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Create Your Personal Vision (Phase 1)
Start with a personal inventory by answering a few questions
As I discussed in the Monday Masterclass on vision statements, Relaxed Leaders need to have a vision for ourselves so that we are intentional about what we learn and how we grow. If you believe self-improvement and continued learning is important, then you also realize how much there is to possibly learn. Our time is finite and what we can learn is almost unlimited, so we need to be very selective on how we focus our learning and training efforts.
Having a personal vision gives us a clear destination, which helps us discern the best path forward. As I discussed in Episode 4 of the Relaxed Leader podcast, focus is critical in many things we do – and choosing what you want your life to be like is no exception. If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. But is that really how you want to live your life?
Why it matters:
I’ve said many times that it’s a long string of failures that has made me the success I am today. Some of those failures were experiments. I tried something because I believed it was the correct path to a larger goal. But many of those failures were simply bad choices. I tried something because I was bored or unhappy with what I was doing and it seemed like a better option.
Looking back, the common problem is clear: I was running from something and not running to the next step on my journey. I wasn’t clear about where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, and who I wanted to become, so I ended up chasing dead ends.
At some point, I began thinking beyond my current job and potential “next step,” and started focusing on a longer horizon. I started thinking more about what I enjoyed, what I was good at, and ways those two things could come together. At first, I used the SMART goal process but found it was better for those interim steps required to reach a bigger vision. Eventually I started creating a true personal vision statement to help guide my life choices, and that’s what I’m going to help you do today.
How to think about it:
A personal vision is not a daydream. It’s not some silly “Law of Attraction” bullshit either. It’s a process by which we create a clear, future version of ourselves that balances all of the important areas of our lives.
“Being a Rock god” isn’t a good vision because it’s one-dimensional and not at all balanced. It’s also not measurable and probably not very realistic, unless you already have a solid music career.
However, if you’re an excellent guitar player and sing well, your personal vision statement could include playing in a band with a strong local following (filling local clubs to capacity) and 1,000,000 streams of your top 3 songs on Spotify. Your vision statement should also include something about your relationships or family status, your mental and physical health, and your job or career (club musicians almost always have “day jobs”).
For myself, I like to focus on four areas of my life that I think of as the Four F's:
FAITH (& Spirituality)
FITNESS (& Health)
FAMILY (& Relationships)
FINANCE (& Career)
I put them in that order because if I can get my inner self – my heart and soul – in alignment and take care of my bodily health, then I’m able to be a much better husband, father, and friend. And when all of those areas are in good shape, it’s so much easier to kick ass on my professional goals.
You can use these areas to help frame your thinking or come up with your own mix. The point is to think about the different “facets” of your life because once you’re clear on those, then it’s much easier to be clear on a personal vision that moves you forward and drives improvement across the major aspects of your life in a balanced, affirming way.
How to practice:
Okay, enough theoretical mumbo-jumbo! Let’s get to work!
Phase 1: Spend at least one hour thinking about and answering eight (8) questions. Don’t just think about them – you absolutely have to start writing something down. My preference is to actually hand write my answers onto paper but you can type your answers if you prefer. (You can download a PDF of the questions.)
1. What activities do I enjoy? This might seem silly but give me the benefit of the doubt and go with it. Think about all the things you love to do and write them down. This isn’t about whether or not you can monetize an activity – it’s about whether doing it brings you joy.
2. What else makes me happy? Not everything that puts a smile on our faces is an activity, so make note of those things here.
3. What were my happiest moments in the past 6 months? Sometimes, memories improve with time and something that was “okay” when it happened seems “wonderful” 10 years later. We’ll inject a dose of reality into this process by identifying our happiest moments during the past half year.
4. What would I do if I won $10M? This is challenging because it can easily become a daydream. Try to avoid that if you can. Consider seriously what you would do if you won the lottery and your net payout was $10M. Would you pay off debt? Buy something nice? Retire and volunteer for a cause you’re passionate about? You have to try to take this one seriously.
5. What issues or causes am I passionate about? Think about where you volunteer your time, what you read about and follow in the media, or what you could talk about for hours if given the opportunity (and a couple glasses of wine).
6. What are my most important values and why? This is another difficult question disguised as an easy one. Religious people will often default to canned answers like “loving my neighbor” or “turning the other cheek.” It might be true but you need to identify WHY it’s important. Self-proclaimed patriots will say things like “freedom” and “the right to bear arms.” That’s not good enough. What do you mean by “freedom” and why are these values important to you? How do they benefit you and others?
7. What are my skills? What am I good at doing? Where am I excellent? Many people struggle with this question but I’m going to challenge you to think broadly. Don’t worry about “marketable skills.” Think about what you do well and write it down, no matter how silly or inconsequential it seems to you. Of course, if you have truly significant or recognizable skills, capture those too!
8. What should I do LESS of (so I can do more of something else)? Feel free to make this a BIG list. We all do things that add no long-term value to our lives or the lives of others, so write those things down. This isn’t a list of everything you’re definitely going to stop doing. Think of it as a list of things you could eliminate in order to do something far more important and desirable!
Spend at least an hour on these questions and really dive into them. This is the first step in the process and it’s critical to take it seriously. What you come up with here will allow you to dive into Phase 2, where you’ll end by creating your very own Personal Vision Statement!
What to watch out for:
Don’t be impatient. Most people who do this exercise want to rush through this part and “get to the good stuff.” They want to start writing their Personal Vision Statement and get to work on setting goals because that’s the fun stuff!
Rushing through this part and jumping into drafting a vision statement is like skipping the whole plot and character development thing so you can just start typing your blockbuster novel. Your mom might buy the Kindle version but it’s definitely NOT going to be a blockbuster.
Take the time and do this phase justice. Spend at least 60 minutes answering the eight questions and you’ll be well-prepared to move onto Phase 2.
The bottom line:
Having a personal vision gives us a clear destination, which helps us discern the best path forward, but our vision can’t just be a daydream. Start by identifying things like what brings us joy, what we’re good at doing, what we’re passionate about, and what we could stop doing to make time for more important activities. This will give us the ingredients we need to create a realistic, well-crafted Personal Vision Statement.
When you’re ready, check out how to Create Your Personal Vision Statement (Phase 2)!