In the previous post on developing a baseline, I introduced a change management model that I designed during my work consulting with a client organization. Here is the model again for reference:
You’ll notice that in this model, Phase I is where the vision for the future of the organization was created. The reason I chose to start with creating a vision rather than developing a baseline was because I thought this particular organization could benefit from the excitement that comes from creating a vision. I mean, thinking about the future for an organization is generally an exciting thing to do, but more to the point, I thought this organization may be able to ride that wave of excitement through the baseline phase of the project in order to hold a more appreciative, positive space for the changes that may result.
I’m pointing this out because, as I mentioned in the Appreciative Inquiry post, it is beneficial to avoid framing the future condition through the lens on the past or present conditions. So, it really doesn’t matter if you start by defining a vision or if you start by defining the status quo. Given the order of the blog posts, I’ll assume that you have already done some baseline development work for your personal development.
The whats and whys of vision
At first, it may seem easy enough to create a vision, but vision work is often done incorrectly, or at least, less effectively than it could have been, so it’s important to consider what a vision is and what a vision is not. A vision should start as a mental depiction of an ideal state, a state that will come to reality as you live the life of your dreams. If this sounds Woo Woo or cliché, then smile wide because you may have found an opportunity to get more serious about your dreams.
You get one life and you deserve to be your own champion, to answer that thump in your chest that says “something great exists within me and I need to explore it.”
Within the context of a professional organization, visions are often written down as a means of keeping the business on track and presenting the vision to customers to help frame the operations of the organization to outsiders. After some reflection and soul searching, I recommend writing your vision down. This will help hold your actions accountable to your dream state. I also recommend coming back to your vision mentally through some deliberate practice such as meditation. I cannot speak much to the scientific evidence for new-age ways of thinking such as The Law of Attraction, but it is at this point pretty solid in neuroscience that the vast majority of our decisions are made subconsciously. In theory, if you regularly create space to consciously think about positive outcomes, these thoughts will seep into your subconscious where most of your decisions are made. So creating a vision and then intentionally thinking about your vision will set up your subconscious mind for successful decision-making in your predetermined direction.
A vision is not a set of goals, evaluations, or action steps. Defining a vision is not an opportunity to complain about the present or recall negative things about the past. The vision is just the vision. It is aspirational; it is pure; it is your truth that you carry inside you that you deeply want to manifest. You may not know how to make your vision manifest and that’s perfectly fine right now. When you’re defining your vision, none of these other things matter. Just focus on the task at hand and imagine your future.
Where my journey began
This is not to say that while developing a vision you will be free from emotional connection to the past. My own personal development journey really began around my 22nd birthday. When I was 21, I was stocking shelves at Wal-Mart to help pay for school at Southern Illinois University, where I was a poorly performing student. My relationships were unsuccessful; my life sucked. I wasn’t suicidal but I was just sick and tired of being a disappointment. My truth is that I hated myself. I knew I was capable of so much more, but recalling my life up to that point, I had mostly just acted in ways that were less than my best and I was ready for change. So, at the age of 22, I dropped out of college, quit my job at Wal-Mart, and enlisted in the US Air Force. While I waited for my job with the Air Force to open up, I moved back in with my parents.
What I remember about this six-month period at my parents’ house was not that I felt like a loser because I had failed so badly. What I remember is feeling like I was already successful; all I needed was an opportunity to let my successful side manifest. No more hating myself. From then on, challenges would get to experience my best. I was so excited about the future that I couldn’t even be bothered to think about the past. In my mind, everything was different. The next decade of my life was bold, bright, passionate, and explosively successful.
You see, I had given myself over to my vision at that early point in life, but it was the raw emotion that helped to get me there. While the development of a vision should be done irrespective of the past, it may also be wise, as it was for me, to ride the wave of your emotions and to learn to transform whatever negative emotions you may have into fuel for the realization of your dreams.