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Developing a Vision Statement, step 1

What is your Vision for your Life?

Nobody else has a big plan for your life. They have their plans.

This post addresses the question: how do I start creating a vision for my life?

Nobody is coming to save you… no one is going to write this vision for you.

The 2 Ingredients of Purpose

In Vistage, we say “Great leaders ask great questions.” The most important question: What’s my purpose?

Your purpose is about solving problems that are meaningful to yourself. Two phrases are key in this sentence:

  1. solving problems – whilst you can get momentary happiness from experiences, only improving quality of life for other beings gives rise to lasting fulfilment;
  2. meaningful to yourself – if you don’t enjoy the journey, you are going to give up quickly. If you give up, you will not solve problems. You must be selfish in this respect. You must use your own unique combination of talents and desires in a way that is satisfying to you personally.

The path of the purposeless one is beset on all sides by distraction and other people’s priorities. Modern western society gives us the greatest freedom of action of any civilisation in history. This freedom is dangerous without defining how you will use it.

The greater the freedom, the more important to clarify your own purpose.

“Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose – and commit myself to – what is best for me… “

Paolo Coelho

Dan Sullivan speaks about 2 kinds of freedom:

  • “Freedom from” – the removal of obligations: I save enough money to not have to work in a job that is not meaningful
  • “Freedom to” – the creation of a purpose: I actively exercise my power of will to choose to pursue a meaningful purpose

Being highly efficient in pursuit of what is fundamentally unimportant is a terrible life path. I know several people who are brilliant at tactics, but lack any coherent life strategy. They are lost.

Nobody climbs Everest by accident. It was a dream and a plan and part of the meaningful activity of life for a decade before the summit.

How do you begin to answer: What is my Purpose?

Write something down. Anything.

What do you want to do during your life? Bucket list, problems you want to fix, experiences you want to have, how you differ from others, how you relate to others, teachers that made a difference…

Write them all down.

Peter Drucker’s Guide to Personal Vision

Peter Drucker in his book “Managing Oneself” identifies 7 areas for you to explore in writing:

  • What are my strengths?
  • How do I work best?
  • What are my values?
  • Where do I belong?
  • What should I contribute?
  • What relationships are important to me?
  • What will I do with the second half of my life?

That’s step 1.

Keep on Iterating

A vision is not written once, and done.

It is constantly updated and edited.

My friend David Tomas and I went to a 3 day workshop with Dr John DeMartini about 10 years ago called “Master Planning for Life“. For 3 straight days we sat in silence in a room in London and we wrote a plan for our life. Mine is 150 pages of word document. It is exactly what I described – a big list of every place I ever wanted to go, every thing I ever wanted to learn, every person that matters, every teacher that impacted me, every dream I have… and a set of financial plans that would allow me to make it happen.

I haven’t done everything that is in the document. I get demotivated and forget to review it often. I have days where I ask myself “what is it all about?”

I have this document as a map and a compass that can get me back on track.

You have to write it down.

…and then you iterate it many, many, many times. You come back to it regularly and add things that are even better and delete things that don’t resonate any more.

After 100 iterations you have something that can re-motivate you about why you are here.

After 1,000 iterations you should start to have something that really reminds you what is important and how to use your time.

Is there a shortcut?

…of course not. This is too important an aspect of your life to cut corners. Imagine if you just copied someone else’s purpose document? You’d end up living a great life, for them.

…and iterations are vital – because often what you think is important or meaningful when you are young turns out to not quite be the experience you expected.

Put it where you will see it often

It is not the writing down that matters. It is the iterating and repeatedly reminding yourself of what you think is important.

The problem is not that you don’t know what matters to you and what activities are most important – it is that you forget or get distracted so often.

A Truly Compelling Vision?

Most people do not have a compelling vision. They are embarrassed to dream big.

A boring vision attracts mediocre people and mediocre performance.

pablo (3)

“I want to make €1 million” is not a compelling vision. It is about you, and you alone.  Why would anyone else give their best effort so that you can have €1 million in your bank account?

Eric Schmidt, ex-CEO of Google says “it is easier to achieve big dreams than small dreams… because big dreams attract better people”.

Guy Kawasaki told me that a compelling vision is based on one of three things:

  • Right a wrong
  • Give back to people something they have lost
  • Improve quality of life

How do you improve the quality of life of a group of people?  How do you fix something that is wrong with the world?  How do you give people something they once had but is now lost?

It takes courage to build a compelling vision.

It takes deep self reflection about what is deeply important to me.  The closer I get to what my deepest values ask of me, the more I will feel fear of ridicule by others.

If anything was possible, what type of world do you want to see?

Describe this world.

If it feels easily achievable, you do not have a compelling vision.  If this seems important but very difficult – you might be on to a compelling vision.

If you work for the money, you will get bored and apathetic sooner or later.  If the money is for a bigger purpose, then your journey can overcome many obstacles.

Developing Your Vision is Important Work

One of the most profound books I have ever read is Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl.

“Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.”

“A human being is not one thing among others; things determine each other, but man is ultimately self-determining. What he becomes – within the limits of endowment and environment- he has made out of himself. In the concentration camps, for example, in this living laboratory and on this testing ground, we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualised depends on decisions but not on conditions. 

Viktor E. Frankl, from his book Man’s Search for Meaning

Professional Rugby Players do it…

On a transatlantic flight this year I came across the “Chasing Great” documentary that followed the life and career of New Zealand rugby captain Richie McCaw.

When Richie was 12 years old, a friend of his father asked him to put his dreams down on paper. They wrote it on a napkin while having lunch. Here is the napkin (source NZ Herald 25 August 2016: Chasing Great: Richie McCaw’s secret video tapes revealed)

A recreation of the napkin containing Richie McCaw’s All Blacks plans.

Professional Golfers do it…

Here’s something I found today on twitter that resonated… Pro Golfer Justin Thomas shared his written goals for the coming season…

“Well… the season is over! A lot of positives, and a lot of things to improve on. Time to take some time off and relax with friends and family before gearing up for a big year next year. More importantly, time to make another goal list!”

Originally tweeted by Justin Thomas (@JustinThomas34) on August 26, 2019.

If you liked this post, you will also like finding purpose and defining a vision for your life and A Truly Compelling Vision.

One response to “Developing a Vision Statement, step 1”

  1. […] In my leadership programs I share 6 areas of life where you need to have good habits if you wish to live a fulfilling life. […]

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