Need a Compelling Vision? Start with the Anti-Vision

hospital bed, shutterstock

Your creative, visionary self requires juicy, specific details, but most people over the age of five can’t easily imagine exactly what they want.

Yet most people can easily describe what they don’t want … like how awful it would be to be helpless in a hospital bed while others decide your fate. Because there’s such a common fear that others will make wrong decisions for you, the advance health care directive was invented.

When my husband and I created our directive, we went way beyond deciding  who can sign papers for us when we’re out of it.  We created a powerful support system that helps us in sickness and in health.

Revisiting an image of being helpless in a hospital bed recently clarified some things that are important for our lives. As I tell the story, I hope you see how you can apply the process to yourself.

For a Great Vision for Your Life, Face Your Worst Fear

For my husband, the hospital bed conjures up pictures of being unable to communicate.  Flipping this around, he affirmed a basic vision, “Throughout my life, I hear, speak, talk and write well.”

Fleshing this out, he affirmed how much communication in many forms matters to him.  “I want frequent, meaningful contact with friends and family.  I want to finish my fantasy about Blackfire the cat wizard, publish it, and write many more fun and informative pieces.”

Looking at what he needs to make this vision real, he sees both the need for better writing support (a writers’ group, perhaps?) and for ways to keep his brain as sharp as possible as he ages.  That led to discovering, among other things, the exciting work of Norman Doidge, M.D., author of The Brain that Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing.   As we watched these and other pieces about the brain’s plasticity, both of us got more hopeful.  Now our ideas are spinning about how we can find the best ways to help ourselves and others become and remain brain-sharp.  Is a book on how to fight for our brains in the offing?  Stay tuned.

From a Yucky Picture to a New Vision for Rich Life

 While imagining myself stuck in a hospital bed, this image popped up:  “I’m at the mercy of someone else’s ideas of what I should eat and when.  That means over-cooked, under-seasoned meat and veggies served with white bread and lime gelatin. All on someone else’s timetable.”

Flipping this image and fleshing it out led to:  “Good food I love that is well cooked is a primary value for me.  To have this the rest of my life, I have to do everything I can to protect my health and to build up more financial reserves so I can always afford the organic fruits and vegetables, the antibiotic-free poultry and fish I love insetting I love. Paris again and Tuscany are high on my venue list.

“Being with friends around the dinner table is also a primary value to me. I can’t remember why we stopped the tradition of Sunday dinner with friends years ago, but it is time to bring it back.  Also, I want monthly trips to different types of restaurants, starting with the paella restaurant near Jack London Square that catered an event I loved.  Also, I want to learn how to cook Indian and Ethiopian foods well.  Oh, and having more pantry space and a much bigger kitchen, so I can store and use that humongous stainless steel roaster I was given …”

Those visions are already being set in motion.  I’ve found it’s a lot easier to eat healthily today when I envision eating and sharing food I love for the rest of my life than it is to follow a diet because I have to keep down the blood sugar.  Yeah, I know the numbers on the meter are vital, but they are not nearly as motivating as the picture of choosing healthy, yummy foods for life rather than ever being stuck with overdone, boring hospital food.

What’s Your Vision for Any Part of a Better Life?

 The formula is simple:

  1. Start with a dreaded or fearful image that bothers you. If you can’t think of any, try this:  I’ll end up broke and in the street.
  2. Flip that image around to specific positives.  I will always have plenty of resources to pay my mortgage or rent, pay all bills, continue learning and growing throughout life, eat out often with good friends, go to Tuscany or other places special twice a year, donate 10% of my income to causes that matter, and leave a legacy of money and creative works.

Keep getting more specific and real. Run the numbers so you know what you need, but also look for options.  Do you really want to stay in your house all your life, or might co-housing be better?  Can you let go any expenses or are there things you really want to buy?  What elements need to be in place to fulfill your vision?

For more tips, see “Reality vs. Vision:  What if There’s a Huge Gap Between Current Reality and Visions of a Richer Future? 

The very best to you and your visions, Pat