Vision is a key component to achieving anything that matters. Which makes sense – you need to know where you are going if you want to get there. But it’s amazing how many of us don’t have a vision calling us forth.
I’ve been asked to help an organisation’s board and LT reinvent their vision and purpose so it lives powerfully for them into the future. I thought it might be helpful to share part of the process so you too can create a powerful vision for your work and life.
“Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes the time, and vision with action can change the world.”
I know through the work I did at The Hunger Project, that an inspiring vision which is owned and generated at the village level, is critical to causing a new future. Vision shifts mindsets. It lays the foundation for courageous leadership. It interrupts Business As Usual. It creates a demarcation line from the past which was full of hopelessness and despair. It is the access to a future that is remarkable and achievable.
So how do you get there?
The following 3 step process works equally well for solo, family, or corporate visioning.
1. Coming to the future through the past
Before creating a new vision, it’s important to complete and honour the past.
Huh? I can hear you ask! Aren’t we focusing on the future?
Well yes – but to create a new future based in possibility, it’s important to reflect on what has got you to here.
It’s powerful to honour the journey to date, celebrate how you’ve grown and what’s been achieved, and complete powerfully any disappointments or failures with love and compassion. To not do this risks you bleeding unresolved upsets into the new vision. What we can’t be with and acknowledge, follows us into the future in a shadow form, to be dealt with then.
If you’re doing this privately in your own life, take some time to journal and reflect on this. If you’re working on the vision of your team or organisation, then reflect and share together.
Some questions you might ask include:
- What am I proud of? (What are were proud of?)
- What’s been my/our greatest accomplishment?
- When did I/we show bravery?
- How did I/we keep going when things got tough?
- What can I let go of that I’ve been holding on to, and that’s no longer serving me?
- What regrets do I have?
When this is done, find a simple ritual to declare the past loved up and complete. For example, you might light a candle and give thanks for all you’ve learned, done, and become.
2. Coming to the future from the present
If you’re in an organisation, this is a helpful process to unearth where people are at in relation to the current vision. Ask people to write down what they think the current vision is. Share this with each other. Notice any differences and non alignment, and ask about this in an open hearted way. Be curious!
Reflect on how strongly this vision is living for your organisation now. It might be that your vision is enough to take you to the future. If so, how can you deepen it, make it juicier and more alive? How can you share and cascade this through the whole team and organisation?
3. Coming to the future from the future
If you’ve exhausted the current vision, and need to create a vision that’s powerful and compelling, I like to use the Merlin principle. In T.H. White’s book The Once and Future King, Merlin the wizard is portrayed as someone who had to live his life backwards (from the future), rather than how the rest of us live (forward, from the past). This meant he could remember the future without knowing what had happened previously.
Why this is a powerful vision principle is that it can seem overwhelming to stand in the present and imagine the future. Too many obstacles and unknowns loom, before you can achieve the vision. So we lessen what we think can be achieved based on what we know and what we’ve done. However, anything important and worth doing has an element of risk and unknowingness about it. The moon landing wasn’t based on a knowable future. JFK stood in the future (man on the moon by the end of the decade), and everyone worked back from there. In villages I’ve been in, people’s vision to end hunger in 5 years is equally epic. It can only be generated through standing in the future and looking back.
To do this with your team, imagine being in the future (however many years out you are working on. Some countries create 200 years into the future, some organisations look 40 years, others 5 or 10.)
If your vision is for the next 5 years, then you would be standing in 2025. Looking back from there, imagine:
- What impact have we made?
- What are we known for and celebrated?
- What are we doing? What does it look like?
- Who are we working with?
- What’s the feeling in the organisation?
- How does this make me feel?
- What do others say about us?
- What do our customers and staff say about us?
- What did our existing mean for the world?
Sharing this, and then finding themes is a great way to begin the alignment to a vision that excites and inspires you and your organisation.
I’d love to know what your personal or organisational vision is. Is it alive for you? Can you see adopting this process? Please let me know!