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Last week I wrote about goals. I emphasized that even if you are skeptical about goal setting, you’ll be worse off if you choose the alternative: living life without any goals.

Occasionally, people are ready to set goals without further thought. But most of the time, it helps to take a step back and ask where you see yourself going. A goal without vision isn’t worth chasing. You can get better at anything, but if it doesn’t matter, what’s the point?

So before you start setting goals, ask yourself a much harder question: what do I want from my life?

You don’t need a complete life blueprint to develop a vision. Trying to answer a few simple questions can be a great start. What kind of work would you like to be doing? What would you like to see in a healthy relationship? Who do you respect and admire? What kind of exercise have you found enjoyable in the past? These questions can help you develop a vision that you can work towards. Don’t be too specific, and don’t plan any actions. There may be many ways to get there. 

For instance, my vision is to make mental health more accessible. It’s taken me a long time to say it so simply, and yet I know that I’ll refine and change it in the future. It’s not the only vision I have for my life. But when I’m trying to find motivation to set and achieve goals, this vision absolutely informs what I do. 

Regardless of where you are–start imagining a vision for yourself. This is a task that only you can do. Start with your feelings. Ask yourself what you really want. Be practical, but don’t rule out long shots. Build on your strengths. Use reason to clarify your ideas, but be generous to yourself. Don’t be overly realistic, because realism can’t predict all futures. Don’t live in fantasy, because fantasy alone can’t pay the bills. Share what you hope for with trusted, encouraging friends. Listen to honest feedback. Discard thoughtless skepticism. Choose a vision for today, even if it might change tomorrow. Learn from the changes. Above all, be compassionate with yourself; how else can you grow?

When you’ve chosen a vision for today, write it down. Knowing what you want is an incredible gift. Treat it with the gratitude and respect it deserves. Your life won’t instantly align itself with your vision, but with time, patience, and practice, you’ll get there.