“We know what we are but know not what we may be.” – Shakespeare
The new decade is upon us and I don’t know about you, but there seems to be a prevailing feeling that it’s time to start playing it bigger. Break boundaries. Challenge self-limiting beliefs. Create more adventure.
This decade already feels poised to be the one in which we set and reach our most wildly audacious goals. 2020 is going to be awesome!
As you enter this decade with heightened courage, bravery and aspiration, let’s talk about vision and the role it plays in getting you to what’s next. Vision provides the direction of our success and without vision we lack the clarity to achieve something more meaningful.
The great Roman Stoic, philosopher, statesmen, dramatist and satirist Seneca, once wrote: “To the person who does not know where he wants to go there is no favorable wind.” As leaders, we must know where we are going with certainty. The creation of our vision allows us to achieve that level of certainty and clarity.
So, if vision is about setting a direction for your company, team, family, and most importantly yourself, what is it? Vision and vision statements are developed to focus inwardly. They are not written to impress friends, family, and clients. On the other hand, they are written for the leaders and employees to provide future-oriented, inspirational and aspirational direction.
The task of creating a vision or vision statement can be daunting, but the most effective are often the most straightforward thoughts and ideas. The best visions are dreams that have no final destination but rather define a never-ending journey. They are forward-facing, positive, compelling, concise and daring.
Here are some of my favorite corporate statements:
“To create a better everyday life for the many people” – Ikea
“Craft the brands and choice of drinks that people love, to refresh them in body & spirit” – Coca Cola
“A world where everyone has a decent place to live” – Habitat for Humanity
“A world without poverty” – Oxfam
Over the years, I have developed many vision statements for organizations that I worked with, companies I owned and operated, and for my leadership journey. And every time I spend considerable time getting clear on what dreams, goals and pursuits, I want to fuel and drive my behaviors, actions and thoughts. Each time, I try to simplify my vision down to a simple idea, thought, or “theme.”
For example, my vision is to climb—always climbing over the next obstacle, challenge or opportunity. I use the image of climbing mountains as my vision cue. To me, this vision is both metaphorical and literal.
Those of you who know me understand that adventure-seeking is core to my DNA. Whether I am summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro, participating in a Wilderness Crucible expedition, visiting remote villages in third-world countries, or reaching for the next business opportunity, I crave experience and expansion.
My vision statement of “climbing mountains” inspires me always to chase that next “mountain.” My vision serves as a gentle reminder that I need to be welcoming in the uncomfortable and the unknown because of the profound experience and learning it affords.
On the corporate side, I have had several vision statements throughout my 30+ years as an entrepreneur. One of my favorites will always be the vision statement we created at my IT services firm Atrion: to be the Harvard Business School for the IT services industry.
The message had a simple theme of constantly and endlessly striving for excellence. It was a vision that was reinforced and demonstrated through every part of our operating system—from how we hired employees, to how we developed the “ultimate client experience,” to how we determined the clients with whom we would engage, to how and why we created leadership development opportunities for our people.
So, what about you? Do you have a personal leadership/life vision? My experience has shown me that most people have not engaged in a rigorous process to develop their vision. They may have loose ideas and thoughts about where they want to be in the future, but they have not deliberately developed a personal vision. So if you haven’t done so yet, you not alone!
But your leadership and life do not have to be vague and ambiguous; instead, they can have direction and clarity. And you know what, you can start today… right now! You can begin the next decade with a more definite sense of where you want to head, what you want to accomplish, and, more importantly, how you want to live your life.
William Jennings Bryan, the great American orator, politician and Sectary of State said, “Destiny is not a matter of chance, but of choice. Not something to wish for, but to attain.”
As you begin to create or continue to hone your vision, here are a few quick tips to keep in mind to make sure your vision is aspirational:
- Reflect. Consider your past and your most significant accomplishments, your proudest moments, your moments of excellence. Is there a common theme? For me, it was the theme of overcoming obstacles that stood out the most.
- Envision. Envision the future. What could be? Where will you be the most content? I usually start with the future and work my way backward. What do I want people to say at my 100th birthday? What stories will they share?
- Craft. Develop a simple vision statement in 20 words or less. Remember, the vision statement is for you or your employees. So, please don’t focus on getting it perfect.
- Imagine. Consider how you would feel as you start to inch closer to your vision. For example, will you feel good as you take strides towards your vision or unbelievably ecstatic? You can gain insight into whether your vision is aspirational enough by glimpsing into the future at how you will feel as you live out your vision each day.
- Document. The best-laid plans require intention and focus, so make sure you are taking the time to write down your vision for yourself and/or your team. Then, build an accountability routine to measure how successful you are with living out your vision.
- Share. When you conspire, the world conspires with you. Share your vision with others. Whether you are casting your hopes for yourself or your company, it’s essential to make sure your vision is shared. Your community of friends, family, colleagues, mentors, etc., can play a pivotal role in helping you reach your biggest dreams.
Don’t wait another decade to start working on the vision statement. Be deliberate and intentional and spend a few minutes developing your vision. And as you do, I’d love to hear about your vision statements or if this is any area in which you struggle. Drop me a line here; I can’t wait to connect!