Every January, we engage in a wonderful tradition: we resolve to change.

Coming off of the excess and indulgence of the holidays, we put the rich foods, sweet treats, and late nights behind us. We’re going to eat healthy, hit the gym, and get to bed at a reasonable hour.

Most of us probably need to work on one of these habits, if not all three. But these habits aren’t the reality we’re trying to create for ourselves. They’re a means to an end, not the end itself that we have in mind.

We want to get enough sleep so we’re awake and alert for the other sixteen hours in the day. We want to be physically fit so we can be active and enjoy life. We want to eat well so we can live long and prosper and leave an enduring legacy behind us.

What end do you have in mind?

Some of the best high-level thinking you can spend time on is creating a strategic vision for your life. The holidays are a great time for this exercise because we naturally step back from the hurried day-to-day and reconnect with the people who matter most to us.

Setting a strategic vision isn’t as intimidating as it might sound. You’re probably doing it already—you just call it daydreaming.

Here are three keys to this exercise:

  1. Get calm. Find a quiet place, perhaps someplace you don’t regularly go. It will take time to disconnect from the here and now and shift your thinking from what is to what could be. Don’t rush yourself. Turn off notifications on your phone.
  2. Imagine yourself standing five, ten, or twenty years in the future. What do you see? What is your life like? Dr. Stephen R. Covey used the exercise of imagining your eightieth birthday party, the guests, and the wonderful things they have to say about you.
  3. Think big. Don’t worry about how you’ll get there—charting the course will come later. Right now, you’re just getting clear on the destination. If you worry about how you’re going to make the change, you’ll scale back your dreams, anchoring your future to your past.

After you’ve decided on the destination, then start working on a plan to get there.

Identify your destination, figure out what’s different from where you are now, and connect the dots. Like the maze on a children’s placemat at Denny’s, it might be easier to start at the end and work your way back.

In order to reach a destination in twenty years, what needs to be true in fifteen years? In ten? In five? What about this time next year? Use these milestones to lay out your annual goals for yourself.

You can get there if you get moving. We underestimate how much we can accomplish in a year—you can change a lot of reality in 750 actions. Now compound that by 20 years.

A strategic vision helps you identify your roles and which you need to develop the most. It will shape the goals you set so you’re taking your life in the right direction.
It gives you the courage to say no to the activities and causes that are merely good so you have the ability to focus on the best things.

Write down your strategic vision. Keep it in your planner, with your goals and mission statement. Use the present tense—a strategic vision may be a description of where you want to be five, ten, or twenty years from now, but that five, ten, or twenty years will pass. Using the present tense is a way of reminding yourself that this is going to happen. You are capable of this. You just need to start making it happen.

Question: What tips do you have for connecting with your vision for an ideal future? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.