I don’t know what to do next.
I can’t even imagine where I’ll be in 10 years.
When people ask me what I want for my future, I go blank.
Sound familiar? It happens to the best of us. We can’t see our future. We aren’t confident in our next step. We are at a loss.
This happens to everyone at some point. For those that have otherwise been on a clear path of achievement, it’s the hardest to grapple with. Things have come so clearly up until now – what happened?
First, even knowing that you have a problem is a HUGE step, so congrats! Nothing will change without awareness. While awareness of the issue is great, an understanding of what the issue is will lead to the clarity you need on how to fix it.
When you don’t know what’s next and can’t see your future, you need to know what’s missing. Is it the dream or the mission?
The One Thing You Need to Make Your Dream a Reality
The Power of Dreams
Dreams are WONDERFUL, aren’t they? I often sit and daydream about where my future might take me, the type of life I’m building, and exactly that moment when I’ll know I’m actually going to get there. It’s fun. I can see my house, what I’m wearing, the big smile on my face, and I can actually feel that excitement in my body as I dream.
That feeling is an important part of a dream. Try this:
Imagine you’re sucking on a lemon right now. Just a lemon wedge straight in your mouth. No sugar, no salt, no tequila (thank god!).
What happened? Chances are, the back of your mouth started to pucker (mine is as I’m writing this!), you started to salivate, and you had to swallow a few times to get the sour “taste” out of your mouth.
That’s because our body reacts to imaginary thoughts in the same way it does to reality. That’s right. Our body doesn’t know what’s real and what’s fake. Crazy.
This is good and bad news. The bad news is that when your head is clouded with negative, self-defeating thoughts (like, there’s no way I’ll get this right, or everything is going to go wrong), your nervous system reacts with unnecessary stress.
But – the good news is, we can hack it! So, when you dream – and I mean really dream and imagine yourself in your ideal job, future, emotional state, house – you name it – your body reacts in a positive way! And that reaction is setting a biological footprint in your nervous system as a destination.
I know this may sound woo-wooey, but consider why so many athletes visualize before a performance. Science has concluded that the same parts of the brain that light up when something is actually happening light up when you imagine it.
The brain is a big hurdle, so this gets you one step closer to achieving your dreams!
But beyond physiological “practice,” dreams also provide direction. The first session I ever had with a coach, she asked me where I wanted to be in 10 years. I had a very specific vision that I outlined for her without much thought and it absolutely shocked her. It turns out, most people don’t know what they want in life!
Without knowing what you want and where you want to land, how do you know what to do now? You have no direction. This is a big problem with people these days, and dreaming can alleviate that if you’re able to get specific about it.
If dreams are so great, why do you need to do anything else? Turns out, there are limitations…
The Limitations of Dreams
“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” – JK Rowling
While dreams are great at providing direction and clarifying what you want out of life, they provide little energy. And while society is in a place right now where people feel brave enough to dream big, I see a lot of people with big dreams flounder and eventually give up.
Why? They have no mission.
A mission – versus a dream – gives you drive and energy. A mission is action-oriented; it’s the how behind the what of your dream. The mission makes the dream a reality. If you stop at the dream, you’ll leave yourself with only a dream. If you continue on to develop your mission, you’ll make that dream a reality.
A good mission statement is practical, drives your actions, and helps you make decisions that will help you achieve your dreams. It should incorporate your values (the rules and principles you’ve decided to live by) and the impact you want to make in your life.
While the dream is about the future, the mission focuses on what you will do today to achieve that dream.
How to Have Both
Hopefully, it’s clear why you need both. A mission with no dream leads to a flurry of unfocused action. A dream with no mission will always be a dream.
If you can see your future clearly but aren’t sure how to get there, you need to develop a mission statement. While there’s no right way to do this, your mission statement should follow these rules:
Align with your values
Be action oriented
Be the meter by which you gauge how to act
Drive toward your dream
Be concise, simple, and focused
If you’re having a hard time articulating the future you want, do something you love to do and that makes you feel most like yourself to get you in the right mindset for dreaming. It could be a great workout, spending time with friends, or losing yourself in a good book. Whatever reminds you of who you are and what you want most in your life. If you spend all your time dreaming without the right mindset or worried about what you “should” be focused on, your dreams will fall flat and won’t support you for long.
Finding the right dream and mission takes some upfront work, for sure. But once you’ve nailed it, you’ll find more freedom than keeping yourself in constant indecision. When the mission is designed to drive toward your dream, you’ll have the confidence to just follow the mission, knowing it’s leading you to a future that’s meaningful to you.
- The Coping Creep: 3 Things Keeping You From Doing What You Really Want To Do - February 28, 2018
- The One Thing You Need to Make Your Dream a Reality - October 25, 2017
- The 3 Reasons Why You Haven’t Found Your Passion Yet (and What to Do Instead) - October 4, 2017