When you have one of those moments when you take a long look at yourself and where you are in life – like maybe this morning in the bathroom mirror – chances are, a couple more questions are going to pop up. Something like: Where am I headed in life? And what do I want?
Whether a new year, or a new chapter, in your life, it’s hard to move forward if don’t know what you’re moving toward. Like a vision for what you want your life to look like.
If you have a vision in place, what’s it look like? Something you’re motivated to work toward? Or something you hope to avoid? And if don’t have a vision, why not?
Living with a chronic condition brings challenges into your life, a whole lot of them on some days. As a result, your vision for the future may not look quite the way you might have thought it would before your diagnosis. But your vision for the future has to be covered over in clouds. And can anyone know what the future might bring?
Think about your vision as a work in progress, based on positive intentions for what you want your life to look like. Having positive intention begins with deciding not to focus on what’s not going well in your life – the frustrations and disappointments. And instead focusing on what’s going well, being grateful, and expecting the best instead of the worst. Your positive intentions are the building blocks to creating a vision to motivate and inspire you, and keep you moving forward.
Here’s how to use positive intention to help create your vision for the future:
Get specific with yourself. You may have a general idea of what you would like to have more of in your life, such as “to take better care of myself” or “to be happier.” That’s a start, but it doesn’t give you a lot to work with when it comes to creating a vision you can start taking concrete steps toward making reality. So don’t let yourself off the hook too easily. For example, what does taking care of yourself mean? Diet? More activity? Compliance with your treatment regimen? And what about being happy? Does that mean more rest? More fun? A better relationship with someone close to you?
Maybe even make a picture. You might want to consider creating a vision board. This is like a collage. Go through some magazines and choose pictures that illustrate your vision for yourself. Include pictures that symbolize how you want to feel, the things you want to be doing, the people you want in your life. Keep it someplace where you can look at it during those times when you feel like you have lost sight of your vision for the future, or when you need some inspiration.
Act! Don’t wait to feel like it. I often tell my clients that if they want to feel like taking action before they actually start taking action in their lives, the two of us might be sitting for a long time. How trying the opposite approach: Taking action and letting the feelings catch up? Take a step, even a small step. Make a commitment, try something new, give yourself a push. Taking positive action creates more positive action.
Look at what’s been holding you back. As you get focused on what you want to add to your life, and take a few steps in this direction, chances are you will also become more aware of what holds you back in life, in case you weren’t aware already. Some of these barriers may be internal, and some of them may be in your environment. Negative self-image? Finances? Lack of time? Unsupportive people?
And get help. You may have a strong sense of what you need to do to overcome some of the barriers getting in the way of your vision, but not be able to overcome them on your own. Or maybe you aren’t sure how to get started. So also consider what help you need. And who can help you, such as a trusted advisor. This might be the time to reach out to a mental health professional for some guidance. Don’t go it alone when someone might be standing by, and even eager, to give you a hand.
Watch your self-talk. Human beings spend their waking hours in an ongoing conversation with themselves. What’s going in on yours? If you are constantly telling yourself how bad things are, and what you can’t do, then your positive intentions are mostly going to get pushed around by the voice of the big bully in your brain. When you find yourself going negative, using words like “can’t,” “won’t” and “never,” that’s a sign that the bully is talking. Turn the negatives, and the “yes, but,” into “yes, and.” Remind yourself of what you can do. Review your strengths. Look for alternatives. Expect the unexpected. And don’t be afraid to tell the bully to shut up.
And watch what you say to others. It’s easy to get caught up in the limitations and negativity of other people who, when they’re complaining about how hard their lives are, they’re reminding you of how hard yours is. It can feel good to complain and commiserate, temporarily, but be careful about letting your vent session turn into a prediction of eternal gloom and doom. So while you’re telling yourself what’s possible, do the same with others. Give voice to your positive intentions, and mean what you say!
Build in some accountability. No, I am not suggesting you need to be scolded like a child (though I have to admit, it was effective at times). What I am suggesting is finding someone to “answer to” in some way, who you can check in with periodically on your progress, or lack of progress, who can listen and even give you some coaching when you need it. This might be a friend, a family member, a healthcare professional. Accountability gives you an additional incentive as well as encouragement. And being accountable is a way of affirming you are serious.
But what about my __________________ (your chronic condition goes here)?
Having a vision for your future is not the same as denying you are living with a chronic condition. No, I am not forgetting you are facing the challenges of living with a chronic condition and promising you pie in the sky. I am not saying that wanting something causes it to magically appear.
How about this:
Accept your limitations and work with them, not against them. Grab onto a vision of yourself as someone who has positive intention for the future by focusing on what’s possible instead of what’s doesn’t seem possible. Keep nudging yourself toward the plus column.
Your vision is a work in process. Visualize your future. Get on the path and move forward with positive intentions. Sure, brace yourself for some detours. But keep an eye out for the pleasant surprises along the way.