01/14/2011 10:10 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

How to Create Your Vision for 2011

In my work with coaching clients, I often ask: "What do you want?"

What do you want -- in this difficult situation?

What do you want -- in your work?

What do you want -- for your life?

The question can be disorienting. There we are, railing about the annoying person or the difficult circumstances or how we're stuck, and then: "What do I want?" It's a one hundred and eighty degree turn.

The question shifts the focus: from out there, toward others, to in here, toward ourselves. It moves our attention from the current reality to the desired future. It turns responsibility back to us.

If you are complaining about your impossible boss, "what do I really want?" stops your complaint. If you are railing about your dysfunctional industry, "what I do want?" stops the railing. If you are plagued by fear of failure, "what do I want?" moves your thoughts to a very different place.

"What do I want?" is the beginning of proactively creating our lives.

When I ask clients "what do you want?" I often use a tool to get at the answer: the dial. I made up the dial, it's invisible, and here's how it works:

Let's say I'm talking with a client, Julie, about her desire to create better balance between work and family:

Tara: If you could have your work and family balance be any way you wanted, what would you want?"

Julie: Well, I'd have quality time with the kids. I'd be able to do after-school pick up from time to time. Occasionally I'd be able to work from home.

Tara: I hear you identifying three very clear things: quality time with the children, doing pick up from time to time, and occasionally working from home. What if we were to go even bigger? What if you could really create whatever you wanted? What if we were going to turn the dial up here, by 25 percent? Then what would it look like?

Julie: Well, hmm. I guess it would be everything I said above, plus, I wouldn't feel like I was falling short in both my parenting and at work. Also, I would work at home, not just occasionally but regularly, maybe once a week.

Tara: Alright, so I'm hearing that in addition to the time with the kids, there would be an internal change: you'd have a sense of satisfaction that you were doing enough in both your parenting and at work. And you'd work at home about once a week.

Now, what if we were to turn the dial up 25 percent, again? To go 25 percent more expansive, more wonderful, more too-good-to-be-true?

Julie: Well... my husband would also have more flexibility at his work. We'd have more family adventures -- travel and in nature -- the kinds of things I always imagined doing with my kids. I wouldn't be in a work situation where facetime was important. I'd have time to do the things that really help me be a more centered mom and person -- like yoga twice a week, and cooking a few times a week too. Neither work nor family would be dominant, and I'd feel like I had energy for both.

Now we are starting to get somewhere. Now Julie's longings -- and the authentic life that wants to be lived, is beginning to emerge. Now we are developing a real vision that can guide her choices.

We might turn the dial up a few more times. Each time, something new and vital would be revealed. Something that was obscured from her vision originally because somewhere along the way, it was deemed impractical, impossible, selfish, in some way -- not okay.

It takes time to get to what we really want. We have to peel back layers. We have to dig up things that got buried. We have to welcome shy dreams to the forefront.

So today I want to ask you to think about what you want for some area of your life in 2011, and bring the dial with you.

Pick one area -- maybe health or family or work or personal growth. Write what you want. Take in that answer. Then turn the dial up, 25 percent -- what do you really want? Allow it to be bigger, greater, more daring, more wonderful-juicy-thrilling. Write that.

Now turn the dial up, again, 25 percent . Allow to it be even more ecstatic-wonderful-gorgeous.

What do you see?

Keep turning the dial up till you know you've hit it. The real dream. The resonant, thrilling, scare-ya-to-the-bones one. You'll feel it when you get there.

Thoughts about its impossibility may rush in. That's okay. Just note them and put them aside. And for goodness' sake, please don't jump into worrying about how to make it happen yet.

Just live with the big dream for a while. Live with it in your minds eye and your heart, and know you don't need to do a thing right now. As you live with it, things are going to start to happen that will unfold the "how." Don't do the how-planning with a pad and paper and a bunch of anxiety and your left brain. Wait. Cook. Watch. Be open. Let the how unfold.

So you know what's coming next. Take out your paper and pen. Take out the dial. And discover your vision.

Tara Sophia Mohr is a writer, coach and personal growth teacher. Visit her blog Wise Living and receive her free articles twice a week.