Draw your future

A few months ago I came across Patti Dobrowolski’s Ted Talk “Draw your future” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zESeeaFDVSw#t=13). I do quite a lot of work on strategy and setting goals and objectives in my job as an Executive in a FTSE 100 company but this was a whole new take on setting goals! Patti advocates drawing out your current state on one side of a piece of paper then your desired new reality on the other. I thought the talk was so good I immediately ordered her book “Drawing solutions: how visual goal-setting will change your life” from Amazon. I had a fidgety couple of days waiting for the book to arrive. Apparently I have got a little too used to the instant gratification of downloading my books straight onto my tablet via the Kindle app!

Why does visual goal-setting appeal to me?

I’m an engineer by profession. In my world if you have a problem the optimal way to fix it is to design a solution. Designing the solution in before production saves money. It is a lot cheaper to change a design than change the product itself, especially if that product is a multi-million pound submarine, ship or fast-jet aircraft. There might be a whole load of engineering plans and processes, figures and calculations that accompany a design but in its most basic format the design is a drawing. So I like the idea of designing solutions. And I like the idea of designing my life. The expression ‘go back to the drawing board’ is used in everyday language when we want to start again or find a solution to a problem. This expression comes from the industry I have worked in for the past twenty years – it was first used by WWII aircraft designers when a concept or even whole design proved to be unworkable and had to be started all over again.

So the idea of designing or more specifically drawing our goals, vision or strategy seems like a natural thing to do to me. In the past seventeen years I have had to endure more than my fair share of Corporate mission statements, visions and strategies. They are usually ‘rolled out’ via some punchy video starring the CEO and documented on the company website. In all my years there is only one strategy/vision/mission briefing I can remember and that was the year it was drawn out semi-cartoon style on massive posters plastered round the organisation. It was colourful, thought-provoking and even controversial. It got employees scrutinizing it and talking about it. I can even remember the overall message. So there must be something to this visual goal-setting thing.

About seven years ago I went to see a life coach. I was attending a routine osteopathy appointment and in the waiting room I was scouring the leaflets advertising the various other therapies available at the centre when I came across the life coaching leaflet. At the time I had my own consultancy business but was dissatisfied with my work and was considering a career change. I’d never really heard of life coaching but it sounded like just what I needed. A few sessions in my coach had me do a timeline of my life for the next five years. Only I didn’t just write how I envisioned my life on the timeline – I drew pictures too. I had gone to the life coach wanting to clarify my career goals but on my very visual timeline the most prominent image was in fact me with a child. Over the next three of four weeks I worked on ideas for growing my business and investigated a course I was interested in. Then two days before my final session I was overjoyed to discover that I was pregnant. About ten or eleven months later I remember standing in my house holding my new baby and having the startling realisation that the very thing I was doing, right there, right then was the exact image I had seen in my mind’s eye and drawn on paper that day. The strongest visual goal on my timeline was the goal that I had achieved.

Designing my reality

I actually prefer to think of visual goal-setting as ‘designing my reality’ and I toyed with a blog of that name before settling on this one. It’s a mind-set thing really:

Why design?

To design is create something. Some people use the term ‘mapping’ which is fine. I’m a big fan of mind maps myself and use them all the time. But I prefer designing to mapping because maps usually outline a path that already exists, showing you the way. Now that has some merits because often we feel a bit lost and that is exactly what we need – someone or something to show us the way. But it can also feel a little predetermined. I want to be able to create my life for myself and want others to feel the same. I want you to feel in control and be responsible and accountable for making the reality you desire happen.

Why ‘my’?

Only ‘me’ or ‘I’ can change my perceptions and my reality. No-one else can do it for me. No-one else can do it for you. I cannot design your reality, only my own. This is about taking ownership.

Why ‘reality’?

Goal-setting tends to be all about the future and most good goal-setting processes and techniques talk about the importance of setting deadlines, however the concept of the future  still has a sense of being ‘out there’ somewhere. Unattainable. The future is, by its very nature, a moving target. It’s always out there because once it’s here it becomes the present, soon to become the past. Reality though is about past, present and future. It is not something out there, to put off or postpone. Reality is about your perception of events as you experience them. Your desired reality is something you can change……starting right now.

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