That was the first question I was being asked when I started my coaching training with the Coaches Training Institute in early 2009. A big question. A scary question. A powerful question!
So just give yourself some time now, to stand still and ask yourself this first question:
1. What is your dream?
And to dig a little deeper:
What is important to you about this?
Do you dream of more money, better relationships, a cottage on the seaside, or ways to change the world? I can’t recall my answer from that first day, but it probably had something to do with what I wanted to do with my life, what I wanted for my two young daughters, what I wanted to teach others and learn about in the world, about using my skills in the best possible way.
The second part of the questions allows you to dig deeper at what your values are, what is really important to you. For me that is very much about enabling others to learn and use their skills, always striving to become better at the things that matter, being a good enough mum and partner, having some fun and giggles in the process!
2. Your 80th birthday party speech
When I was asked this question, I had already done quite a bit of work around mission statements, visioning and modelling. Especially the rather well known exercise of the 80th birthday party in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People had helped me.
Covey focuses on the big picture and suggests that instead of living your life by default at the mercy of others you need to become more pro-active and look at your life and goals with ‘the end in mind’ and start planning from there.
The exercise he suggests is that you imagine your 80th birthday party, and somebody gives a speech about your life.
Who is this person? What will they say about you?
Instead of just reading this, take 20 min now, and actually do write this out for yourself. No excuses! This exercise has a compete different meaning if you read about it, or actually do it!
And when you are on it, why not try answering that first question: what is your dream? What is important to you about that?
So, what has this got to do with business planning?
I used to do this life coaching exercise often when I run business planning sessions, and participants always got a bit nervous, fiddle for a couple of minutes, they didn’t expect something so personal at a business planning session. Sometimes somebody would cry.
But especially as a small business owner your ‘work life’ and ‘personal life’ will be fully entwined, sometimes really difficult to separate. And it is so useful to take time out of our busy lives, where we are constantly rushing around. Stand still for a moment, what do we actually really really want, what are we here for?
3. What is your life purpose?
As part of my CTI coaching course – and the book Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives – I also learnt about the Life Purpose exercise. Your life purpose is the reason you are on this planet, the legacy you want to leave behind, contributing that part that you are best at. It is the thing we are meant to accomplish, the specific impact we want to have, our special talent that fulfils our and other’s lives.
One great way to work with the life purpose is to look for a metaphor or an image that explains better what you are about and what you want to do. If you combine the metaphor with an impact statement you get something really powerful!
For example: I am the alarm clock waking you up to preconceived conceptions of vulnerable people. I am the camera obscura that creates a bigger image of you, upside down, outside of the box. This exercise is really great if you are a visual person. It might take you a while to get it right, but it will be very powerful once you have got it.
4. What is your personal logo or metaphor?
Another great way to work with a metaphor or symbol is to create your own personal logo or collage. Just for personal discovery, and to share with others to invite feedback. Working with metaphors and images is a great way to uncover what you are about.
However, it might take months or even years to really fine tune it, it might sound too ambitious, too big headed, too American.
But don’t let that be an excuse, just work on it bit by bit. It took me years to get it right without me cringing (the one of the camera obscura is mine! The other one was for a social enterprise client).
5. You get a year off … what would you do?
A complete different angle to discovering your vision and what you want is an exercise that I use regularly with my coaching clients. Imagine you finish with your current job or work at the end of this month for a year’s break. You will have all the money, confidence, time and energy that you need to succeed. Write a list of what you would do, of at least 15 things. What would you do with your year off?
6. Write a 500 year business plan!
Recently I was reminded of the so called 500 year business plan. The Japanese use this concept, to develop a business idea far beyond your life time, a business plan and vision for your children’s children’s children. It is a great way for your business or personal life to have this mega direction. And honestly, this exercise got me finally to creating my own mission statement that felt right: to support others to find their voice and best talents to solve the planet’s challenges in creative ways.
The person who reminded me was Dave Ellis, a great coach who run a workshop in London recently, and is the author of Falling Awake: Creating the Life of Your Dreams amongst many other books. He used a great exercise in his workshop that goes wider than the usual ‘What do you want?’:
7. Imagine in 20 years …
what do you want to have? ….
what do you want to do? …
who do you want to be? …
I hope you enjoyed these couple of creative visioning exercises to get you started on focusing on what you really want. I really would love to hear from you and what your vision is and what you want to do! Please use the comments box below to share it with the world. Sharing and writing about it is one of the best ways to make sure that you will actually do something about turning your dream into reality!