Whenever I hear a person say “in a perfect world I would be…”, I ask myself, “what they are waiting for?” I know the answer of course, that there are no perfect worlds. Or are there? There is a place where we can create any world we can think of, populate it with interesting people, have access to resources and skills to use them and have an interesting life. It’s in your head, in your imagination.
I’m not talking about daydreaming or delving into the unreal. We’re going to build a reality that is where we would like to be, at a set point in the not too distant future. We are going to populate it with detailed descriptions of what our day to day life is, of what kind of people we are involved with, with ourselves having developed specific skills and the resources they require and more. It works like this:
“In a perfect world one year from now I am living in an apartment with a view of San Francisco Bay. It is open and airy and I can afford to decorate it with the contemporary furniture I love and there is art on the walls. I walk to work where I am creative director for a Internet start-up that makes money and is well-funded. Every day I walk into work looking forward to doing what I am good at with people who are great at what they do…(more and more detail)
In my personal life I have a new friend who is introducing me to her friends who are into doing things like sailing that I always thought would be cool but never believed I could do. And I’ve met someone with whom I’ve had the best conversations, conversations that just keep going….(more details! Remember, you’re making this up so you put anything you want in there…)”
I need to give you a little warning here. This is not innocent daydreaming. The more detail you add, the more powerful this world becomes and the more realistic. Remember that saying, “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it”? There’s more than a little truth to that. That’s why we do the inventory first. You need to do some self-analysis to ensure that you don’t simply imagine your way into another version of the parts of you life that were not working. People do this all the time. Taking inventory and starting to understand the good and the less good are vital.
I’d suggest writing this future life down, with all the detail. Or, if you are more visually oriented consider making a scrapbook with pictures of apartments, information on neighborhoods, travel info, etc. Then take a look at it and do a little fine-tuning. Because this visualization will become the map you’re going to follow to expand your life. Think about it this way:
- In order to fully detail your vision you need to understand what it is like to work in a start-up.
- You need to know how much it costs to rent and furnish an apartment with a view in SF.
- You need to start doing research, talking to people who have done similar things and been to similar places.
In the process you’ll learn how people actually get to those places in life. Most people don’t have extraordinary resources and skills. Those who appear to have these things are more likely have something you can find: Direction and drive.
The Cross-Out List: Editing Your Perfect World
Smart businesses know that they need to stick to their core competencies to succeed. Once you’ve done your inventory and started detailing your perfect world, it is tempting to go hog wild and give yourself a future with too many things in it. If you know your core competencies they can serve as a benchmark for what to include and what to cross out in your visualization. If you visualize yourself enjoying a successful acting career, for example, and you’ve never acted, you might want to reconsider that option. Either that or you’re going to have to develop a core competency in acting, something that can take years of practice. Chances are that you would have started this years ago if it was really in your future. If you can cross it out, you’ll eliminate this requirement of years of practice acquiring a new skill before you can expand.
That being said, you may find a core competency that you were not aware of before doing your inventory. Mine is ‘communicator’. When I look at my inventory nearly everything has communication as a central skill. I am a writer- that’s an obvious one. A musician. I’ll argue that that is pure communication. Marketing- ditto. So my perfect world seeks to leverage this competency and I cross out fantasies like being a pro golfer or a famous painter.
Essentially the cross-out list is a form of editing and the primary skill of editing is telling a coherent story while eliminating anything that detracts from that story. Many of us do not edit our lives. We flit from one interest to another without going deep. If this is you then you are going to have start learning how to edit, how to identify your core competency and how to cut away distractions. Read my post on your body of work for more on this.
One great way to learn this is to study the lives of successful people. One characteristic successful people share is an unwavering and long-lived focus on a particular interest or goal. They are able to keep this determined focus by aligning their core competencies and their goals. As you create and fine-tune your perfect world, use your core competency as a benchmark to determine whether a detail you are inserting is realistic given your current inventory. If not you have two choices: Cross it out or start acquiring the core competency required to achieve that goal.
This is where realism rears its head. If I am determined to be a pro golfer and I’m a duffer in my forties, it’s time for a reality check. It ain’t going to happen. And if it ever has it is an extreme outlier, an anomaly. How do you determine if you’re being realistic? Consider sharing your perfect world with a trusted friend or mentor. They are going to instantly pick out the things you’re refusing to cross out.
Who You Want To Be
When you’ve detailed and edited your perfect world, set it aside for a few days and then come back and take a good look at the person you’re describing. Are they someone you want to be? Seriously, make sure you’re comfortable in that skin because you could be wearing it for the rest of your life! That being said, don’t walk away from it because of fear or uncertainty. Change can be scary but that is not a reason to avoid it. Just remember, this is going to happen in many little steps, steps that aren’t really scary at all.
My experience is that if your perfect world is right for you, you are not going to be able to step away from it- you will already be expanding the details, thinking through next steps, doing research and trying out the feel of that new skin. If this isn’t the case, it’s back to the drawing board!
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