How do I maintain a visionary/inspired mindset to get where I want to be in life?
May 4, 2009 7:11 AM   Subscribe

I find when I'm travelling/on holiday I'm easily able to envisage what lifestyle I want and how I can reach my desired lifestyle. As soon as I return to my day-to-day life my mind goes blank and what was previously clear to me suddenly becomes cloudy. It's not that I lack to skills to implement the lifestyle I want, it's that I can't keep a clear image of what it is that I want. How do you maintain the visionary/inspired mindset everyday to get the life you want?
posted by logicalsequence to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
It's not the mindset, but the setting that's the problem. Your vacations--luxuriating in the sun or exploring exotic locales--are encouraging fruitless and impractical daydreaming. This is not the place to erect life plans. Daily life is. Use vacations for relaxation, and don't entertain more than inchoate plans until you come home.
posted by Gordion Knott at 7:28 AM on May 4, 2009

I think a lot of this is about priorities and having different goal orientations depending on where you are. I have a tendency to put myself "in the moment" so when I'm on vaction, I'm very me-centered which is terrific but I can then deprioritize other things in my life that are actually also important [work, friends from home, family] because I know what I'm doing is temporary. It's okay to blow off email for a day or two, it's less of a genine option to blow it off forever...

I remember this from Burning Man a lot too. There was a certain subset of people there who were like "isn't this great, I wish I could do this all year round" and my response was always "well if that's really true, figure out how you can get your life more like this and less like what you are moving away from" The people who said that every year seemed to me to be having some sort of trouble being realistic about how their life actually worked.

So, it's okay to want different things depending on where and when you are, but you want to, I think, have some longer range goals that are sort of umbrella ideas that include you-on-vacation as well as you-at-home. If you only feel like you when you are on vacation, there is probably some problem with the you-at-home setting.

So, I make lists, notes to myself that try to capture or sum up why one thing feels so right to remind myself when I'm in a situation where it may not seem as right. So, I like to sleep in on vacation and I'd like that to be part of my regular life, for example. I can make a note to myself and then when I'm in my non-vacation life I can look at that goal "sleep in" and see what things in my life conflict with that. There's no analysis ["oh I no longer want to sleep in now that I have such good reasons to wake up!"] I just approach the problem as a tactical one and investigate what I could be doing.

Another angle on this is giving yourself the free thinking space to explore. This is much easier to do on vacation than at home. many people's home lives are reactionary. You do what you need to do, you do what comes up and you don't have a lot of time to analyze. You run at a time and attention deficit. So another approach is to have some time that is specifically for reflection, whether it's your shower in the morning, a walk in the afternoon, a drink on the porch in the evening. That time is specifically for Big Picture thinking and not for opening mail, taking out trash or checking the web. Having regular times to do that sort of thinking -- seriously even if it's like ten minutes a day -- can help you keep the thread of whatever it was that made you feel clear on your vacation alive.

My approach is somewhat different from Gordion Knott's in that I really think daydreams on vacation are a good way to think about aspirations and fantastical ideas and then you go back to your real life and evaluate them against your life, figure out where the differences are and say "huh" and see what you've learned from that.
posted by jessamyn at 7:49 AM on May 4, 2009 [7 favorites]

I'm also very aware of this, and I agree with jessamyn that the key is to provide yourself some reflective time once back at home. On vacation you have no distracting routines or deadline pressures which demand your attention. At home, you do have those things, but you can definitely set them aside for a short time each day to commune with yourself about how you'd like your life to be. It can be very hard, though, because it's tempting to just think about your routines and deadlines. Do whatever it takes to clear your mind. For me it can often be vigorous exercise, like a hike, bike ride, or run.

Unlike Gordian Knott, actually most of the major insights and convictions that have determined the direction of my real life occurred during travel experiences or on vacation. Following through, in part, depended on recalling that strong sense of YES that the vacation experience gave me regularly even long after the vacation was over. Using some of that quiet time, or time before bed or whenever, to actively recall the feeling of happiness and rightness and what that was like, and then to envision that feeling as the changes I was planning for my real life and what that would look and feel like, really helped me stay connected with the goal.

For instance, when I made a career change to my present profession I was staying at a B&B in a nautical town and reading a book on the history of pirates. The combination of the seaside environment, the history, the atmosphere was a really strong feeling of "I want to be immersed in this all the time." For months afterward while contemplating the career change to a history-focused field, I would picture the way that pirate book looked lying open on the bed at the B&B, and how interested, alive, and happy I felt in that environment. Sounds dumb but it really helped.
posted by Miko at 9:05 AM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

This happens to me, too (my bursts of life inspiration come in the middle of interesting lectures). The metaphor I use is something that happened to me a lot when hiking off-trail. I'd feel disoriented, so I'd climb up on a high rock, and then I could see where I was and where I was going. But then to actually get there, I'd have to get back down and travel along the washes down in the scrub.

The problem isn't that your vision is unrealistic, or that you're "doing it wrong" when you lose it -- both of those are natural. The trick is knowing that you're about to get totally disoriented again and finding distinct things you can remember, and then remembering to hold on to them even when you can't see clearly. So, while I'm still inspired, I make a list of next steps and then pick two to three very concrete next actions I can take (eg, "take a public speaking class"). I also come up with one or two clear images that encapsulate or symbolize the vision (I once even set one as my homepage). I then have that as a point of reference to keep in mind as I go back into daily life.
You'll never get away from the need to climb back up on another high point, but at least you can memorize the next few forks in the road and fix your eyes on a good landmark, so that by the time you climb back up again, you'll have travelled a half-mile in the right direction.
posted by salvia at 9:57 AM on May 4, 2009 [4 favorites]

Whoops, sorry for the awkward formatting there.
posted by salvia at 9:58 AM on May 4, 2009

What a great question! I'm with Jessamyn and Miko in thinking that your perceptions when you're away from home may be guiding you to a more fulfilling life. A good first step might be to consider moving to an area that's more enlivening for you than where you're living now. I made two moves that shook up my life in a good way—from Southern Ohio to Cambridge, Mass., and from Mass. to Taos, NM. The conventional wisdom is that you can't run away from your problems, but I've found that living in a congenial place can be a solid foundation for happiness. Good luck!
posted by markcmyers at 9:58 AM on May 4, 2009

As silly as this sounds, it helps me. It takes me a while to fall asleep at night. I use that time to visualize what I'm going to do to get from A to B, whatever A and B are, regardless of whether I can start the next day or not. Keeps me in focus and stops me from making mental lists of all the trivia that needs done and losing the thing I really want to do. I like Salvia's suggestion: make a plan while you're still relaxed and life isn't cluttered up with the day-to-day.
posted by x46 at 5:28 PM on May 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

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