You must either own your vision for your life or own your anxiety in your life. You can have one or the other.
I’m convinced this “vision versus anxiety” reality is the root of so many work-life problems, discontentment, depression, addictions, and more.
If you know your vision, you’ll know greater contentment, productivity, fulfillment, and rest.
It’s Okay To Admit We Don’t Know
One of the most difficult things to do in life is admit when we don’t know what we’re doing. Harder still is admitting when we don’t know why we’re doing it.
We all want to feel like we’re on top of things. Intentional. Intelligent. Thorough. Thoughtful.
These are all good characteristics, sure. It is worth desiring to make these true of you. I’ve learned though (the prideful, hard way a few times) that saying, “I don’t know what I’m doing”, and even, “I don’t know why I’m doing”, does not make you a fool. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It can be very beneficial and wise to say “I don’t know”.
Saying, “I don’t know,” more often can be one of the most liberating intentional, intelligent, thorough, and thoughtful things we can do in life!
It’s true. Incase nobody has ever told you this, hear it from me at least. This is true! Yes, it also goes for the wrongly feared variations of it: “I don’t understand.” and “I’ve never heard of it.” and “I didn’t know about this.” and so on.
They’re all okay to say; doing so will not make you unintelligent! In the long run, it is usually the opposite. Assuming you don’t say these out of continual laziness in life (which is a major qualifier, but let’s assume we’re working against that) then saying, “I don’t know”, will actually enable you for greater intelligence and intentionality in your life again and again!
In my last post I rather thoroughly covered a concept I believe is a vital element of a content soul and a happy work-life: Intentionally working hard to intentionally earn our rest. Now I want to cover a vital element of that concept. Something that enables that to happen, and thus has effects that reach into every area of our life.
This concept: Knowing and having a clear vision for our work and life.
So why did I start this by trying to free us to say, “I don’t know”, more often? Because having a clear and stated vision first requires us to admit we do not have one, and then once we do, it often requires us to say that we’re off track!
This is true for me daily at times! However, there is no sense in going about pretending we know exactly what we’re doing and why if, in fact, we do not. It doesn’t help anything and will eventually leave us completely worn out!
Like I explained in the last post, we will not be able to work intentionally and rest intentionally, because everything becomes important and urgent and ultimately indistinguishable from the rest of life and, thus, ultimately exhausting and then despised.
So, let’s start at the basics real quick…
What Is “Vision”, And Why Is It So Essential?
It’s always important to distinguish between “purpose”, “mission”, “goals”, and “vision”. These are all common buzzwords, and, I’d say, each even helpful vocabulary to have in a work place or in your life. Though they’re all related to core convictions you hold, they’re all different and distinguishable from each other.
A common mistake I hear again and again is people mixing these terms like they’re the same. They’re not the same! A soap-box phrase of mine is “Different words exist for a reason. Use them as such!” and it applies here, big-time! I clarify the differences here, if you want to dig into it. It’s a quick read if you want to hit it and come back real quick. [LINK Coming Soon]
Stating it as simply as I can, in a way that has helped me understand the concept of a “vision” for something, I’d say it like this:
A distinguishable and describable image of the future reality you’re working towards with everything you do or do not do in your daily life.
I often think of my “visions” as a “painting” in my mind. I like the concept of a “painting” because unlike a “picture”, a painting gains more and more clarity with time and effort. However, to paint a painting, one still must begin with a fairly clear outline of an image you’re creating.
Barring abstractly throwing stuff at a canvas — which I suppose some people do with their work and luck-out as well — painters must imagine a thing in their mind clearly enough to stencil it out and begin filling in the details to create greater and greater clarity until eventually making it a reality is only a series of step by step tasks!
See what’s happened there! Now you’re working with ease! Now you have clarity! Now you’re able to identify what to do and what to not do, just like that!
Now you’re able to work hard and rest well! Wow! Sounds good, huh?
In the wisdom literature of the greatest answer-book of all time, a proverb from the greatest earthly king ever says,
“Where there is no prophetic vision, the people cast off restraint…” Proverbs 29:18
This meant that if the people, and the king, were not receiving a divine “painting” of their future and guidance in how to live and move towards what they should, everything crumbled and fell apart in their life and kingdom! They knew this to be true!
They would just end up going every which way. All doing different things without direction or understanding as to how it fits the bigger picture. All eventually getting tired, worn out, and then selfish and lazy! Ultimately destroying themselves and their kingdom. Again and again!
We do this too! If this sounds like a familiar work-place lifestyle, then your organization has no vision! If this sounds like familiar life pattern for yourself, then you have no vision!
One of my favorite quotes:
“If your ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step you take gets you to the wrong place faster.”
― Stephen Covey
You can be the greatest, most passionate and skilled ladder climber ever, but if it’s continually placed against the wrong walls, it really doesn’t matter how good you are or how hard and fast you climb!
Sadly, this visionless life is true for most of the people and many of the workplaces we know.
So, assuming you’re thoroughly convinced of the importance…
How To Fully Determine And Verbalize Your Vision
To be clear, every organization and even project should have its own clearly articulated vision. However, your vision for your life doesn’t have to come from your work or job at all, and maybe even shouldn’t! You can simply have your own vision for life in general! Your work only needs to lend itself to accomplishing that vision, which it may be able to do by simply providing food on your table each day.
Sure, we know of people whose work-vision and personal-vision have converged in such a way that their life-sustaining work is directly fulfilling their personal vision, but this is not usually the exact case. I’m not even prepared to say it’s a right goal to work towards. That reality is often glamorized and set up by media and stories as a dream-come-true existence, but between you and me, that is too often a misguided “salvation theory” that will reveal itself as unfulfilling as well. Though we’re meant to work, our work alone is not meant to be our source of fulfillment and purpose.
For our purpose here though, consider this: I doubt many people have a personal vision like, “I see myself picking up all the trash in this city in the most effective way possible”, but if your city doesn’t have an organization with a workplace vision like that, then your city has problems! The point is that it’s perfectly fine and dandy in most cases if your work’s vision is not the same as your personal vision for your life.
So enough about that. I’m just saying that I’m only going to focus us in on how to develop a personal vision for ourselves. Applying this to anything else such as projects or your business should be a fairly easy extrapolation from there.
Last thing to note: You may (and I’d say should) have a working vision in an overarching way for your life, but you’ll also find that you’ll need more minor “sub-visions” for projects or seasons within your life. If it’s easier, start with a smaller project or a shorter time-frame as you do this, rather than attempt to envision your future for your whole life.
7 Steps To Form Your Personal Vision From Scratch
So let’s start from the very basic beginning with this. I’m assuming you have a cup of coffee and you’re sitting next to a rad lamp in a peaceful environment — cause, pretty sure that helps. Then, there are some simple steps to knock this out that I recommend.
Take your time with these and don’t rush them or be afraid to pause and return again as much as needed. You’ll find that this is as much art as it is science and it can be really difficult for some people who aren’t natural “visionaries” or are new to self-searching.
- Get one single notebook or a notebook in something like Evernote (love it) or at least a single document in Word. Then, dedicate a page (or sections of pages) for each of these next steps.
You’ll be writing things down that are distinctly different yet can feel confusingly similar. Then, you’ll be comparing them to each other and editing a bit. So separate them from each other and leave plenty of room for editing and taking notes around the things you write down. This is why I love doing it digitally, but it’s also nice to handwrite these as it can feel more “intimate” with it. So, choose your favorite and go for it.
- Write down at least ten of your strongest held values in your worldview of what matters.
I know this seems elementary, and you may think you already naturally know them, but trust me when I say it’s good to see these in writing as you go forward. “Values” can be defined as “core convictions” to who you are, what matters most to you in this world — what you value in yourself and others. Think more of characteristics than what you like doing (that’s next).
- Write down at least ten things you currently most enjoy doing and which, if you didn’t do, would leave you feeling “bleh” and generally unfulfilled after a time of not doing them.
Now think less internal characteristics and convictions and think more like activities and actions. These are things that you do and, if neglected, would leave your days, weeks, months, and years, feeling wasted, meaningless, and unfulfilling. Be honest and be “selfish” because this isn’t for someone else to critique, this is for you to know you.
- Write out, with detail, your “desires” you long for in a foreseeable, near future (again, this could be your life in 5 years or a single project in your near future).
These desires may or may not be similar to what you’re currently enjoying doing. An easy example might be that you’re not currently enjoying being a parent, but you think you’d like to be! I also can’t give you a set amount of time on how far out to envision. We all have way too many factors involved to set a timeframe for anyone, but a good rule of thumb is less than 5 years out. Anything much beyond that is nice “wishful thinking” but it won’t give you a very good vision to work towards as it’s simply too vague, unknown, and likely to change. Really this whole concept is a quest of desires being fulfilled. I can’t control whether you have right or wrong desires, that’s up to you and your relational and spiritual convictions, but this is where vision begins to formulate: desires. Don’t rush this. Avoid being too vague; own these and get as specific as possible! Also, don’t stop here; this is not your vision though it might feel like it!
- Go back and compare your desires to your “favorite doings” and your “core values” and see what correlates most strongly. Begin writing these as descriptive statements in their own section, ranked (as much as possible) by importance or strength of connection.
Write these statements in a first-person, already-happening kinda of way. These statements don’t need to be eloquent things you’re going to frame on a wall at this point (or ever); they just need to be written out. Also, don’t overly fret the ranking of these, but do try to do it. This will help you as you edit your life, time management, and decisions. Again, this isn’t something more to stress about, but something to relieve anxiety. Nobody — not a single person, ever — perfectly sticks to these or does them in order of importance. The point is to be intentional in trying, and to have a written gauge for decisions. You’ll undoubtedly find that you re-rank and tweak as you move forward in life. Also, don’t worry about it if you need to write a few “statements” about each to feel you have it thoroughly articulated, but don’t write a novel on each of them at this point. A paragraph or so should be the max.
- Bring in relevant people such as your spouse, mentors, and close friends, and share these descriptive statements and get their input.
It is important to realize that neither you nor anyone else is an island, unaffected by the rest of the world. It’s not even true of literal islands! So it’s vital that you bring people into this now and do two things:
- Share what you have done: Nothing is real and complete until it’s shared anyway. (You’ll do more of this with more people in the next step). In sharing them, you’ll find you clarify them or discover strangeness in them. You might want to give the precursor that you’ve been “working hard on these and it’s kinda sensitive to you” so that they know to listen and speak carefully with you.
- Ask for their input, questions, and concerns and listen carefully and considerately. Sometimes, in some areas of life, people know us better than we know ourselves. Ask them intentional questions such as, “Do you think these align with my strengths?” and “Do any of these statements seem way out of line from what you know of me or how they relate to each other?” and more.
Consider their input carefully with wise discernment. You may need to explain better, but you may need to heed some council too. If these are truly close friends and mentors, it’s often that we need to heed counsel.
- Take what you end up with and do your best to boil them down into as succinct and memorable of vision statements as possible that fit together coherently. If at all possible create one overarching and all encompassing descriptive vision statement for the big picture.
I saved this one for last because it can take some hard work that isn’t usually worth doing until you have input from others from the above statement. So now, take everything you have and try to edit and beautify these descriptive statements into as succinct of a statement (or coherent series of short statements) as you can. The reason this is important is because (A.) you’re going to need to remember these and edit your life accordingly, and (B.) because you’re going to need to share these without overwhelming people’s time and attention yet still giving as much clarity as possible. This is also a good reason to form an overarching, all-encompassing statement for yourself. To be honest though, a single short statement is really difficult for most people and will rarely do your vision(s) justice when you’re dealing with a personal life vision. If it’s for work or an organization, it’s pretty essential to have a summary statement. But, for your own personal life, feel okay to write out a paragraph or series of statements and then always be trying to tweak and refine this. Just don’t fret over it too much as long as you have some pretty clear statements of vision for the different facets of your life as a whole.
Additional Thoughts and Tips
Tip For You:
Not a step in forming a vision, but great advice for when you have accomplished the above steps, is to put your vision(s) in a place where you can see it weekly and review it often! Even if you don’t display it like graphics on your walls or computer backgrounds, it’s good to have a set system and scheduled time to easily be able to review this and formulate goals in relation to it.
Tip For Married People:
Do it by yourself and then do it together and compare and combine notes. Figure out a way to make the two visions or series of statements into one, together, that you’re both happy with. This is essential!
Tip For Businesses or Organizations:
The “favorite doings” in Step 3 will most likely be mainly “what earns the most profit with least work” doings. This is what makes you most capable of that business succeeding. If you don’t have a “most profit” then you don’t have a business, you have a charity organization or a hobby, and you’re going to need to rally contributors or simply fund it through a different job.
Also, it is much more marketable if you do get Step 7 down to a single “vision statement”. You may need to append a “read more” to it which can elaborate (with a short version & long version, probably), but do give it your best shot to get this to a compelling and memorable “vision statement”. Think of it as needing to fit in your Twitter bio. You’ll be glad you did!
Enjoy The Clarity!
Many of us know our “purpose”, but that is rarely enough for most to stay on track and live with “vision”. It’s rarely enough, unless you’re a natural visionary, to form missions and write out goals to accomplish things that fulfill your purpose. Again, I believe this is why so many otherwise healthy, wise, and loving people live with a looming feeling of anxiety, discontentment, and exhaustion.
You’re going to love the feeling of having a fully and wholly articulated vision for your life, project, business, or organization! I’m telling you, this one simple act of articulating and knowing your vision can have enormous effect in how we day by day and week after week. You’ll see fruit from this seed in so many ways in your life’s actions and mental stability, and love it!
Remember to regularly take time to review and think through your accomplishments in relation to your vision, and encourage yourself regularly with this. Confidence in your vision lends itself to clarity for moving forward with your vision.
Also, always remember to allow yourself to say you “don’t know”, have become distracted or forgotten, and to do this all again. Things change. It’s a crazy world. Repeat as necessary and have fun living intentionally!
If your vision isn’t clear and compelling, you’ll rarely work hard and you’ll rarely rest well. If it is, you’ll work with intention, rest with intention, and be excited to to do both every day.
Hope this helps! Let me know what you think in the comments. Anything more you’d add? Anything you need clarity or help with. I’m considering turning this all into a handy little resource for my RESOURCES section with a template and examples of my own. Would that be something you’d be interested in?[IMAGE]