d rather not be.

Speaking to an audience at an Aspire event, businesswoman Rachel Elnaugh, of BBC Dragon’s Den fame, preferred not to even use the word ‘vision’—for her, it is about being a daydreamer, thinking about possibility and ‘wouldn’t-it-be-great-ifs’.

A great way to kick-start your vision is by creating your own Vision or Dream Board—it’s an enjoyable, practical and very tangible exercise that you can do within just one hour (although when your creative juices have started flowing, I’ll bet you’ll want to take a bit longer!). I’ll share some tips in a minute on how to actually get going with this.

Having a Vision Board—a visual representation of what you are aiming for, what is most important to you (whether in your professional or personal life, or a combination of both) is an extraordinarily powerful tool to help you get there. It becomes something compelling to aspire to, something to get you out of bed with a bounce rather than that “Oh God, here we go again” Monday-morning feeling.

Too often, we try to ‘be visionary’ only by using our left (logical) brain…and get stuck. Getting your right (creative) brain involved in the visioning process allows more sub-conscious ideas to flow and, quite literally, a picture of your ideal future to be created.

Vision Boards Work!

It may all seem a bit hokey-cokey, but there are plenty of people out there who have directly experienced the benefits of creating a vision board. One of those is Dr Samantha Collins, the CEO of Aspire, who created a Vision Board in 2006 while single, child-free, living in North London in the UK and with her company’s reach being entirely UK-centric:

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Fast-forward to now and Samantha, now happily married in California to a man who (freakily) looks remarkably like the chap on her vision board, has two children and a thriving company whose reach has gone global. What could be next?

Then Samantha did another vision board—this time, one focusing on her current vision to dramatically grow Aspire in new ways alongside developing the not-for-profit wing, The Aspire Foundation, and expand her sphere of influence among some of the most high-profile women in the world:

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Does Samantha have a precise plan worked out for how to achieve her vision? No! (though she’s working on it). Does it slightly terrify her, wondering if and how she will actually get there? Yes! (but in a good way). The whole point of a Vision Board is to dream, to expand your thinking beyond normal, safe realms—as a wise soul once said, if you reach for the stars, you might just land on the moon.

3 Steps To Creating Your Own Vision Board

1. Get Your Head Straight

The actress Hilary Swank observed that “As long as we dare to dream and don’t get in the way of ourselves, anything is possible—there’s truly no end to where our dreams can take us”.

The most important part of that sentence? “As long as we…don’t get in the way of ourselves.” The second you step into vision mode, it’s so easy for all the problems, practicalities, barriers and difficulties to come crashing down and stop you before you’ve even started. For you to tell yourself that you “couldn’t possibly” do, have or create X or Y.

Do yourself a favor, and create your Vision Board away from the distractions of your normal work environment, at a time when you’re feeling positive, energized, and good about yourself. You might want to start it first thing in the morning, or just after you’ve been for a short walk.

2. Reflect Quietly

Settle down to think strategically about your vision, about what you really want, in a quiet place with no interruptions. With notebook and a pen in hand, use the following prompts to trigger your thinking:

• If there were no obstacles at all, what would I love to achieve in the next couple of years? What would I love to be involved with? What is my ideal scenario?
• What do I want to be remembered or known for? How do I want people to describe me and my work?
• What is a bigger stretch for me/my organization?
• What impact do I want to have in the world? What would I want my legacy to be?

If you find it really hard to get into these questions, try expressing some of them in the negative—for example: what would you hate to be involved with; what is your worst-case scenario, and so on. After you have noted down your thoughts, go back through your list and reverse each of your responses into a positive. “I’d hate to be unknown and always in the background” could become “I’d love to be known as a leading authority in my field”, for instance.

Pick a timescale that suits you when contemplating these questions—it can be 1, 3, 5, 10 years, or whatever works for you. If you struggle with visioning, it often helps to focus on a shorter future timescale of a year or so.

It’s up to you whether you choose to focus your Vision Board on your professional life, your personal life, or a mixture of both. I would always advocate combining the two, as your vision for one area of your life will obviously impact the other parts.

3. Rip ‘n’ Stick!

Now for your Blue Peter moment—get a stack of magazines and newspapers together, along with a large piece of blank paper or board (a piece of A3 size card or flipchart paper is good). Flip through and rip out anything (pictures, words, colours, textures) that resonates with you and captures an element of your vision. It’s important to be quite instinctive in your selection of images—send your brain on temporary vacation! You may find it helpful to set yourself a fairly short time limit for this, in order to minimize the temptation to drift off into reading all those fascinating articles you’re flicking past…

Once you have a decent pile of material, sift through it, get your glue stick out, and choose what you want to paste onto your Vision Board.

Who Said It Had To Be A Board?

If you’re feeling creative (or have been-there-done-that with boards and want something new to inspire you) there’s no need to limit your vision to a flat, rectangular board or piece of paper. Some ideas:

• Create a portable, fold-out vision board using creative coach Jennifer Lee’s beautifully hand-made, easy-to-use kit.

• Use Oprah Winfrey’s free online Dream Board vision software a vast pool of images for you to pick from to create your own board, like best-selling author Martha Beck did.

• If you’ve got a bit more time and know-how, make a video vision statement , as advocated by nutty-but-nice Malcolm Cohan—or simply arrange a selection of words and images that express your vision into a basic powerpoint, and play it to yourself as a slideshow

Put Your Feet Up?

Ah—it’s done. A beautiful collection of images sits there in front of you. The vision that you’ve captured doesn’t have to be perfect, precise, or all planned out. This creative approach to envisioning is all about taking a broad brush look (quite literally) at your future picture of success.

But what now?

Find ways that suit you to keep this Vision Board alive and in front of you. Take a photo of your board and make it your screensaver; print out a small copy and stick it in your diary, notebook or drawer; pin the original up on your wall at home; set it to pop up in your reminders on your computer once a week.

And beyond that—take action! As internationally acclaimed finance expert Suze Orman puts it, “You need more than just passion—you need a plan!”

With your Vision Board in front of you for inspiration, chunk it down to some motivating milestones—what will be the key focus areas for you to work on, in order to start moving towards making your vision a reality?

Before you know it, those “impossible things” you dreamt of may just have turned into reality.

Posted by Rebecca Hourston, Director of Programs on Thursday, April 18, 2013
Tags: powerful communication, leadership, vision, inspirational, role models, female, purpose, strengths

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