Recently a colleague of mine relayed a story about a time he was consulting for a superannuation fund. A large group of soon-to-be retirees were asked to produce a picture of the retirement they were hoping for. They sketched out world trips, beach homes, boats, pools and houses for their children. There was only one problem… they were dreaming!
Not only had these people failed to sufficiently think through their vision of the future or what might be necessary to realise it (my colleague told me how their super plans were never going to yield that kind of money anyway!) but their visions were also overwhelmingly self-absorbed.
Why you need an ‘Integrated Vision Statement’
I believe that each of us has been born at this moment in time with a unique purpose to contribute to the lives of others and the world around us.
But if you’ve never taken the time to think about who you are, what your current context is, how it’s changing, and where you’re headed, then how can you possibly expect to live a life of focus, clarity and impact?
If that’s you, don’t panic. You’re not alone. And don’t rush. This is a slow-cook exercise and vision is not one-size-fits-all. While there are undoubtedly important common elements, your vision must be uniquely discerned by and fashioned for you.
What an Integrated Vision Statement ISN’T?
- An integrated vision statement is not a bucket list. I have one of those too but I won’t die unhappy if I never set foot on Macquarie Island. My bucket list is full of non-essential items. Enjoyable excursions from the main route, which I cherish, but hold lightly.
- An integrated vision statement is not a list of goals. I have one of these too and it helps me be a good husband and father, to plan my time, and save for holidays etc. These goals serve my vision but I never allow them to be my master. They help me to measure how I’m going but they’re no moral compass.
- An integrated vision statement is not a mission statement. I have one of these too. “To help leaders fully embrace empowerment”. It’s short and sweet and helps keep me focussed on my vocational calling day-to-day but it says little of who I am, why I do what I do, and what my preferred future looks like.
- An integrated vision statement is more than a ‘personal vision statement’. Because it’s not just about changing yourself but also understanding and shaping your community and your world.
Crafting your unique Integrated Vision Statement in six steps
1. Who am I?
It’s up to you how you define yourself but I can’t emphasise enough that if you haven’t thought this through you can’t possibly realise your full potential or maximise your contribution to the world.
A good way to start is to make the following three lists of ten. These lists will tell you a lot about yourself and remind you that you are who you are in community, not isolation.
- Important people – My people list consists of my wife, my children, an author, a hero from antiquity, a mentor, my team, a group of emerging leaders, and God.
- Important places – For me includes places where significant events occurred in my life or where I made significant decisions, my home, office, training centre, a favourite holiday destination, a place of worship, my favourite run, and a café.
- Important things – My thing list includes my laptop and phone (yes, seriously), my car, wallet and public transport card, several books, my running shoes, and my favourite chair.
2. What are my strengths, values and dreams?
Now for another set of lists. This time you have to limit yourself to just three entries under each.
- My strengths – I list my top strengths as:
- ‘Activator’, someone who makes things happen.
- ‘Developer’, I recognise and cultivate the potential in others, and
- ‘Maximiser’, as I seek to transform something strong into something superb.
Note: Need help ‘finding your strengths’? I suggest the following online tool.
- My Values – My top three values are:
(You may not know this by the way I live! Let’s just say they are all too often aspirational but that’s OK because they reflect the person I’m trying to be and not always am!)
- My Dreams – I dream:
… of a world that is increasingly just
….where leaders are altruistic
…and everyone has the opportunity to reach their potential.
3. Turn these lists into a statement about yourself
You don’t have to incorporate every word, in fact there’s probably a lot you don’t need, but a paragraph that includes some of these words (and any others you might like to add) will be a powerful biography not just of who you are but what you are becoming.
4. What is the context that I find myself in?
An integrated vision statement takes into account the realities of my context and how that context might be changing. You just need to describe the world around you (be it local, national or global) and what it is that most captivates your attention. Your context might be one shaped by positive factors that you want to affirm and continue to build up or negative factors that you feel need to be protested and redeemed. In most cases, it will be both.
As an example, one line in my vision statement is, “Everywhere I look the majority of leaders plateau in their early thirties”. I can’t tell you how important that realisation was in leading me to the work I now do with great passion and energy.
5. What kind of person do I want to be becoming?
This is where things can be a lot more like art than science but like people pondering their retirement plan, being deliberate about articulating your unspoken vision of yourself is essential. So describe a future version of yourself from every angle you can. Think of where you are now and where you want to be when it comes to your spirituality, mental health, physical health, relationships, intellect and vocation etc.
6. Bringing it all together
We’re almost there and I know that if you’ve made it this far, you’re already beginning to discover the significant truths about yourself that are going to help you live a much deeper life.
So now all you need to do is put the pieces together. Your final version can look however you like but at this stage I encourage you to aim for just three or four paragraphs taken from the above steps, including: A statement of yourself (step 3), your context (step 4) and the person you want to be becoming (step 5). You’ll draft and redraft this more than once. That’s OK. It’s all part of the genuine self-reflection necessary to create a life-changing integrated vision statement.
I feel like we’ve gotten to know each other through this, so let me finally finish this off by providing you my personal integrated vision statement;
I hope this process has been as rewarding for you as it has been for me. I’d love you to share a bit about your integrated vision statement below. And also to encourage others in your life to create their own integrated vision statement today.