Create Your Personal Vision (Phase 2)
Find ways to leverage what motivates you!
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 clear personal vision provides that focus.
In Phase 1 of this process, I explained that a personal vision is not about daydreaming. It’s about following a process to create a clear picture of a future version of ourselves that balances the important areas of our lives.
Your Personal Vision Statement should not just include elements related to your job or career. It should also include things about your relationships or family status, as well as your mental and physical health. Just like your life itself, your vision will be most effective when it achieves a healthy balance!
The importance of the Phases:
The first phase of creating your Personal Vision Statement is designed to get you thinking about what you value and what moves you. If you’ve completed the worksheet, then you’ll remember that the questions started by having you identify what you enjoy, whether that be activities, relationships, possessions, or even states of being. Then they dove into specific happy moments from the recent past before challenging you to think about what you’d do with $10M.
You may have realized the order of the questions is intentional. Basically, think about happy stuff – and then think about how you’d spend a big chunk of money! Did you focus on increasing your happy stuff? Probably. Most people do.
But then the worksheet went in a different direction by getting you to think about passions and values, then it dove into skills, before ending by asking you to focus on what you could actually do LESS of, in order to make space for something new.
All of the work you did on Worksheet 1 will give you the building blocks you need to tackle Phase 2. This is where all of the components come together into a blueprint designed by you, for you – and one that will help you achieve the best version of yourself in a shorter amount of time than you ever thought possible!
How to practice:
Enough of the background and lead-in. Let’s get to work!
Phase 2: First of all, there is no time limit on this phase. You need to spend as much time as necessary to produce high quality summaries in three key areas, which I’ll describe below. Finally, after you’ve spent time with the first three areas, it will be time to actually draft your Personal Vision Statement.
The first three summaries are critical, so don’t just think about them – you absolutely have to start writing something down. As with Phase 1, my preference with Phase 2 is to actually hand-write answers onto paper. There is something special about physically putting pen to paper that brings clarity of thought and more fully involves your entire self in this process. Of course, as with Phase 1, you can type your answers if you prefer. (You can download a PDF of the worksheet.)
Here are the areas you need to contemplate and then summarize:
1) MOTIVATORS: Summarize the key things that inspire you, bring you joy, or give you a feeling of satisfaction.
This is really pretty simple – no tricks involved: What motivates you? What can get you jumping out of bed in the morning? What gets you out of your recliner and working on something? What keeps you up late at night because you lost track of time and were so absorbed in what you were doing? What do you daydream about doing when you’re supposed to be doing something else?
Don’t be embarrassed by this and don’t try to be professional or “grown up” about it. This is for you alone (at this point), so just try to be as brutally honest as possible with yourself. Worst case scenario is that you identify a motivator that is actually destructive, in which case you figure out how to do LESS of it in order to achieve your healthy, balanced vision.
One final tricky thing: If what you’re doing brings you joy because it’s actually an escape from pain, then you need to dig deeper. What is causing you pain? What are you trying to escape from? Identify the source of pain and ask yourself whether the opposite of it would bring you joy. The goal is to find what brings you true joy and satisfaction, not temporary relief through escape.
2) LEVERS: Summarize your greatest strengths, skills, abilities, and traits that you can leverage.
We’re all good at something. The problem is that we always compare our skills with the most hardcore, high-end, esoteric skills we’ve seen in other people. “I don’t know how to design my own blockchain-based virtual reality game!” Really? Neither do most other people, including millions of people who live successful, fulfilling lives.
This step often takes a long time and a lot of creative thinking. It might seem pretty straightforward but sometimes what we “do well” isn’t actually the skill but rather a result of the skill. My son is excellent at certain online video games, which actually isn’t a skill. The skill is his ability to strategize effectively given multiple variables, shifting constraints, no single clear path to “victory,” and a “long game” that means you don’t need to be number one every single time in order to be a winner over time. I know business professionals who would love to have a strategic mind like that!
And sometimes the first skill we identify is the result of some other combination of things that result in what appears to be a skill. During three decades in youth ministry, I’ve heard countless teens say, “I’m a good listener.” It’s also the default affirmation you give to someone who is quiet. But think about what it takes to be a “good listener.” You need to be able to quiet your own thoughts and focus on the other person. Instead of worrying about what you’re going to say next, you just try to understand. Then you follow up with questions that help the person clarify what they’re saying, which often helps them clarify their own thoughts. You end up getting past the visible symptoms and get at the root cause of the problem. I know business leaders who struggle to do effective root cause analysis!
The point is that you might have to dig deep to find the true “skill” under what you “do well.” Spend the time. Think deeply about it. If not, your Personal Vision Statement won’t be the best it can be.
3) INTERSECTIONS: Describe 2 or 3 ways you can use your Levers to increase your Motivators.
Okay, so this is a bit deceptive because you need to end up with at least 2 or 3 quality ways your Levers – your skills and abilities – can help increase your motivators. I would suggest starting by just coming up with wild ass ideas to get your creativity flowing. You never know when some silly or ridiculous “joke” of an idea will lead to something else unique and intriguing.
And no, I’m not going to give you examples... because, with this one, I don’t want to lead your thinking in any particular direction. This really is up to you to be creative and try to find those unique combinations of Motivators and Levers – the place where your current skills and abilities Intersect with what you love. These may not directly appear in your final vision statement but they will be tools for you to use while actually working toward that vision!
Think of it like this: When you follow the old advice about improving your weaknesses, you’re destined to be average. But when you double-down on the areas where you’re already excelling, you can become truly world-class. Let’s try to find those areas so we can use the Intersections to propel you towards where you want to be in life.
And finally, the fourth step is the most important – and definitely the most difficult!
4. VISION: Write your Personal Vision Statement (50 words or less).
Now that you’ve completed a good deal of personal exploration in a number of key areas, it’s time to craft your Personal Vision Statement. Keep in mind that it needs to be a vision – something you can clearly see in your mind’s eye – and not some flowery language about strictly theoretical stuff.
If you read the Monday Masterclass on vision statements (See the Future!), then you probably remember the example I pulled directly from a corporate website: “Our vision is to grow our business, while decoupling our environmental footprint from our growth and increasing our positive social impact.” Don’t do anything like that. It’s crap.
Let’s turn that terrible corporate vision statement into a similarly terrible personal vision statement so you can see what I mean: “My personal vision is to advance my career, while becoming less dependent on credit so I can lower my debt, reduce my stress, and live a healthier life.”
Generally speaking, those aren’t bad high level ideas but they certainly aren’t defined well enough to easily become measurable goals; and they do NOT provide a clear vision. What does that even look like? How will you know if you’ve achieved it? And if your answer is “I’ll know it when I see it,” then you’re just hiding behind indecision and a lack of clarity. Don’t do that either.
As I discussed in the Masterclass, you should include elements from several areas of your life. I use what I call the Four F’s: FAITH (& Spirituality), FITNESS (& Health), FAMILY (& Relationships), and FINANCE (& Career). You can use these or come up with your own general areas, like educational, physical, career, emotional, or spiritual.
Think of these areas in light of the thoughts you gathered on the worksheets. Look for inspiration, especially among the Motivators, Levers, and their Intersections. If you can identify a vision that’s supported by those factors, then you’ll be more motivated and more likely to achieve your vision because so many positive things are in alignment!
Finally, write your Personal Vision Statement in the present tense, not the future tense. Don’t say, “I will be...” Instead, write as if it’s already true by saying, “I am...” Because your vision is a picture of how you see yourself, writing it in the present tense makes it feel more immediate and more tangible.
Example Personal Vision Statement:
Here is a sample 3-year Personal Vision Statement. It’s not mine and it’s not perfect but it will give you an idea of what you should be trying for:
I eat healthily and stay physically active, have completed my Masters degree, earn at least [salary/wage] in [my field of choice], stay close with my parents and siblings, attend Church weekly, and do something fun every single day.
Even with the placeholder text, that’s only about 40 words, yet it covers health and fitness, education, career, relationships, spirituality, and leisure. Is each one measurable? YES - because you can clearly align measurable goals to them. For example, this vision statement doesn’t clarify what eating healthily means but it puts a stake in the ground and forces you to define it and set goals to achieve it.
Now, in fairness, you can do that with the terrible example vision statement about “advancing my career and lowering my debt, etc,” but it’s still too high level – too vague – to be an effective vision. You’ll notice the better example doesn’t say, “I’m healthy!” Nor does it say, “I weigh 180 pounds!” It tries to set the vision in that sweet spot somewhere between “too vague” and “too precise” by applying a bit more context – eating healthily and staying physically active. So you know that you need to get your eating habits in order and you need to get off your butt and do stuff. And the more you do those two things, the more precise your goals can become, all while staying true to your overall vision – a vision that will become clearer as you get closer to it.
The Bottom Line:
Creating a personal vision statement isn’t an exact science, as you can probably tell; but it truly can help us clarify our thinking about the future and who we want to become. Our time is limited but the possibilities are endless. If we don’t even have an idea of where we want to go in life, we may end up either running in circles or simply letting someone else choose our path for us.
Relaxed Leaders shouldn’t be willing to settle for either of those options!
This was the second article in a two-part series. If you haven’t gone through Phase 1, make sure you do that before tackling Phase 2.