This is Part 23 of of a series on vision. You can read previous installments here:
Part 1. Part 2. Part3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17. Part 18. Part 19. Part 20. Part 21. Part 22.
You’ve created space for yourself to dream and attained clarity on what you desire. Perhaps you’ve even created a vision board, with images that represent what you want. You look at it every day. But nothing is happening. It’s not coming into form — you’re not “manifesting” your vision. What gives?
In the previous post, I shared five possible reasons that you could be stuck. Today I’ll share five more, plus a bonus.
1. You’re Not Taking Action
An obvious cause that’s often overlooked is that you’re not taking action. This stems from a misunderstanding about what it means to manifest a vision. Some people who use this term seem to imply that you just have a vision and create a vision board and meditate on it every day, eventually it will just become your reality.
Unfortunately, this is not how it works.
To manifest means to make evident or certain by showing or displaying. It originates from the Latin manifestus, which means caught in the act, flagrant, obvious.
Key to manifesting your vision is the concept of taking action.
Remember that vision is the centerpiece of the compass that guides our actions. Knowing where you’re going isn’t enough to get you there. You still need to hit the road.
So the real question is: why aren’t you taking action?
When you have a vision for your life — or anything else — it means you want to create something different from what exists now.
Creating something different = change.
Change provokes fear.
It’s a simple equation that gets complicated by a common belief: If I want the change, I shouldn’t be in fear of the change.
This is a limiting belief. The reality is that change provokes fear even if the change is something you want. Even if the change is for your “good.” All change requires us to let go of our current status quo.
Ways of being and working. Relationships. Routines. Your environment.
Giving up the status quo for something new creates uncertainty. Pursuing your vision requires that you step into the mystery of the unknown. You don’t know what will happen. This threatens our survival mechanism. It can paralyze us and stop us from taking action.
3. Your Vision Doesn’t Move You
If you’re feeling unmotivated to take action, it may be because your vision doesn’t excite you or pull you toward it. Motivation comes from movement. You want to create a vision that feels compelling, that energizes you. Assuming you’ve done the work to verify that this really is your vision, you may be playing it safe by dreaming too small.
There are many circumstances that might lead us to limit our vision. One common scenario is that this is a reaction to a previous failure. If you failed to manifest a previous vision you might feel disappointed and disillusioned. A natural reaction to that is to reign in your vision to avoid that feeling the next time around. This can create a slippery slope: if the vision isn’t compelling enough to move you, you won’t take action, and you’ll again fail to manifest your vision.
After enough cycles, you’ll stop dreaming altogether. And then you’re just going through motions of actions without purpose.
Another reason you might reign in your vision is that you get stuck in a vision that is too big.
4. Your Vision is Too Big
On the other end of the spectrum, it’s possible that your vision is too big. Notwithstanding all the memes you see on Instagram telling you to dream big, there is a point at which you can dream too big, creating a situation that overwhelms you to the point of paralysis or depletes your resources, creating burnout.
When I get a vision for something — whether a specific project or an area of my life — it often comes to me in one big download and I see it as it can exist in a fully-fleshed out version. When people come to me for business consulting, they bring me a seed of an idea. Within an hour, I’ve given them a picture of an entire garden: the main product or offering, eventual brand and product extensions, spin-offs, future growth opportunities, the works. This is one of my gifts.
But every virtue can be a vice, and this gift can also be my downfall. I can get stuck when I try to create my vision in its fully-formed potential in one move. This causes me to dilute my focus as I try to implement too many things at once. Either I get overwhelmed and drop the project, or I try to persist and suffer burnout.
I have learned I need to break down my vision into smaller pieces or stages so that I can avoid overwhelm and create sustainably.
In fact, this blog, and this series specifically, are great examples of how I have learned to work with a big vision. I publish daily so that I don’t get stuck in writing at the expense of publishing. Previously, I would start to write something and it would snowball, and I’d never publish it. Now, when something feels too big for one post, I break it up so I can move forward in smaller pieces.
Sharing a little bit each day keeps me moving forward in a more sustainable and manageable way.
5. You Haven’t Adapted Your Vision to Where You Are
Remember that one of the fundamental principles of vision is that it adapts and accommodates. You might be stuck because you’re working with an outdated compass. As you grow and have experiences, your outlook changes.
Maybe you bring part of your vision into form and realize that it’s not as great as you imagined it would be; you no longer want that in your life. Or you experience something new and realize you want that to be a regular part of your life.
Vision needs to be recalibrated to stay in alignment with who you are.
Bonus: You Are Manifesting Your Vision, But You Can’t See It
Whenever I start to believe that I am not making progress, I find it helps me to check in with my timeline and my expectations.
I’ve found that when we say we’re not seeing progress, what we are really saying is:
I believe I am not making progress because I am not seeing the results I expected in the time frame that I assumed was reasonable for such results.
Articulating this out loud — to someone else, or even to myself — reminds me of the faulty assumptions underlying my belief. I had a timeline in mind. But where did that expectation come from? It’s either something you absorbed from the world around you or you wholesale made it up.
It is the nature of the mind to want to know when will it happen? or how long will it take? Knowing how long it will take calms the nervous system. Studies show that posting wait times in places where people are waiting for something — subway platforms, the DMV — reduces stress levels and makes the waiting time easier.
Unfortunately, the truly important things in life don’t come with countdown clocks. It’s not our timeline. Nature takes its own path. Our job is to keep taking steps forward, and let nature do the rest.
A seed begins to sprout before the sprout breaks through the ground. Just because you aren’t seeing the results yet doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.