Zoom Out to Focus In

Last month, I shared some ways to think differently about how you can best set goals by doing it your way – we’re all different, so following what someone else is doing may not be the best approach for you.

Today, I’ll share four possible ways to tap into your creativity and think about your ‘bigger picture’. Clarifying your longer term goals really helps with motivation, energy, focus and makes it easier to make decisions along the road.

Always remember to ask yourself:

Is this bringing me closer to, or farther from, where I want to get to?

Setting day-to-day or short term goals is one thing, but you also want to take time to think more strategically about the medium to long term as well.

Maybe you want to start a business, or change career, or move to a different location or way of working. Or maybe you just want to feel more fulfilled or less stressed. It doesn’t have to be a pipe dream, just because it may seem almost impossible right now, when you’re ‘down in the weeds’.

Three Horizon Thinking

With my clients, I find it useful to get them thinking about:

  1. the long term – where you want to get to (even though that could change)
  2. the medium term – what are the milestones or building blocks to get there e.g. qualifications, new experiences, building on your network etc.?
  3. short term and now – what do I need to do today or tomorrow, maybe how do I manage the current challenges better, while still taking steps towards the future I really want?

The great thing about using these approaches is that they jump you forward to an ‘ideal’ future – so you’re imagining that any current challenges are no longer a concern. In this version of your story you will have already overcome all the difficulties along the way.

This is not about being unrealistic. No-one expects that things will turn out exactly as imagined. But rather, it frees up your creativity and allows your intuition, and what you really want, to emerge without judgement or holding yourself back.

Once you’ve done some or all of these exercises, then it’s back to reality to see how you might get there and where to start.

A day in the life
If you enjoy writing, a good way to think about your ideal future is to write an article about yourself in the third person, as if you were a journalist writing a profile piece, say in five or ten years’ time.

A coaching client recently did this and wrote about four pages, really letting their imagination rip! We discussed all the ideas that had emerged and he decided on one or two priorities that really felt energising and exciting to pursue.

If you’re not into writing, you could think about words or phrases that feel important – perhaps tapping into your values and how you might be more aligned with them.

Vision Board / Mood Board
Another way to be playful and really ‘feeling’ your way forward, is to use a Vision Board or Mood Board; you can do this with a notice board and magazines – cutting out images or keywords that represent the kind of future you’d like for yourself.

This can be an ongoing process or done occasionally to revisit whether things have changed for you.

Another of my clients opted to do this recently using clip art and Powerpoint – choose a way of doing it that feels good for you.

Object Map
Similar to the Vision Board, you can really bring things out of your mind and into the real world using everyday objects, such as game pieces, buttons, pegs…

Choose an item to represent yourself, and another to represent the future you. What do you want to have in your life and work in the future?

Choose items to represent things you want, or maybe even that you don’t want e.g. work, family, negative habits.

Place them in a way that makes sense to you relative to your current and future self. Don’t overthink it. Observe how close or far apart they are – any patterns that emerge.

This really helps you to examine your own mental models and maybe limitations or blockages that you’re experiencing in how to move forward.

The key with all of these approaches, and there are lots of other ways to ‘zoom out’, is to be curious and playful. Above all, holding your plan ‘lightly’ – life and work will of course throw curveballs.

The plan belongs to you and you can change it if you want to.

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