Eighteen months ago, shortly after I had dropped out of the running for a prestigious position in my organization and asked to go part-time to be more present with my daughter, a coworker saw a framed quote in my office. The space had been converted from a storage closet just a few weeks before, and I made room for a few personal items including the quote which read Go Confidently in the Direction of Your Dreams.
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams into the closet?” he laughed. I bristled, offering a tight smile when what I should have given him was a firm shake down. Far too often, if women aren’t climbing every corporate ladder, we are shamed by our peers, and if we are pursuing success and promotions in our organizations, we are labeled self-promotional and aggressive.
What my patriarchal coworker didn’t understand was that the day my workspace was demoted from a corner office with a floor-to-ceiling window to a 4’ x 4’ closet, I was in fact going in the direction of my dreams. Because my dreams didn’t involve 40 hour work weeks, summer nannies for my kids, a few sick days each year, meager salary raises, and a top down system largely made up of men. In fact, that looked like just about the antithesis of my dream.
I’ve thought about my former co-worker’s comment a lot in the last year and a half. How dreams don’t always make sense to those around us. How we’ve become so accustomed conforming to norms that people become uncomfortable when we begin to step out of them into our own truths. How one hardline question motivated me more than any gentle inspiration.
And so I am led to have a conversation about vision. For your life. For your career. Your passions. Your family and relationships. Your creative contributions to the world.
Many of us stepped into our careers when we were young and have been climbing a proverbial ladder ever since. Some of us are stuck on a rung halfway up. Others have reached the top step where we’re told we cannot bear weight for fear of collapse, and have realized the view isn’t as great as we’d hoped. More have never stepped onto the ladder, choosing a different path entirely—one of motherhood or creative ventures, entrepreneurship or homemaking. Whatever rung you happen to be hovering around, I can bet that you’re asking yourself how you got here and if it’s anything like you imagined your life to be.
The great disruptor.
The antithesis of mediocrity.
The audacity of hope.
Having a vision for your professional pursuits or your passion projects doesn’t mean your life will drastically change. But it could mean that exactly. And it’s in this glimmer of clarity that so many of our hopes rest.
If we want to cast a vision for our callings, careers, and creative ventures, we can start by holding space for the following:
1. Think about what you want, not what you don’t want. Of course you don’t want to work late anymore, report to a terrible boss, sit in a cubicle, or leave your family on the weekends. But what is it that you actually want more of? What fits in with your natural or spiritual giftings? What really matters to you and you alone (not what other people think should matter)? What work do you find most meaningful?
2. Create a vision board using the answers from the question above. Collect pictures or words that signify what meaningful work looks like for you and put them together in something you can reference as you cast your vision. It can be pictures cut out and glued on poster board, collected on Pinterest, or arranged in a collage app on your phone.
3. Think backwards. If your vision is to own a sustainable business you can work out of your home by the time your now-infant is preschool age, cast the dream out four years from now and work your way backwards. Sometimes taking a first step toward a vision, promotion, or project is paralyzing, but imagining yourself at the final destination first, then working back to present day can make the leap seem more like a small stepping stone.
4. Look long- and short-term. Studies have shown that most people overestimate what they can do in a year but grossly underestimate what they can do in five years with habit, grit, and consistency. So write out your goals for 3 months from now, but also a year, 3 years, and 10 years from today. Passion Planner offers an excellent practice of this in the Passion Roadmap.
5. Pray over the possibilities. Scripture says, “For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear.” (Ecclesiastes 5:7) In my own faith journey, dreams and vision have to constantly be held up to the mirror of God’s direction for my life, which isn’t always easily detectable. (There’s a reason Paul says the mirror can seem dim 1 Corinthians 13: 12). By praying over your dreams and desires and giving them to God, your pursuits become less about your plans and timeline. There is limitless freedom if you can get out of your own way.
Pal, whatever you want or don’t want for your career, whatever round hole someone is trying to peg you into, whatever closet you’ve been demoted to, whatever 60 hour workweek you’re complying with, there is more out there for you. Believe that. And if you can’t believe it for yourself, find someone who can believe it for you until you can write the vision with your own pen and run with it. (Habakkuk 2:2)
Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. It may put you into a closet for a while. But you’ll illuminate that place until it’s so bright you won’t need the corner office window anymore and before long you’ll be walking boldly out the front door.