I live visually. I see my life, feel the sensations, smell the fragrances, and experience the feelings, before they even happen. I see my goals. This practice has served me well. Since I am always daydreaming about my life, my goals are always at the forefront of my mind. At the same time, however, because I am so visual, I have also had to deal with allowing my dreams to distract from the day-to-day and minute-by-minute actions of my life.
A delicate balance must be achieved: envisioning and acting. One cannot live without the other. If you envision without acting, then you will inevitably stall. Your vision will not come true. Similarly, if you act without planning, then you won’t ever know what it is that you are working toward, and you will not know when you have reached your goals.
Since I was accepted into one of my higher choices of Ph.D programs, I have been consumed with envisioning my life as a grad student. I’ve been doing so much visual planning: transit choices, where my partner and I will live, how I will earn money, what it will be like to work primarily from home (or more realistically, from libraries and coffee shops), how I will continue to network with the legal community, how I will continue to blog; how I will continue to grow.
I have to remember to live in the now. Because I am such a planner, and because I am great at assessing risk and determining alternative courses of action, I must allow myself to be comfortable in the moment, something that I have always struggled with. As is evident with this post, The TJ Way is not simply a “how-to.” It is also a journey, one that I humbly share with you. In that spirit, here are some tips that I have relied on in working to strike the right balance between vision and action:
(1) OUTLINE YOUR VISION.
It’s no coincidence that writers utilize outlining as a preliminary step in writing before getting into the meat of their work. Outlining organizes your thoughts. It provides a roadmap and helps guide research, development, and execution of your written work. I outline blog posts, legal briefs and memoranda and research papers. I also outline my life. Every year, month, week, and day, I prepare a list of goals and action steps for my life. Before I set out to publish this blog, I prepared a three-year strategic plan. In each instance, I began with a vision of what I wanted, and then I set about planning to execute that vision. Your outlines should be S.M.A.R.T.:
(2) SHARE YOUR VISION.
Sharing your vision is a great way of holding yourself accountable to your goals. Nothing says “get it done” like having an accountability partner or group checking in with you, inquiring into your progress and any obstacles you are facing, and helping you work through roadblocks.
Every person is not accountability partner material or worthy of sharing your deepest professional or personal desires. Rather than affirming your vision and encouraging your growth, some people try to deter you by questioning or belittling your choices. Beware of those shine-stealers.
Embrace, however, the people who would rather wear sunglasses around you instead of asking you to dim your light. Share your vision with those people.
Of course running a marathon when the last time you’ve run anywhere was to catch the ice-cream truck when you were 12-years old sounds like a frustratingly daunting task.
Rather than getting stuck on the size of the finished product, focus on a single step within the process.
When you wake up in the morning, set out to do one thing that will bring you closer to realizing your vision. Before going to bed, make sure you have done that one thing. Think about the process of running a marathon, which starts with training. If you’ve never really run before, go online and find a “Couch to 5k” program and decide to complete the first running session today or tomorrow.
One goal that I plan to accomplish by January 2016 is to write a 12-15,000 word law review article. Sounds like a daunting task, right? That’s because it is. Rather than allowing myself to get caught up in the size of the project, I devised a plan and am taking a single step towards that plan every day. Although I don’t always have the time to really dig into reading every case or article related to my article topic, I have been able to start a research file that I dump my thoughts and resources into until I have time to thoroughly review them.I have also with the librarian at my job and alerted her to my goal of writing a law review article that will be published in a law journal by January. She helped me define the scope of my project and directed me to resources. Every day, I do at least one small thing to accomplish my goal.
Taking these steps means that I am not allowing myself to become engrossed in the glamour of my vision and am instead working incrementally to bring my vision to reality. I encourage you to also elevate your vision to the level of accomplishment by taking these steps.