A lot of people are using words like short-term, medium-term or long-term plans or projects. It’s generally easy to speak about your short or medium term objectives, but what about the long-term ones?
In leadership, this falls under the main chapter called Vision. Most (NLP) trainers/coaches use imagery so as to generate that main direction towards which a person or an organization/team moves. The exercise is simple: imagine yourself 10 years from now on and describe what you perceive around you. That is, what do you see/hear/smell/taste/feel around you?
There is, however, an existential approach I encountered in psychotherapy. As therapists, we are supposed to plan our life – our entire life – based on our existential values and principles. And we must do this up to the very minute detail. And… up to the last breath…
I want you to describe your life from now on till the end! I want you to be able to see your tombstone! Yes, your tombstone! Where is it? What is it made of? What is written on it? What is the date of your death? Do yo share your tombstone with someone else? Any wife, husband, partner? Your kids or parents? Any relatives? What is the motto written on your stone? Who is going to bring flowers to your funeral stone?
Let me explain: being able to see your tombstone is an exercise of realism (you will die), of responsibility (life is time-limited), and you become aware of your limits (some people defensively think they’ll never die). This imagery exercise forces you to plan not only your professional life, but also retirement and personal life. The location of your stone will tell your preferred place on Earth (it may not be your current city or even country); the material of the stone tells you how rich or poor you plan to be by the end of your life; the symbols written on the stone speak about your surname (women get married or not, change name or not – depending on several reasons), the date of your death (how much you plan to live), some stones also add terms like Dr., PhD., Professor, etc. (which is important if we focus on long-term life plans, especially professional ones). People might like to share their stone with partners (love?), parents (dependence?, fear of abandonment?, gratitude?), children (protection?). The motto adds more detail about your dreams, expectations or hidden inner scripts or scenarios (in transactional analysis there is even a question about what your last words would be…). Finally, a sense of continuation beyond death is dear to everyone’s heart… those who bring flowers do bring them not because they might have interests or hidden objectives, but because they miss you or love you.
So, are you ready to visualize your tombstone now? It might take you some time, probably days or even weeks. Or you might be unable to do the exercise due to the angst versus the finiteness of life. But the moment you will see your stone – as detailed as possible – and knowing that this is your plan, your attitude, not how your life is actually going to be – will be the moment you’ll gain more confidence versus the ambiguity of life, enhanced leadership skills (related to your own existence, not just professional life) and… self-awareness.