Need a Compelling Vision? Start with the Anti-Vision

hospital bed, shutterstock

Your creative, visionary self thrives on juicy details, but if you are like most people over the age of five, it’s practically impossible to specify a vision of what you want to create. Yet it’s easy to be very clear about what you don’t want.

My husband and I built on this principle when we named our fears before trying to write an advance health care directive so the best possible people know what we want and can speak for us when we can’t speak for ourselves. The creativity that emerged from detailing our fears led to a powerful support system that helps us thrive in sickness and in health.

What we learned can be applied to any dream or challenge, whatever your age.

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

For my husband, being  unable to speak in a hospital bed dramatizes how much communication matters to him.  Flipping his fears around, he affirmed a basic vision, “Throughout my life, I hear, speak, talk and write well.”

This helped him flesh out important details of what matters to him:  “I want frequent, meaningful contact with friends and family.  I want to finish my fantasy about a 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 videos about the brain’s plasticity, both of us got more hopeful.  Now our ideas are spinning about how we can best 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 anti-vision:  “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 increase my financial reserves so I can always afford the organic fruits and vegetables, the antibiotic-free poultry and fish I love in settings I love. Paris, the British Isles and Iceland again and Tuscany for the first time are high on my travel dream 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 that I love and those that I don’t yet know. Also, I want to learn how to cook Indian and Ethiopian foods well.  I want more more pantry space and a much bigger kitchen, so I can store easily the humongous stainless steel roaster I was given and create a healthy small banquet loaded with side dishes.

Guided by these visions, it’s easier to eat healthily than it is when I try to force myself to follow a diet because I have to keep down my blood sugar. Even though the numbers on the meter are vital, they are not nearly as motivating as the picture of enjoying 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 you know you would love to create.  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 special places twice a year, donate 10% of my income to causes that matter, and leave a legacy of money and creative works.
  3. 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?

The very best to you and your visions, Pat

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