The Power of Future Thinking

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Chances are, you've been asked that question -- particularly in job interviews. 

If I've realized anything since entering the world of professional development, it's that the concept of ‘vision’ might be one of the most powerful tools we possess as human beings.

I first became focused on vision during my training as a business coach, as vision is a part of the model that I learned. And the moment I learned about it, it became a rock that I continually reference.

I reference this rock because the concept of vision is not something that comes naturally to everyone.  Especially people who tend to focus on executing and operations -- they are generally concerned about delivering excellence now, let alone the future. And until I started considering the concept of vision on a deeper level, it was often something I neglected to engage in effectively.

When answering the question, where do you see yourself in 5 years, some of you may have a very detailed and confident answer. You know what you want, and you're going to get it. But in many cases, people become overwhelmed by this type of question.  How am I supposed to know what I want when I'm still trying to figure it, and myself, out?

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But here's the thing. In the business world, we often talk about vision as something one needs to have.  Or possess.  Or the leader of the company is the "visionary."  While others help execute towards that vision.  

But well beyond the leadership team having a “vision” is the act of helping someone else create a vision, an equally powerful tool that can be used over and over again in every aspect of life.

To get more specific, when you ask a coachee or a business person to paint their vision, you're not asking for a one sentence summary that depicts the future of the company necessarily.  You're asking the client to paint a picture, to imagine, what she wants. From the inside out.  In a more ideal world, what would this situation look like?  How do you want it to look?  And how does this compare to the current situation you are in?

Another misconception about vision is that it has to solely relate to your company or business.  But if we take this idea of preferred future state at face value, then we're really talking about vision as an exercise to help take our mind from Point A to Point B (current state to a preferred state). This is where I want to be.  Whether it's my company, my relationships, my health, my feelings, or even my daily activities. 

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Helping someone paint her vision can be as empowering as it gets. Because at its core, when you ask someone to partake in this exercise you're focused on the individual. Her wants and needs.  What is the situation you want to see?  Vs. what actually is?

By nature, we get this. Science tells us that we have biological circuits that set in motion when we imagine our future. I'll spare you the details.  But in essence, the vision is coming directly from that individual.  She owns it.  She wants it.  She taps into the inner core, and aligns with what it is she wants to see.

Remember when you were continually asked..."What do you want to be when you grow up?"  That question taps into vision - imagination - and children do it often.  Much more than adults do since they’ve endured increased responsibility and hardships in their lives.

Which is why it's so powerful for us, as adults and leaders, to partake in crafting a vision.  Biologically, it sets the circuits in motion.  Ideologically, it allows us to dream again and paint a picture we want to see in the world that we currently live in.  Mentally, the activity often provides "space" for people to think…to breathe…to step back…to re-imagine.  

A vision is forward-thinking.  It requires mental movement.  And because it requires imagination it permits you to take a mental break from your reality.

It's difficult not to enjoy.  And because it's solely yours, the opportunity to fully connect to it is a great gift.   

Lauren Walker