“The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart, this you will build your life by, and this you will become. “
“I can teach anybody how to get what they want out of life. The problem is that I can’t find anybody who can tell me what they want.”
– Mark Twain
University is about learning new skills and expanding your mind – you are encouraged to step outside your comfort zone. However, most, if not all, of university focuses on events immediately in front of you. It trains you to respond to life in a very reactive manner – it starts to feel like you are simply jumping from one deadline to another.
It is very hard, yet very important, to step back and look at the big picture of your life. Where do you want to be in 1, 5, 10, 20, 30, and 50 years? If you are at university, chances are you fall somewhere in your late teens or early twenties. You could easily have 60-70 years ahead of you, so there is no better time to start thinking about it then now.
One of the biggest pitfalls of life is that people fall into a reactive mindset. They become externally motivated, and therefore lose control of the direction of their life. Rather than being proactive and thinking about the direction they are heading, and where they want to go, they become reactive, and sail wherever the winds take them.
Develop a Vision
One of the most important things to do early on is to develop a vision for your life. Unfortunately, it is very unlikely that you will ever learn how to do this in a class, so it is up to YOU to take the initiative (look, you’re already being proactive!). So, how do you start on this most important of tasks?
Begin with the end in mind. This is taken from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (which is a great book). Read the following paragraph, and then try the exercise for yourself.
Close your eyes. You are at a funeral – the bells are ringing, and weeping family members sit in the front rows. There are flowers lining the coffin at the front of the room. This is your funeral. Your closest friend – maybe it’s your wife, husband, brother, sister, son or daughter – takes the podium to read your eulogy. What do they say? What do they remember you for? What actions do they remember? What do you want them to remember you for?
Open your eyes. Surely several things came to your mind: maybe you want to be remembered as a business success, a loving parent, a volunteer, a good friend, a loving spouse, or an innovator. Whatever those things were, write them down.
Right now, you are in the process of determining the vision for your life. You are visualizing where you want to be in your final hours. What you want to be known for, who you want to know, what you want to have done. These things are all very important for developing your life’s vision. Are there any causes you want to have supported? Any people you want to have stayed close to? Anything you want to have left your children with?
The goal here is to get a picture of the end of your life – that’s why they call it beginning with the end in mind. Once you have the final picture, you can put it beside your current picture. Where are you now? What are you currently supporting? What are you currently known for? Who do you currently interact with? By knowing where you are now, and where you want to be at the end of your life, you can establish the path that will take you there.
I encourage you to take it one step further: write your own eulogy. Yes, this might sound a bit morose, but it is very powerful. We all have a very strong and romanticized vision for what we want our funeral to look like – so why not use it as a motivator? Write it down, commit it to paper, and use it as fuel whenever you are feeling de-motivated or confused. Additionally, it will serve as an excellent acid test for anything you do in the future; you will be able to ask yourself “is this moving me closer to my life’s vision, or further away?” With that kind of clarity in mind, you will be unstoppable.