We are incredibly fortunate to live in a world that offers us infinite possibilities. This is a blessing and a curse as it appears that knowing what you want out of life and deciding which path to take are some of the most common struggles of our generation. With so many options every step of the way, we get confused, overwhelmed, even paralyzed trying to make the right choices today to determine where we end up in 5-10 years, not even sure if that’s what we genuinely wanted in the first place. As you create a life filled with joy and purpose, unleashing your true potential, it’s crucial to take time to envision your future, create a vision that excites you, and pulls you forward, helping you become more intentional about the steps you are taking today.
We often take for granted the most powerful tool at our disposal as human beings: our mind’s capacity for imagination, and our ability to create a reality inspired by our imagination. In that regard, you will see that taking time to deliberately envision your future serves you in many ways that you will get to experience through the exercises in this piece.
Become Intentional and create space
In life, the journey is more important than the destination; however, without a North Star to guide you in the right direction, you might keep sailing, eventually getting lost at sea, deprived of all the things that bring you joy.
About a year into living in New York, I noticed that while I had done a great job of branching out and exploring all opportunities that came my way, I was not quite sure, and frankly a bit anxious, about where all this was taking me. With a degree in business, a life-long interest in design and all things creative, a love of learning, and connecting with people, I was saying “yes” to all sorts of projects. It wasn’t long before I felt a bit overwhelmed and off-track, going around in circles and not necessarily feeling that I was making progress in any particular direction.
Fortunately, I had an amazing mentor, a beloved investor and community builder in the New York startup ecosystem, and an extraordinary person who genuinely wanted to support you on your path, connect you with the right people and help you find the right resources to achieve your dreams. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that this person likes to ask questions about your plans for the future and your big ideas to build toward. Even though at the time, I didn’t have great answers to his questions, these conversations helped me become more focused on how I approached opportunities and more intentional about the steps I took.
As I pictured myself in the future, I didn’t have a particular job description, one big idea, or a step-by-step plan in mind; but I was able to identify the keywords I wanted my life to revolve around: entrepreneurship, design and creativity, and sharing knowledge.
Little did I know that within a couple of years of these conversations, I would start my own company working closely with entrepreneurs, teaching at one of the most prestigious design schools in the world, and traveling the world with amazing friends to run a global startup competition. Of course, none of this happened magically overnight, but it all started unfolding once I identified my keywords for my life, setting the parameters for my future in a way, and intentionally accepting opportunities that aligned with one of these themes that excite me. Even when I didn’t have much going on, I deliberately said “no” to offers and opportunities that didn’t align with my envisioned future to reserve space for the right type of opportunities. With this clarity, I noticed that I also became more vocal about the life I wanted to build and I was pleasantly surprised that people were eager to help me once they knew exactly what to help with.
When you define your North Star, you feel more confident passing on opportunities that don’t quite feel right because you know you are creating space for the ones that align with the future you envision.
We experience the world and interpret our experiences based on our perception of reality. As powerful as our brains might be, it’s fascinating that it can’t differentiate between an actual experience and an imagined one. This means that when you envision your future in your mind, your brain can’t tell if it’s something that has already happened. You perceive the world accordingly and act in a way to reaffirm that reality because we humans just want to prove ourselves right.
All of this means that by altering the reality in your mind, you can change your perception of the world and how you experience it. Whether you call it selective perception, the law of attraction, or a mind trick, I can assure you that the mere act of envisioning your future unlocks a whole new reality.
Growing up in a small town in Turkey, I couldn’t have imagined the life I have had in New York for over 7 years and now in London, connected to a global network of friends and colleagues, teaching, writing, and working with amazing people and organizations. I frequently reflect on this fact as it demonstrates how my reality today exceeds my knowledge of the world back then. I remind myself that similarly, my future will not be based on my current knowledge, capabilities and circumstances, but that it will be created by my boundless imagination.
As a teenager, I was on track for a very predictable life planned for me at birth, but for some reason, I had still imagined my life beyond that template and I now realize that I behaved according to that life in my mind (living abroad, pushing myself out of my comfort zone). Back then, it was effortless to imagine a future filled with possibilities, because ignorance truly was bliss and I was unaware of any obstacles, my limiting beliefs, or societal pressures that could get me confused and discouraged.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few” – Shunryu Suzuki
My trick to tapping back into my beginner’s mind, that is full of hope, encouraged to try new things and to dream of endless possibilities, is to practice visualization. I call it a practice as it takes practice to unburden yourself of your limiting beliefs and to envision an exciting future that might have nothing to do with your reality today. If you plan a future based on what you already know and what is currently available to you, then you will only limit yourself and miss out on the opportunity to unleash your potential and become your best version.
A visualization practice to get you excited:
• Take 10-15 minutes for yourself, in a quiet place free from distractions.
• Read the following prompts to guide your visualization process and then close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to get into a calmer state for your practice.
• First of all, remind yourself that every step you are taking is leading you closer to a more exciting and fulfilling life and that you will enjoy this time and safe space to envision that future.
• You intend to be aware of any signs, coincidences, and incidents in your everyday life that act as guides on your journey so you can be more mindful and more intentional.
• When you are ready, imagine yourself in the future, focusing on how you are feeling, who is around you, and where you are. It’s better to imagine yourself in your body, rather than watching yourself. Reflect on what you are doing, what you are hearing, what you feel excited about, the colors that pop, what is happening with your body. Spend some time here, getting as many details as possible. Think about what you want to be, do or have and feel as if you are already there, and don’t be limited by where you are right now or the steps in between your current state and your desired future.
• Once you have painted a solid picture of that future, set an intention to open your mind and your heart to signs that align with this picture, whether it’s something small happening to someone close to you or a very significant change in your life.
• You are not focusing on how to change from here to there but you are getting yourself ready to become aware of the signs and feel the nudge when the opportunities present themselves.
• You can pair this experience with music, like a soundtrack to a movie, and come back to it with the same music.
• You can also focus on the colors, the sensations, a phrase, or a body movement to get back into that state.
• Repeat regularly!
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.– Shunryu Suzuki
I can assure you that all of this has a neurobiological explanation, though I won’t get into the details of it. Put simply, how you feel in your body impacts your experiences significantly, and by becoming more tuned in with your body in the future you are creating memories and sensations to draw you toward those experiences.
Writing to gain clarity
One of the best ways to get your creative juices flowing to imagine a future with unlimited possibilities is to start writing. Sometimes we don’t even notice the weight of all our unshared thoughts in our minds, regardless of whether they are upsetting or exciting thoughts, if they don’t have an outlet they might become a burden.
You could do a stream of consciousness type of writing to get it all out in the open, without any judgment, without an audience, and without an effort to make it right; just writing freely about your dreams, your limiting beliefs, the obstacles on your way, how you could overcome them, and everything that excites you in your future.
You could also have more structure and pick a time in the future to write about. Focusing on the details just as you did in the visualization practice you write about a day in your future. Below are some questions to get you going:
• Where are you? Who are you with?
• How do you feel? (both generally about your life and specifically about your physical, emotional, and mental state)
• What are you excited about today? (that you can’t wait to start your day)
• What are you working on and why is that exciting and important?
• Who are you partnering with and what is the secret of your success together?
• Looking back at the “x” amount of time, what do you feel most proud of?
On your journey toward creating a fulfilling and joyful life, there is nothing quite as valuable as having a clear direction, determination, and motivation about your future, and embracing the wonderful changes coming your way.
What kind of an article on envisioning a future would be complete without the mention of a vision board? We are all visual creatures, drawn to images and stories that can paint a picture for us to connect with. It’s incredibly fun and powerful to build a vision board, although it might be slightly more tedious than some of the other practices. It helps you see the bigger picture, perhaps connect the dots, and identify your priorities in life. The task is to find visuals to represent the life you envision, and you can either cut these out from magazines or find them online. Try to avoid using existing photos from your life because the goal is to build from a mindset of endless possibilities and not your existing reality.
You can either do one big life vision board or focus on different areas on different boards.
You could use a big poster paper, or a corkboard to easily move things around. You could also do it on the computer, though I prefer the physical boards to feel more connected.
To give you some structure you can think about including the following sections:
• Health and body
• Family & Friends
• Travel and adventure
• Fun & Leisure
Your creative superpower
Even when you feel stuck in your current state, or uninspired by your circumstances, you are still taking steps, opportunities keep unfolding and change is still coming. By taking the time and creating a safe space to envision your future, you can tap into your superpower and imagine a future that excites, inspires, and motivates you. Empowered by this image, your steps start to feel more purposeful as you become more conscious and appreciative of the signs that lead you to your desired future. On your journey toward creating a fulfilling and joyful life, there is nothing quite as valuable as having a clear direction, determination, and motivation about your future, and embracing the wonderful changes coming your way.
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GG is a personal and professional development coach, and an organizational consultant focused on culture and leadership development. Her passion and talent in empowering individuals to discover their skills, strengths, and passions enables her to assist them in creating and leading fulfilling lives. Based on her cross-disciplinary background and experience, GG's unique approach incorporates resources, insights, and tools from a wide range of fields, including entrepreneurship, organizational behavior, psychology, design, mindfulness, and sustainability. Her coaching approach focuses on areas of motivation, engagement, and inspiration to amplify and build on the individual’s strengths so they can create a better environment toward their ideal future. Her company Mercury Change offers training, workshops, and leadership development programs for organizations.