By Donna D’Cruz
“To accomplish great things we must first dream, then visualize, then plan…believe…act! Your life will be no better than the plans you make and the action you take.”
–Alfred A. Montapert, American engineer and philosopher
A massive cottage industry offers reams of advice on the topic of designing your own life—against all odds, no less, from books by Og Mandino (The Greatest Salesman in the World) and Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich), to the reworked versions of their contemporary acolytes. And who remembers the ubiquitous Successories motivational posters, beloved of human resources departments, startups and dorm rooms everywhere? Gorgeous photographs worthy of National Geographic combined with gung-ho quotes exhorting us to be the masters of our destinies. Beloved as some of those sayings are (one of my favorites is from Helen Keller: “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow”), it’s time to move past the pep-talk posters and reflect on more prosaic matters of how architects, designers and planners go about fleshing out their visions, as a way of supporting our own life trajectories.
It helps enormously to have vision, desires or dreams, something most of us lucky enough to grow up in free, safe and nurturing surroundings take for granted. It means looking inward and forward, and imagining what the future might look like—what we aspire to be, or how we saw our lives as adults. Get busy: Fire up your wild imagination and prepare to put your back (mind, body and spirit—all systems go) into it!
The next phase requires concrete planning. You’ve got your blueprint—now what? The hard slog begins with the process of creating the vision you had in mind, and while it sounds simple, God is truly in the details of this step. The designer-builder must find a path from dream to fruition, factoring in construction costs, local building codes and a plethora of details. Building our life’s architecture may be seen the same way. Many of us dream of big and wonderful things—great. Now let’s focus on a practical plan to manifest the vision. The challenge is getting from where you are to where you want or need to be. Revisions and tweaks may be necessary along the way to adapt to changing circumstances. It falls to us to transmute a dream into a workable reality. Nelson Mandela read the Victorian poem “Invictus” (Latin for invincible) when he was held in Robben Island, and it was a constant reminder to him of an indomitable spirit. It may behoove us to identify what most inspires us and moves us into taking positive action, too.