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Help with defining "life vision" or "purpose" - 50,000 and 40,000 foot views

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  • Help with defining "life vision" or "purpose" - 50,000 and 40,000 foot views

    I started using GTD partially because I was sick and tired of failing to meet commitments I had made in my career and personal lives. That was a secondary motivation, however, because I know that most of my unhappiness stems from going through day to day struggles with no end goal, i.e. purpose, in mind. I believe that a certain level of stress and discomfort is acceptable if they are incurred while serving some greater purpose.

    I have been using GTD for the past few months and it has helped me get control of my day to day tasks/obligations/projects/commitments, etc. Like many others, I feel that GTD has prepared me to tackle more complex goals like defining and working towards a set of longer term goals. I also realize that I have too much on my plate and need to cut back to focus on what is most important. The problem is that I have not defined what I call my, "life goals," so what is most important is partially undefined. I am at a point in my life where I need to make some big long-term commitments around family, for example, when to have children and whether to move to another part of the country and career, i.e. stay at current company, apply somewhere else, start my own business, or go back to school full time.

    My current strategy is to start by defining my, "life vision," which is a high-level summary of what I want my life to look and feel like. I think this lines up to the 50,000 and 40,000 foot levels in GTD. The challenge I am stuck at right now is defining my "purpose." I know I am not alone in this. I am very interested in hearing from people who have faced this question and successfully answered it. What tools, books, exercises etc. helped you achieve the self-awareness that allowed you to define your life's greater purpose? It would also be helpful to hear from people who have tried some things that failed - what was NOT helpful and a waste of time in the end?

  • #2
    It took me a long time to get some picture of my life at large. A lot of it was doing the same exercising over and over, so if a method doesn't work at first, it might not be the method, it might be a case of letting it sit for a while. Once you make a start at this stuff, your subconscious will keep chewing on it, and every bit gets you a bit closer to something that will eventually click.
    There are loads of methods out there. Visualizing, finding your passions, writing mission statements by guides, writing mission statements unguided until it clicks, etc.

    What eventually worked for me, was a combination of looking at my values, and the things i have always felt passionate about and have come back to, and sorting them in a mindmap. I found that a lot of what i thought were separate issues, fitted into those values.

    A sample of the top stuff for me:

    What do i want to live by?
    Nature
    *garden
    *help people appreciate/love nature
    *conserve natural resources
    *respect for life
    Adventure
    *hiking
    *travel the world
    self-improvement
    Love
    *Self love
    *others
    Creative
    Beauty
    *Home
    *Me
    *art

    Comment


    • #3
      Have you found clarity in the 20,000 and 30,000 foot areas of your life, your areas of responsibility and 1-2 year goals and objectives? For me, getting to 50,000 meant ascending through 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 feet first. I had to clarify for myself all the areas of focus in my life--what are all the different parts of me and my life? Then I considered where I wanted to be in each of or a combination of those areas over the next few years. Who am I as and where did I see myself going as a stepdad, as a husband and as a son, in all the various aspects of my job, etc.? To do this I did various things--mind maps, free writing of ideas, imaginative narratives of how I see life in my mind's eye at some future time, etc. I didn't read any books or follow any prescribed formulas. I just sort of intuited my way up through the altitudes. This visioning led naturally to an ever larger vision of my life, a larger, more all-encompassing arch of time. My wife and I discussed at length where we saw ourselves in retirement, in our senior years. I imagined lying on my death bed, reviewing my life as a whole. I wrote about what I would look back on with happiness and joy. What I would cringe at and wish had turned out differently. For me, this led naturally to why. Why did I find joy and happiness in certain imagined memories and not in others. From this came a sense of my core values and purpose. All this drove me back down to 30,000 feet and my 1-3 year goals, were they really in line with the vision I was beginning to paint. Why not? Was there something in my visioning that needed to inform my goals and change them? Were there aspects of my goals that I hadn't used appropriately in painting my life vision at the higher altitudes? I pinballed back and forth, up and down these horizons for some time and still do, clarifying and changing the parts of it as I learn more about myself in my reflection and self-examination. This sort of self-reflection is a lifelong journey that I'll be discovering more and more about every day--a painting that will never be fully complete. But I can say I feel I have enough at each altitude now that each informs the others. I'd like to say I review these regularly, but it's more of a "when I feel the urge" frequency, kind of like how DA describes when he knows he needs to do a weekly review--when I feel a lose of perspective on the important things in life, on who I am and who I see myself becoming, I take some time for quiet reflection, thinking and visioning to work on my painting.

      I hope this is helpful.

      Comment


      • #4
        Horizon of focus

        Originally posted by nickv View Post
        "life vision," which is a high-level summary of what I want my life to look and feel like. I think this lines up to the 50,000 and 40,000 foot levels in GTD.
        I read GTD first but the great impact to my analysis of horizon of focus came when I read Making it all work.

        I hope it can be helpful

        Comment


        • #5
          A goal I've made

          Sometime in the next year or so, I'm going to get away somewhere by myself just to think. I've touched on all the higher levels, set some goals, have my areas of focus well defined, I just feel like I need a little breathing room to let myself dream without interruptions.

          Comment


          • #6
            Hmmmm - great question!

            Originally posted by Jon Walthour View Post
            Have you found clarity in the 20,000 and 30,000 foot areas of your life, your areas of responsibility and 1-2 year goals and objectives? For me, getting to 50,000 meant ascending through 20,000, 30,000 and 40,000 feet first. I had to clarify for myself all the areas of focus in my life--what are all the different parts of me and my life?
            No I haven't. For some reason, even though I have seen the value of getting things in order at the 10,000 foot and runway levels I had neglected to spend much time on the 20,000 and 30,000 foot levels. I think my assumption was that I need to ascend immediately up to 50,000 feet and work my way back down. I think part of my reasoning was that some of my areas of focus were so "out of whack" because they weren't aligned with any long term purpose that I needed to reassess everything from 50,000 foot down to begin. Reading your post I realized that I have certain "areas of focus" that won't change - for example I know I want to continue to be a "husband," a "learner," and eventually a "father." Maybe I should be looking at all the different things/areas I have taken responsibility for in the past, or hope to in the future, and work off of those.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by nickv View Post
              Reading your post I realized that I have certain "areas of focus" that won't change - for example I know I want to continue to be a "husband," a "learner," and eventually a "father." Maybe I should be looking at all the different things/areas I have taken responsibility for in the past, or hope to in the future, and work off of those.
              An exercise that I found helpful for me. I made a table, each row a 20k item, the columns Now - 2 years - 5 years - Later. Just fill it in. The process of having to think this through helped me to clarify a lot. Also notice, some Areas of Focus only start in the future...

              I hope you try this out and report back how awesome it was

              Comment


              • #8
                Well put, everyone!

                For what it's worth, it took me about five years to define my 50,000-foot view into a relatively stable form.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by nickv View Post
                  No I haven't. For some reason, even though I have seen the value of getting things in order at the 10,000 foot and runway levels I had neglected to spend much time on the 20,000 and 30,000 foot levels. I think my assumption was that I need to ascend immediately up to 50,000 feet and work my way back down. I think part of my reasoning was that some of my areas of focus were so "out of whack" because they weren't aligned with any long term purpose that I needed to reassess everything from 50,000 foot down to begin. Reading your post I realized that I have certain "areas of focus" that won't change - for example I know I want to continue to be a "husband," a "learner," and eventually a "father." Maybe I should be looking at all the different things/areas I have taken responsibility for in the past, or hope to in the future, and work off of those.
                  I think that's an excellent idea. And don't forget, you can always come back down to the lower altitudes to clarify them as higher altitudes take on clarity and, in turn, ascend back up as the lower altitudes inform the higher ones as they are clarified.
                  Last edited by Jon Walthour; 05-27-2009, 10:24 AM.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I just added this to my list of "next steps" for my "Life - develop vision" project

                    Originally posted by Cpu_Modern View Post
                    An exercise that I found helpful for me. I made a table, each row a 20k item, the columns Now - 2 years - 5 years - Later. Just fill it in. The process of having to think this through helped me to clarify a lot. Also notice, some Areas of Focus only start in the future...

                    I hope you try this out and report back how awesome it was
                    Will do - this is a great example of the type of actionable idea I was looking for when creating this post - thanks!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by nickv View Post
                      The problem is that I have not defined what I call my, "life goals," so what is most important is partially undefined. ...

                      What tools, books, exercises etc. helped you achieve the self-awareness that allowed you to define your life's greater purpose? It would also be helpful to hear from people who have tried some things that failed - what was NOT helpful and a waste of time in the end?
                      One that worked well for me was to write my obituary. What did I want to be remembered by when I'm gone? To start it I just wrote everything I was currently doing. Then I thought about why I was doing it, and thought about someone reading it when I'm dead, would I really want them to remember me that way?

                      Another thing that worked is to write down adjectives and attributes that I think describe me. Then I picked the 3 I most wanted to be known for and developed a statement of purpose that addresses those areas.

                      One technique that has not worked for me is the whole graphical mind map brainstorming system. I just don't think graphically, I do ok with outlines but have to get them very strict hierarchical or I get frustrated.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        nickv,

                        You are facing the same issues I am struggling right now. I am doing gtd for more than year right now, and sure - it helped me a bit to stabilize my task flow a little, but without mayor breakthrough. On 20-30 feet it helped me to quit my job and focus on my business. But still - like you I don't see lifelong vision nor the purpose.

                        I think it may be the issue of this down-up path gtd strategy, we are clarifying some areas, tasks and project - but is this stuff lined up with our overall mission, if we did not found it yet. Maybe it is something wrong with bottom-up issue.

                        On the other hand, lot of books and bloggers tell us - do what you love, passion about - just leave anything else and start focus on this. Maybe it's good advice for graduate, but not for late 20 's with wife and a lot obligations and need to provide security for family. It is just not possible to quit work, close business and start to find out what you love and try to do living from that.

                        I tried several times to do what I love - I was passionate about bike riding in my young years, so my first work after graduation was being courier - after few months I started to hate my bike, quit job and did not it on my bike for few years. I loved classical music - I went to study musicology, I wanted to be conductor, I worked in mayor opera house for seven years and quit it because I cannot listen to classical anymore - my passion became my enemy. I could write few more examples, that if we try to combine our passion with what me do for a living it could finish up with disaster.

                        So I choose to run business in financial services, get some study with that - and earn quite good money, but for sure this isn't my passion and mission - and try slowly figure out where to move next in few years.

                        Sorry for a bit long post, but I wanted to show on my example that sometimes these paths don't work. Bottom-up strategy keeps us in area we are not so passionate, Passion-love strategy may lead us also to unhappiness.

                        It is extremely important thread for me - so I would love to hear your opinions and experience on that too.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Navigare1954 View Post
                          On the other hand, lot of books and bloggers tell us - do what you love, passion about - just leave anything else and start focus on this. Maybe it's good advice for graduate, but not for late 20 's with wife and a lot obligations and need to provide security for family. It is just not possible to quit work, close business and start to find out what you love and try to do living from that.

                          I tried several times to do what I love - I was passionate about bike riding in my young years, so my first work after graduation was being courier - after few months I started to hate my bike, quit job and did not it on my bike for few years. I loved classical music - I went to study musicology, I wanted to be conductor, I worked in mayor opera house for seven years and quit it because I cannot listen to classical anymore - my passion became my enemy. I could write few more examples, that if we try to combine our passion with what me do for a living it could finish up with disaster.

                          So I choose to run business in financial services, get some study with that - and earn quite good money, but for sure this isn't my passion and mission - and try slowly figure out where to move next in few years.
                          You are a generalist, not a specialist. This is a wonderful thing.

                          Don't worry about finding the one thing you'll love. You'll passionately love hundreds of subjects over your lifetime.

                          Find a job that pays the bills, and allows you to pursue your passions where you can. Most artists have a day job.

                          Fortunately, GTD is perfect for people like you and I. Lets us move forward on many different passions.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Brent View Post
                            You are a generalist, not a specialist. This is a wonderful thing.
                            2 links about the fun of being a generalist:

                            http://davidseah.com/blog/comments/scanner-or-add/
                            http://www.creativegeneralist.com/

                            also note: some of the most creative people suggest keeping that day job (I am not saying you should):

                            http://www.gapingvoid.com/Moveable_T...es/000932.html

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Brent and Cpu_modern,

                              Thanks for your reply, it's funny because, I think, I admire more specialist type of people. In my mind generalists are like a bees jumping flower over flower and really not good at anything. Maybe I just admire experience and perfection too much. Definitely I will research links provided.

                              Comment

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