“A vision of the future is much like a literary or musical theme. It’s the paramount persistent, and pervasive message that you want to convey, the frequently recurring melody that you want people to remember and whenever repeated, it reminds the audience of the entire work.” – Kouzes and Posner, The Leadership Challenge.
When you ask successful people where their vision came from, they frequently point to a dream. They may have trouble articulating the dream, but they know it was important. Vision is often defined as a feeling, rather than a specific goal. “I just knew I was meant for something bigger than what I have,” is often the response.
As an individual your vision for the future is critical to your overall success in whatever dimension you aspire to.
We frequently don’t think big enough. We stay locked into what is realistic and play small. Setting a vision driven by purpose and a sense of who we want to be in the world means taking risks, being bold, and courageously taking actions that inspire and motivate you and others to follow your lead.
Much of our vision is intuitive. It is not logical and may be difficult to explain or quantify. The future is amorphous; it’s not tangible in the present moment. “I have a feeling,” frequently precedes explaining a vision. We call this intuition.
I’m sure many of you reading this know this sensation well. It’s a ‘gut thing.’ You just know. But too many times we ignore the feeling and opportunities are missed. Learning to trust our intuition is the gift we give ourselves.
“Vision without execution is simply hallucination.” – attributed to Thomas Edison
It’s essential that you look at your past before you look forward to the future.
“We need to look forward to where we are going, but it’s also important to understand your patterns, themes, beliefs, ideals, and your values because they are the foundation for building your future.” - What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, Marshall Goldsmith
Your personal journey informs the choices you make today. The past lets you know how far you’ve come and also clarifies the potential of what’s to come – if you pay attention to the lessons learned.
“Once upon a time” is not just for fairy tales. It’s the solid rock of your existence.
When you look at the past with an eye to the future, you may realize things about yourself that you didn’t know: the strength it took to overcome challenges, weaknesses that became strengths, failures that led to success. All of this informs your present.
Professor and visionary Joseph Campbell wrote, “If you can see your path laid out in front of you step by step, you know it’s not your path. Your own path you make with every step you take. That’s why it’s YOUR path.” You create your life day by day with a vision of possibilities.
Many of us follow a path laid down by well-meaning family, advisors or colleagues that may not feel right but feels like the right thing to do.
Your discomfort will be evident when you feel disappointed, frustrated, resentful and uneasy with the choices you’re making.
Setting your own path is a conscious decision. Road maps are frequently not available. You feel like you are flying by the seat of your pants.
In truth, if you have a powerful vision and you are committed to following the path of that vision it can be a rocky road. There are no guarantees that it will work, and you have to trust that whatever it is you dream of doing, you can achieve it if you hold tight to the vision and take the actions necessary to reach the goal.
But here’s the great thing about having a vision. It expands. Just like the universe.
Once you get on the right path for you, and you’re taking the right actions, in the right way, in the right time, you expand your vision and start taking even more bold, courageous moves as you understand how much more you can be… and do.
When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Growing up in poverty in Edinburgh, Scotland, I wanted to be a teacher, a singer, and a writer. In my family I was given no reason to succeed. The path was very wobbly at times, and I made a lot of wrong turns, but eventually I achieved my vision.
I have written three books, trained as a singer and was engaged for a few years as a cantor for High Holidays in Paris and Amsterdam, and I’m now teaching what I have learned over several decades of painstaking work to discover more about the human condition and share it with my community.
If you have followed your vision and achieved your dream, you are one of the few on this planet who have mastered the art of ‘sticktoitness’. The ability to overcome the obstacles and maintain the trajectory toward your dream. Congratulations.
For others, your vision may not be as clear, and you may be struggling with what you really want. When my clients bring this problem there is a simple exercise I suggest.
Make a list of all the things you don’t want. Then think of the opposite. It doesn’t have to be real in this present moment. It’s an aspiration.
Next, make a list of your strengths. Don’t hold back.
Then compare your lists, make the connections between them, and define a path for yourself that is unique to you and what you want out of life. Then do the work of making it happen.
If you want help with this, you know where to find me!