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PRISM Step 1 – Life Vision Goals


Life Vision Goals






First Major Steps







Defining the vision we have for our life is the first step in the PRISM System. Without a vision, we can’t say what we want to achieve in life. So we don’t know where we want to go, and what we want to do. So we can’t develop any sort of life plan.

Of course, for most of us, our vision will change many times during our life. We’ll try, and then discard life paths. There’ll be many changes in our life circumstances, and the environment in which we live. Whenever these changes occur, we need to adjust our life vision, and update all the subsequent steps.

We still need some type of vision wherever we are in life. because that vision helps us to decide what we are going to do next.

We need to ask ourselves “Why have I chosen this vision,” and keep repeating the question to our answer, until we have reached a ‘bedrock’ response. That response is part of our reason for living!

The next step in the PRISM System is to learn the mindsets we need to have for success in the 21st Century world of work. These mindsets, and those we already have, provide the context within which we will develop a plan.


Do you have a vision of what you want your life to be like in the future, maybe decades from now? The vision would include where you live, what family and friends you would have, what you would be doing for work and play, what you would own, what contributions you would make to your community – and perhaps, most importantly, the type of person you would have become, including for some a spiritual component.

Most of us don’t have a clear vision. We know some things we want, and move along a path towards them – or, if you’re like I was, with a somewhat disfunctional childhood, we become survivors in life, living from day to day.

Tony Robbins talks about designing our lives, and living them with intentionality. People who do that have a much better chance of living the life they want and becoming who they want to be.

The three necessary characteristics of a great vision are:

1. Inspirational (Daniel Burnham said “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir [our] blood, and probably themselves will not be realized.”)

2. Credible (We need to believe that it is possible for us.)

3. Imaginative (Not just a continuation of whatever we are doing!)


The need for defining our personal life vision is becoming greater as technology tries to define our lives for us. The major technology companies – Facebook, Amazon, Google, Netflix (and the Chinese equivalents: Tencent, Alibaba,, Baidu) are all trying to dictate how we spend our time, what we buy, and, by implication, who we become. (And the media companies and some universities are filtering what we learn about what is happening in the world. There is no longer just a concern about freedom of speech; there is a far bigger concern about freedom of thought.)

Technology is changing the world of work at an accelerating rate, and we all need to take control of our own jobs and career paths. If we don’t develop a clear vision for ourselves, then someone else will develop one for us. Work impacts all aspects of our lives, and so a vision for our work life alone would not be effective.


Before you define your life vision, here are some quotes that might be helpful. (Most are extracted from Dr. Mardy Grothe’s website.)

  • He who cherishes a beautiful vision, a lofty ideal in his heart, will one day realize it. (James Allen)
  • The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away. (Pablo Picasso)
  • I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions. (Stephen Covey)
  • Where there is no vision, the people perish. (The Bible—Book of Proverbs)
  • Imagination pictures the thing you desire. Vision idealizes it. It reaches beyond the thing that is, into the conception of what can be. Imagination gives you the picture; vision gives you the impulse to make the picture your own by directing your Creative Force into it. (Robert Collier)
  • The very essence of leadership is you have to have a vision. It’s got to be a vision you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet. (Theodore Hesburgh)
  • Cherish your visions and your dreams. They are the children of your soul, the blueprints of your ultimate achievements. (Napoleon Hill)
  • If your dream doesn’t scare you, then you’re not dreaming big enough. (Mark Batterson)
  • The idea is to seek a vision that gives you purpose in life and then to implement that vision. (Lewis P. Johnson)
  • Now man cannot live without some vision of himself. But still less can he live with a vision that is not true to his inner experience and inner feeling. (D. H. Lawrence)
  • Our visions are essential to create that which has never been, and we must each learn to use all of who we are to achieve those visions. (Audre Lorde)
  • Create the highest, grandest vision possible for your life because you become what you believe. (Oprah Winfrey)


Note that the references that you will find throughout the description of the PRISM System are not intended to be exhaustive – just enough to get you started on the subject matter. (Both articles and videos are included to acknowledge that people learn in different ways,) If you encounter a particularly noteworthy reference, please do send us a comment with the details.

1. The best way to create a vision for the life you want

2. How to create your life’s vision

3. The ultimate guide to creating a life vision



Our vision consists of a series of end goals, each of which describes where we currently think we want to have or be in an area of our life, and who we want to become. Before discussing what makes up effective goals, let’s make a couple of general points about them.

Here’s something I learned the hard way about goals: Never achieve a major goal in life without first setting the next goal. All through high school, my primary goal was to get into Cambridge University. When I finally was accepted and attended my first term, I got quite depressed – because I had no idea what I wanted to do after I got my degree. A life vision establishes (at least for the moment) where we want to end up, so goals along the way, like my desire to attend Cambridge, are only stepping stones.

As I’m writing this in January, I want to make a point about January 1st goals (no groaning please). No-one should make such a fuss about them. January 1st is just another day in our lives. Goalsetting, action and review is an ongoing process, related to achieving our vision. If goals are not a part of a broader vision, then there is little motivation to achieve them, which is probably why the success rate of January goalsetting is so low. There’s a logical time to review our goals, that is tied to the completion of other goals, or to some significant change in our vision or our environment. It may occur on January 1st or on any other day of the year.

Now that I’ve got those general points off my chest, let’s get back to defining goals.


Since 1981, there’s been discussion of so-called SMART goals, with some variation of what the letters stand for, depending on the type of goals. For our purposes, let’s use Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, and Timely.

This includes all the major attributes of any goal, with one exception. Goals need to be Significant. Setting a goal to eat three meals today satisfies all the attributes – but is not worth further comment! Perhaps we should have referred to SMARTS.


I’m starting with Timely, because it has an impact on all the other parts of a goal. A goal needs to have a defined time associated with it. (A common definition of a goal is a dream with a deadline.) If we don’t set a deadline, then we have no incentive to keep working on achieving it.

While a goal can have any time period (from ‘complimenting 15 people this week’ to ‘living to be 150 years old’), we generally talk about short-term (in days or months), intermediate (say, 2-3 years) and long-term (more than 3 years). People will often suggest 5 years for an intermediate goal, which used to be reasonable. But the world is changing so fast, that I recommend only 2 or 3 years.


How Specific a goal is depends upon how Timely it is. The further out the goal, the less specific it needs to be, because the specifics may become meaningless. However, a goal should never be vague. Setting a goal of ‘having a successful career’ is so vague that we could say at any time that we’ve succeeded – or that we have yet to succeed!

We may set a goal of buying a red Ferrari in 20 years’ time – but, by then, Ferrari may be out of business, so it would be more effective to define the goal as buying a fancy, fast car (and even that may not be an option). On the other hand, if our goal is to buy a car in 3 years’ time, we can be as specific as we want to be – a red Ferrari with a twin-turbo 3.9-liter V-8, which can accelerate from zero to 60mph in less than 3 seconds!


If a goal isn’t Measurable, then how do we know if we’ve achieved it? The measured units can be anything, from times (‘running’) to quantity (‘income’) to travel locations (‘China’) to a title (‘CEO’) – but not quality (‘good’) unless it is quantified. The management guru Peter Drucker said: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.” And one of the main values of setting goals is to measure progress, and to know how close we are to achieving them.


A goal needs to involve some Action on our part – action which causes us to achieve the goal (or not). For example, a personal height goal is not actionable, while a personal weight goal is.


A goal also needs to be Realistic – we must have a chance of achieving it, or we would be setting ourselves up for failure. So setting a goal of Olympic Gold is only realistic if we have the talent and physical ability, and are prepared to make the associated effort. (Although the shortest person to play in the NBA, Muggsy Bogues, at 5’3”, might debate the physical ability limitation!)

On the other hand, a goal should not be so easy as not to challenge us, and not give ourselves a sense of achievement. Norman Vincent Peale said: “If you shoot for the moon and miss, you’ll still be amongst the stars.” Many motivational speakers have added: “But if you only shoot for the sky and miss, you’ll end up in dirt!”


Now that we understand what an effective goal looks like, it’s time to consider end goals for each area of your life (or not, as you wish). I’ve added some questions to ask yourself while setting about 3-5 goals for each area. (Obviously several questions may or may not be applicable, and you may have many other questions of your own.)

Writing down your goals is a good idea:

  • It makes them more real.
  • It gives you a document that you can use when you may want to change them.
  • You can share the goals (or some of them) with a mentor or a prospective partner.


What changes do I want to make in my health (exercise, diet, mental, smoking, drinking)?

What wealth do I want to accumulate?

When do I picture myself getting married/having children?

What major purchases do I want to make, and when (car, home, cabin, boat)?

Where do I want to travel?

What charitable contributions (time, money, action) do I want to make?

What do I want to achieve with my hobbies/interest? Are there new ones I want to develop?


How do I want to change the nature of my relationships with my parents/partner/children/friends/co-workers?

Do I want to change my network of friends?

What contributions do I want to make to my community/interest groups/political organizations?


What would I do if money were no object?

What work (paid or voluntary) would I be passionate to do?

What changes do I want to make to the type of work I’m doing, to my income level, to my position, to my employer – and why?

Do I want to develop a business of my own? Do I already have an idea for a business?

What additional skills do I need/want to develop – and what for?

What additional degrees/diplomas/certificates do I need/want – and why?


What changes do I want to make to my spiritual life?

Are there spiritual practices that I would like to do?

What contributions (time, money) do I want to make to my church/synagogue/mosque/temple?


Most of us think of goalsetting as a ‘top down’ process:

  • Defining our vision.
  • Working out what large goals we would need to achieve that vision.
  • Breaking the goals up into more detailed sub-goals.
  • Developing the plans to achieve the sub-goals.
  • Defining what we need to do to get started.

But it is really a bit more complicated than that. After we get started, the process switches to being ‘bottom up’. Our actions as we start to achieve sub-goals, help us to discover changes we need to make to the process. You can think of the overall process as a triangle, with the vision at the top, and the sub-goals (and action) starting at the base.

And one final thought about goals – when should we think about revising them? I answered that question when I was doing my brief rant on January 1st goals (in Converting Our Life Vision Into End Goals): As we complete each major goal, and whenever there is some significant change in our vision (for example, we enter a long-term relationship and need to merge our vision with someone else’s) or a change in our environment (for example, there is a major change in the local economy, or we decide to emigrate somewhere – or both).


And before you define your life vision end goals, here are some quotes that might be helpful. (All are extracted from Dr. Mardy Grothe’s website.)

  • It is not possible to run a course aright when the goal itself has not been rightly placed. (Francis Bacon)
  • Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal. (Unknown)
  • Establishing goals is all right if you don’t let them deprive you of interesting detours. (Doug Larson)
  • A goal is a dream spelled out. (Jeannette W. Lockerbie)
  • It is a paradoxical but profoundly true and important principle of life that the most likely way to reach a goal is to be aiming not at that goal itself but at some more ambitious goal beyond it. (Arnold J. Toynbee)


Note that the references that you will find throughout the description of the PRISM System are not intended to be exhaustive – just enough to get you started on the subject matter. (Both articles and videos are included to acknowledge that people learn in different ways,) If you encounter a particularly noteworthy reference, please do send us a comment with the details.

1. How to set goals

2. Setting personal goals

3. 41 Examples of personal goals


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