A vision is great. A vision beams you to the future and a vision challenges you to greatness. With high energy and exuberant enthusiasm you set your sights to reaching a goal and nothing can stop you. The finish line is just at the end of a rainbow and you can see it. But then something happens. You take a hard look at reality and realize that your present state is nowhere near your visionary state. As you count the number of obstacles you would need to tackle first, energy fades, enthusiasm dwindles, and the vision is just too far out of reach.
What’s the next thing to do? If you are like me, you probably decide to dummy down your vision, a nice comfortable little vision that is much easier to achieve. Of course, you can always justify your decision by adding more and more obstacles to your long list of “But I can’t do it because…”. That way it is not really your fault for not transforming your big vision to reality.
For example, one of my earliest recollections of a big vision occurred when I was five years old. More than anything else I wanted to be a cowgirl. I would image myself riding a golden Palomino with a flowing white mane and jumping over tumbleweeds and prancing next a cool stream. It was also the same year that I was scheduled to have a tonsillectomy. Every kid in kindergarten was having a tonsillectomy so I was really happy to be admitted to the hospital and it was not the reward of ice cream after the surgery that excited me. Instead, I was totally excited about the reward of a pair of red cowgirl boots (hence, my love of shoes was formed at an early age). I truly believed that I was getting closer to my vision by wearing the red cowgirl boots everywhere. As I got older, my cowgirl vision seemed to move further and further away because my obstacles kept mounting. I would tell myself, “But I don’t own a horse, but I have never ridden a horse, but I don’t live in the West, but I can’t….” I felt my vision was hopeless, just a dream. Without realizing, I was developing a pattern for goal achievement that would follow me for many years.
However, consider that the time spent dreaming about an incredible vision motivates the spirit, awakens the senses, and makes you feel alive. But the problem with most visions is that they are hidden behind walls of obstacles and limitations and will never see the light of day to flourish to the real thing. Surprisingly, it doesn’t have to be this way if a simple technique called Mental Contrasting is applied to your approach to goal achievement. Mental Contrasting occurs when the reality of the obstacles are recognized in order to achieve a goal. Gabrielle Oetinngen, Ph.D.,Professor of Psychology and researcher at NYU, has conducted extensive research on motivation and goal achievement and describes how mental contrasting works. There are two approaches to mental contrasting. One approach encourages motivation for goal achievement and the other approach discourages motivation for goal achievement. Oetinngen discovered that people who understand the difficulties and challenges to achieving their vision and felt optimistic about reaching their goal were more successful than the people who understood the difficulties and challenges to achieving their vision but considered their ability to achieve their vision as low. That is, if present reality, where you are now, consumes your thoughts, the path to your vision will be rocky, treacherous, and steep. Maintaining a steady thought pattern of obstacles is not very conducive to motivation. Similarly, if you continue to daydream about your vision without any consideration about what it will take to transform your dream to reality, time will pass and the vision will never move beyond an escape from reality. The secret to applying mental contrasting is not choosing the right approach but balancing your approach.
To put it another way, like diet, exercise, and work, the key to a healthy lifestyle is balance; therefore, goal attainment is no different. First, you need to ask yourself “Why is my vision important?” and “What is the driving force that is compelling me toward the vision?” If you are able to honestly answer the two questions and you feel energized and excited, then you have a high potential for success and using mental contrasting will help you create an effective action plan for transforming your vision.
The first thing to remember is that there are multiple exercises available for applying mental contrasting but finding what works for you is the best way to develop a winning formula for goal achievement. Here is a technique that works for me and has helped me to develop a balanced, practical approach to designing my life around multiple visions.
When you compare and contrast the challenges to the steps toward the vision, you will readily see how to adjust what can be accomplished to what needs to change or be eliminated or redesigned. Your strategy for success is aligned with what can be (future you) and with reality (present you).
So how can you expect a successful outcome even when the vision makes your but look so big?
As a result of your personal vision feasibility study you will realize the amount of work involved in achieving your goal and you are in control of your actions, thoughts, and motivation. Challenges become steps to action, small successes become motivation drivers, and your time is spent moving in a positive direction toward your vision. The size of your vision is not important. What is important is that your big, lofty vision balances with a high perception of success and with the obstacles that create bumps in the road to your goal achievement.
Go ahead, now is the best time to dream big, really big because you deserve to live your vision, enjoy your life, and be happy. In fact, recently, I have been thinking more and more about revisiting my cowgirl vision. This may be the perfect time to design a feasibility study. I think I will begin by slipping on my red cowgirl boots.