I am starting today's post just one day after my previous one has published. This topic is heavy on my mind the last week or two. I think it's important for me to do a little brain dump today and get this down on "paper." I hope this read is short, sweet, and possibly inspiring for those with thought processes similar to mine.
Do you have a vision?
Do you have goals... like, for your life?
I never thought about what I wanted out of my life - my career or my future in general. My brain operates from a place of cynicism. We work, we die. That's what we do. All of us - little cogs on a wheel. I make money so I can (hopefully) afford where I live, what I eat, things I want to do and to buy, etc. so the economy can continue to grow. I work a stable job that I'm not sure I like so that I can watch people who don't work hard get promoted. So that I can have health insurance for a medical system that wants to rob me blind. So that I, a grown adult, can ask for permission to take time away to see my friends and family 1000 miles away, because despite the fact that my job is done on a computer - I need to "be here." Love it. And all the money I put in my 401K? Well I don't know that I'll ever reach the age to see it without paying a fucking penalty fee and being taxed to death.
And this, my friends, is the negative feedback loop that is cynicism.
So alas, when someone asks me, "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" my answer is usually something along the lines of, "I don't know... probably working." I don't know what I'm doing with my work, I just know it is going to pay for me to be physically alive until the day I die. Well my interviewer does not usually like that answer so I quickly pivot, "Or... I don't know, maybe dead?" Nope... that was not the answer they were looking for either, and the mom of three who is interviewing me has no time or tolerance for this sense of humor... Whomp whomp. Now I feel bad, AND I'm not getting the job.
Well, the truth is that I hate that question. I don't fucking know where I see myself at any given moment. I can't even foresee how my evening is going to end. How the hell am I supposed to "see myself," in any capacity, five goddamn years from now?
Here is what I have to say: screw everyone in the workplace for asking that ridiculous question. It turns out what they really want to know is, "What's your vision?" Well, guess what... I feel like that is pretty fucking vague, too. My brain does not operate in this little world full of rainbows and butterflies where we use terms like, "vision," for ourselves.
Nonetheless, I thought to myself last week, "You really need to create a vision board." For a couple of reasons. The first reason being: how can I ask a future client to talk with me about their vision when I, myself, have never had one? I am really big on that experience piece of things. Second: after going through my coursework regarding vision and goal setting, it actually felt a little more exciting to have an idea of what my life could look like. Like a possibility. It is almost as if the course is really helping me coach myself at this point. I decided to be open to the process and sit down to create my vision board because I found myself wanting to, rather than feeling like I needed to.
So, imagine this scenario: I am sitting at my desk here at home. I am staring at my betta fish, who is staring back at me, and I am trying to hype myself up to create this vision board. I do feel semi-excited because it sounds like fun to do this, but I feel a little stuck. I decide to Google how to create a vision board. See snapshot below for my Google history as a form of proof (a nod to my previous blog post).
All I discover from this article is that I should cut out images from magazines that support my "vision." I suppose this visual image will imprint itself on my subconscious so that I work towards this imagined life a little more each day...? This works for a lot of people. I see how it has worked for many people around me. I thought it was going to work for me. But the article made me feel even more stuck. Because I realized... as I stated above, I don't actually have a vision. How can I cut images from magazines to support my vision when I don't fucking have one to begin with?
So I shifted from the idea of creating the vision board, to the idea of creating the vision. It was not going to come from blindly cutting pictures out of a magazine - not yet anyway. I had to start asking myself hard questions - questions I honestly do not believe I could have answered just 5 months ago; there has been a lot of self-discovery these last few months that have really helped me with this process.
Here is how it went down:
I asked myself, "In my perfect world, what does my Sunday look like?" Monday? Tuesday? Saturday? I wrote down each day of the week and what I did during those days in my "perfect world."
I wrote down specific hobbies that I have time for in my perfect world.
I identified what those imaginary days brought to my life that I value. That list looked a little bit like: routine, autonomy, mental health, physical health, connection with others (family, friends), etc.
I used those words and created a vision statement. A vision statement - that is something a company usually lists on their website, my brain started making connections at that point. That is lingo that is familiar.
Based on my vision statement, I was able to create long-term goals that I needed to hit in order to reach it. I wrote down those goals.
Based on my long-term goals, I was able to create short-term goals that supported the long-term goals, and in essence, the entirety of my vision.
I pinned all of my writing and lists to a corkboard. They are propped up behind the laptop now as I write.
There are no photos yet. That is okay. I like my lists better anyway, as you can see.
The incredible thing about having identified a vision for my life after all this time is that it has given me a drive to complete my action plans throughout the week. I feel I am working towards achieving something day by day. That's nice. I truly have never had goals. I just existed. Existed for, what seems like, everyone but myself when I look back on the past 10 years of my life. Having an action plan for my week that supports my goals now has me incorporating things into my weekly task list that consist of self-care. This has unexpectedly helped me implement boundaries with others, which has in turn, opened my eyes to new truths about myself.
I really struggle with telling people "No," and will often stop what I am doing or had planned to give others what they need or want - completely unbeknownst to anyone (sometimes even myself) that it is exhausting me and adding stress to my life. No wonder I have struggled all these years to fathom wanting or having a newborn baby... When I look back in this sense, I am already mom to so many - dropping my needs for anyone else all these years at the expense of myself. It is no one's fault but my own, but I see now that I have been clinging to the small slice of "me" I have left, and not wanting to give that up. I always remember telling others I was "too selfish" to have a child. I knew then that I would secretly resent my hypothetical child for taking my autonomy; and I see now that is because I have given so much of it away already. To work. To friends. To strangers.
What a revelation.
So this feels really good. Identifying things I value feels good. Setting aside time for my hobbies feels good. Prioritizing my task list based on whether it supports these values, goals, or hobbies, feels good. Choosing myself when I need to feels good. Having the capacity to give to my friends without feeling it is at the expense of me, feels good.
Dare I say... I feel good?
Dare I say... I have finally fucking broken the negative feedback loop?
I told a friend a couple days ago that I have been having more good days than bad. The bad days still exist, but taking care of myself in these ways - the writing therapy, the alcohol detox, learning something new, choosing me, creating a vision and implementing goals - allows me to see the light at the end of the tunnel when I find myself in the pit of those bad days. Giving myself permission to sit in the hole of anxiety, depression, or grief with the knowledge that tomorrow is a new day, with a new action plan - well, it's a game changer for me. I find sitting in the "hole" now is a lot less lengthy than it used to be... No longer weeks, or days. Now maybe one day every couple weeks, or maybe even just a couple hours out of the one day. Harm reduction.
If you find yourself with cynical thought processes similar to mine - what's your vision? Do you have one? If not, I highly recommend sitting down and imagining what life looks like in your "perfect world." I think you would be surprised with what you come up with - especially in regards to your values. Identifying values alone, and then having an action plan that supports them week by week, has given my days a new meaning, and may have helped tremendously with my work-life balance back when I did feel I was a cog in the wheel.
If you are one of those incredible people who has had a vision that has come to fruition, please share! If you have a vision BOARD, post a picture! I need some inspiration to move me to the next stage of my own vision board and I welcome all ideas.
I will leave you with a photo of my current vision board and what my to-do list was for this past week. It paints a good picture of how my weekly action plan supports my short-term goals in small, achievable steps that I feel good about each week. I also realize when I look back at a lot of my weekly to-do lists from the past that there are recurring themes with my values that I never noticed before (my home, my pets, my health, etc.). It is easier to see how everything ties together, which is motivating in itself.
And, most importantly, WE ARE NOT COGS IN THE WHEEL!
You are enough. You matter. Your time matters. Your values matter.
What can you do TODAY to support them?