Why I create a three-year vision instead of New Year's resolutions

In 1999, I had a pretty good job in downtown Seattle. On Monday mornings, during my commute, I'd contemplate the great adventure I had the previous weekend and would plot out my next weekend.

When I realized I didn't want to live for the weekends anymore.

I got on the bus one morning, sat down, and the seat didn't fit my ass. Now, in hindsight, I'm sure it was a matter of the metal frame being bent or the seat cushion having lost its cushion but I interpreted it differently:

"This bus seat doesn’t fit me; therefore my life doesn’t fit me.”

I started to dream about what my life should be like.

I knew I wanted to be back in a small town in the mountains and have access to visit the city I loved. I wanted a little home, sort of like a cabin but not rustic; cozy. With a small yard. I’d make my mug of coffee and stand in the doorway looking out at my garden, barefoot, with Ani DiFranco or Dar Williams playing in the background. (Hey, it was the late 90s after all. )

As for my career, I would be doing something creative. And it was my own business. I wasn't sure what exactly, but I'd be working independently. 

Geographically, I definitely wanted to stay in the Northwest. Having lived in Colorado, and grown up in the Northeast, I knew I loved the cool damp and lush landscape of the Northwest along with the low humidity. So that narrowed that down. A LOT.

Other criteria: I need to be able to ski. Skiing is central to my existence and happiness.

I didn't know how it would happen. I didn't write it down. I wasn't even consciously doing it - it was just a daydream. 

But I carried this vision around with me in my head and began talking about it. I was hoping someone would like to embark on it with me. The thought of doing it alone was fairly intimidating. I asked my best friend, “Let’s go find a small mountain town in the Northwest and move there. We can take a road trip this summer and drive around.” She was non-committal; pretty happy where she is.

In 2000, my company purchased a ski resort I had never heard of in Sandpoint, Idaho: Schweitzer Mountain. I was sent there on several occasions to assist with a number of projects and fell in love with the area and the people. 

Later, in the fall of 2001, the director of marketing resigned just before ski season was to start and I was asked to take her position. I had two weeks to wrap up my job in Seattle, prepare my condo for rent, pack up and move to start a new life, and find a place to live. I’d have to present our marketing plan to the executive team days after my arrival. 

Three years later, I needed more challenge than the ski resort job could give me. But by then, I’d met Patrick who would eventually become my husband, and I’d created a life I didn’t want to leave. I had no choice in my mind, but to take my ultimate big leap: leave a dream job and start my own practice. I took the pieces I loved about my work - traditional public relations, and launched Big Leap Creative in 2004 with the ski resort agreeing to be my first client. I also bought a small home on the outskirts of Sandpoint.

One morning in July of 2004, as I made my coffee, it hit me: Holy crap! This is what I had envisioned back in Seattle. I had forgotten about that!

So maybe it took me five years to completely realize that dream but let's just say after three, I was well on my way. Which is why I like to do a three-year vision instead of New Year's resolutions. This thinking is confirmed by Vishen Lakhiani:

We tend to overestimate what we can accomplish in one year but we underestimate what we can do in three years. - The Code of the Extraordinary Mind

So, how do you do it? I don't know! Just kidding.

I never had a formal process for doing this. In fact, I didn't really think about it until I realized I was making resolutions that were things that would just fall into place naturally if I had a bigger picture, longer term vision. For example, I'd resolve to be more patient, to achieve specific revenue goals, and to lose weight. Those things are important, but if I focus on the vision, I'm thinking about things like what type of clients I'll be working with; what things I'll be doing during my day and what fires me up. When I do this, the revenue goal will just happen. I plan out the adventures I want to have (i.e., I want to do more backcountry skiing, and I want to continue to do a 25k trail run each summer). This forces me to stay fit and lose weight. You see?

As for the being more patient thing, I should just give up on that one.

So here are a few ways to map out a vision but do whatever works for you!

  • Write it out on paper where you'd like to be in three years. Include your professional and personal life, your health, and more. Any trips you want to do, hobbies you want to take on. What does life look like in 2020?
  • My business coach had me write a vision statement dated Dec. 31 <insert year> in the present tense with all of my wishes and desires. By stating it in present tense, you affirm that "it has happened."
  • If you want a more formalized process, Vishen Lakhiani walks you through it in his book linked above along with accompanying videos. He breaks it down into three categories. Within each of these categories, he leads you through with dozens of questions:
    • Experiences - Describe the adventures and relationships you want to have.
    • Growth - Describe your physical, mental and intellectual growth.
    • Contribution - Describe your career, creative outlets and community participation.
    • UPDATE (Dec. 2017): Here is a worksheet I created modified from this very exercise. Download it and work on it this afternoon!
  • More of a visual person? Create a vision board. Last week, my husband Patrick found his vision board from many years ago. He looked at it, and saw he'd achieved most of the items without being aware the vision board was out there.

Don't worry about the "how." Just think about the end game, what it looks like; what it feels like. I didn't know exactly what my business would be. I just knew what it would feel like

Ever since that episode in my house in 2004 when I realized a dream had become reality, I became more aware of the idea of creative visualization. Some of you might be thinking "yeah yeah this is old news." and others might be thinking "don't get all spiritual on me."

All I'm saying is when you have a road map for what you want, you are far more likely to achieve it. So give it a try, and please share with me any ideas or processes you use in the comments.

and here is to a prosperous and joyous 2017!!!