One normal day, as I was getting ready for the daily grind and bemoaning my unhappy lot at a job I didn’t like, it dawned on me that maybe I should question my overall career trajectory. We have all been there. So, like the good consultant that I am, I decided to outsource expertise and hire a life coach. Actually, I just googled “life coaches” and found someone with great reviews. Most importantly, I knew I needed a fresh perspective and some decision-making tools.
My life coach and I spent some time on a few calls. I did some unmemorable homework assignments designed to tease out my ambitions, but I just could not gain any clarity.
Then, during one call, she asked me an intriguing set of questions that helped me focus on what I truly wanted for my career. Here’s an exercise that might help you, too:
Visualize Your Everyday Routine
Visualize your everyday routine in great detail. “It’s the morning,” my life coach said. “You’re in your bathroom getting ready. What do you see? What clothes are you putting on? Who’s in the bathroom? What are you wearing? What’s your schedule like for the day? Are you doing meetings? What are they about?”
In my vision, I was not putting on my power pantsuit, as I had been doing, and strapping on the high heels for a day of proving myself in a K Street office consulting for senior executives. Instead, I visualized a day packed with variety. I was still consulting but was in business for myself — no power suits! I was meeting with a publisher about a book idea, talking to manufacturers about a skincare line or yoga wear. I was wrangling my crazy little kid for a fun-filled day at school.
It was the day of an entrepreneur — someone who worked for herself but not by herself. I saw collaboration with people that I genuinely enjoyed, people who brought out the best in me, people who had never met a big idea they didn’t like. I liked my career; I just did not like working for other people and being confined by their expectations for my day.
So, how do you actually visualize what you want?
It helps to begin with a blank slate. Clear your mind, and tap into your subconscious aspirations. Be honest with yourself about what you want. For some, it can be hard to empty your mind. Meditation helps, and taking a long walk can spark ideas. Some authors suggest putting the thoughts in your mind and sleeping on them. When you wake up, your subconscious will have had a chance to work it out.
For others, the challenge is the actual visualization. For example, I am currently house shopping and can walk into a home and see exactly what it could look like. My partner cannot. He needs to actually see it, so I mock up an “after” picture using PowerPoint. You can use this tactic and create vision boards — electronic or physical boards — that aggregate everything from workwear to inspirational quotes or profiles of executives you admire. What draws your attention will come into sharper relief when you can see it all in one place.
Understanding The Power Of Visualization
We have all heard of the enormous power of visualization. Oprah talks about it, so that makes it a bona fide thing. Of course, I have visualized my dream kitchen with the help of Pinterest, and we have all tried visualizing success (and, of course, world peace). But it had not occurred to me that simply visualizing my day could be the key to deciding one of life’s most fundamental questions: What do I want to be when I grow up?
The power of visualization is well-documented: Young cancer patients who use a video game to visualize destroying cancer cells have a reportedly higher rate of sticking to their treatment. Studies have been done on the power of visualization in improving athletic performance, specifically in basketball. After testing free throw skills, players were split into three groups: one practiced, the second visualized the ball going through the hoop, and the third did nothing. The group that visualized performed nearly the same as the people who practiced. The power is undeniable.
Today, I do all of the things that were in my vision of my perfect day-to-day. I would have still been casting about for what I wanted out of life if I did not take that one simple step of visualizing my morning routine. The decision is so complex that you can think yourself in circles. For those of you who are in the same boat as I was years ago, give it a try. Stop the homework, and stop overthinking it. Just visualize your perfect day.