As per the University of Cape Town’s policy, all staff (including staff at the UCT English language Centre) need to undergo Development Dialogues every 6 months. Development Dialogues are basically an opportunity to speak with line managers and assess how you are doing in your jobs, and work out ways to move forward, improve on inefficiencies in future, etc. In the private sector this is often called a ‘Performance Review’.
Arguably, one of the most interesting sections of our development dialogues is the question of where we see ourselves in 5 years. Now, many of us don’t actually take the time to vision where we see ourselves in 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, etc. Sometimes, if we do think about it briefly, we see things in terms of our current context. For example, if you are currently a new mother at home with a new baby, you think, in 5 years I will be back at work. But, what job do you exactly envision yourself doing, and what position will you be in? What will your responsibilities be? If you are hoping to enter university next year, will you be finished your studies after 3 or 4 years? Will you be working, or doing your post graduate studies? If you will be working, what job will it be? If you are hoping to do post graduate studies, have you already thought of your specialisation (although this could change along the way)?
Abraham Lincoln once said “The best way to predict your future is to create it”. In other words, make the future you want to have.
Let’s think about this in terms of cooking. When you start to cook something for dinner, you have a vision of the end product you will be serving. We don’t start cooking by throwing a whole bunch of ingredients together and waiting to see what the outcome is before serving it. That could be a mess, and taking a very big risk. It might be a disaster!
So, in the same way, vision what you want in your future. Know what that vision is. Look at the ingredients you already have in your kitchen (your skills, your experience, your education, your level of English or other languages, etc.) Then, based on what you want for your future, see what you need to do in order to achieve that. In cooking, it may mean buying some more eggs and milk, and in terms of your future it may mean doing a course in English to pass that IELTS exam, or reading up about innovations and advances in your industry or area of expertise. Once you have all your ingredients, it’s time to start cooking!
In cooking, there are some things you need to do first before you can start the next thing. Even if you are only making pasta, you will first need to fill a pot with water and then bring it to the boil. The same goes for realising your future the way you want. Take each step and give it the necessary time it needs to mature so that the next logical step can be taken. I.e., don’t put the pasta in the hot pot before you have added the water, and allowed the water to boil. How likely do you think your chances are of getting the management position in the company you want to work in without having added the necessary years of experience? Or how will you be able to leave the University of Cape Town with your degree if you have not first passed that IELTS exam with a band 7? Not very high, I would suspect.
So, visioning requires plotting out your process and taking the necessary steps to get there. Give each step the relevant amount of time and attention before moving onto the next step.
Many studies have found that visioning can also do a lot more for you. Psychology Today reports that “Now, many athletes employ this technique, including Tiger Woods who has been using it since his pre-teen years. Seasoned athletes use vivid, highly detailed internal images and run-throughs of the entire performance, engaging all their senses in their mental rehearsal, and they combine their knowledge of the sports venue with mental rehearsal. World Champion Golfer, Jack Nicklaus has said: ‘I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head’.”
In other words, “Brain studies now reveal that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions. Mental imagery impacts many cognitive processes in the brain: motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory. So the brain is getting trained for actual performance during visualization. It’s been found that mental practices can enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and increase states of flow – all relevant to achieving your best life!” (Psychology Today).
When you vision your future, take the time to imagine the end goal and use all your senses when doing so. Fill in as many details as you possibly can in visioning that goal. One way of doing this in a more practical manner, and one which helps to remind you of your goals every day, is to create a vision board. It might sound silly to some, but meditation is not for everyone. Put a board together of things that represent for you, all these things you envision. They might be quotes that you like to live by, or pictures. It might be a job advert that you can’t apply for now, but hope to be able to in a few years.
The majority of our current and future English students have already taken steps towards realising their very clear visions of their futures. We commend these amazing individuals every single day. They have left their homes, families, friends and everything familiar to join us and learn English in Cape Town. They have very clear goals, and learning English is one of the ways they need to achieve those goals. They have taken action! So when you have a moment, sit back and vision your future. Make it clear in your mind where you want to be and speak with positive language that reaffirms your goals. Be clear about the future you want, and then make it happen!
Photo credit: http://emea.nttdata.com/blog/en/cars-traffic/