If you’re looking to constantly improve yourself, which all of us should be looking to do, you need to have a vision. What is a vision anyway and do you even have one? These are important questions that you have to answer for yourself because nobody can answer those questions for you. In this episode, Carolyn defines vision and expands on it as what was discussed from a chapter in her book, Plant Your Flag: The Seven Secrets to Winning.
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What Is Vision And Why Do You Need One?
I thought I would talk about vision. Are you nearsighted or farsighted with your vision? Do you even have a vision? What is a vision? These are such important questions that you have to answer for yourself because nobody can answer those questions for you. If you’re looking to constantly improve yourself, which all of us should be looking to do just that, you need to have a vision. We’re going to talk about vision. I love this topic. In 2016, I wrote a chapter in a self-improvement book called The Change 11. My chapter was on vision and the title was Are You Nearsighted or Farsighted in Your Personal Vision? It was my first published article because I believe in the importance of having a vision. In my book, Plant Your Flag: The Seven Secrets to Winning, I expanded on what I meant by vision.
What Is A Vision?
Let’s start by defining, what is a vision? The reason I do this is to ensure that all of us are on the same page, that we’re all looking at this in the exact same way. If you think about what a vision is, it’s the desired outcome, something that you want to achieve. When you think about it, it’s thinking about the future. You’re setting the goals that you want to achieve for yourself personally. Maybe, it’s for your career or maybe for your business but a vision sets the pace in a way. You don’t want to have a vision that is easy to accomplish. A vision should be something that is a long-term goal. It’s something that you want to achieve, but yet it can be achieved. You don’t want to set a vision for yourself that’s unattainable. Then you’re just going to get discouraged and you’re going to give up and you’re not going to put forth the effort to achieve that goal. You don’t want it to be too easy either because then you’re not pushing yourself to achieve more.
A vision has to be something that you consider to be a must-have. Meaning you are so passionate about it that you will do whatever it takes to get it done and to reach that goal. If you’re not passionate about it, then you’ll always figure out a way or find some excuse that you will then rationalize yourself about why it’s either taking you so long to achieve. You’ll just continue to put it off for another day because in reality, it doesn’t matter to you that much whether you achieve it or not. The way that I look at it is that there are three different types of visions. You’ll have a personal vision, a career vision and a business vision. That doesn’t mean that you have to have all three. It depends on who you are and what’s important to you. At the very least, the most important thing is to have a personal vision. I’m going to give you examples of each. The point is that you must first decide what’s important to you and you’ve got to write it down. It’s funny, I don’t know why this is true but if you don’t write it down for some reason, it doesn’t become real.
Any goal that you’re thinking about or dream that you’re thinking about in your mind. If you don’t take that step, and it’s a teeny tiny little step to grab the pen and put it down on paper, we don’t think it’s real. It’s in our minds but there are a lot of things in our minds. More things in our minds than we care to really discuss. If you don’t put it down on paper, it is not real. It typically remains in your head as nice to have but not a must-have. If it’s not a must-have, you’re not going to get it done because must-haves are the things that we focus on. They are the things that are truly important to us and the things that we make sure we make happen. There are so many things that we want to do and we know we can’t do it all because there are only 24 hours in a day and we still have to sleep a little bit and we’ve got to work. You don’t get the full 24 hours.
Within that time, you have those must-haves or the things that are so important to you that you make time for. I mentioned that a vision is not easy to attain. It could take years to attain in some respects, depending on what your vision is. I had a vision and you all know this that I was going to be on Survivor. That was a lofty goal to say the least. Thousands of people apply for the show every year. I’ve watched the show since season one. In the year 2000 when it first aired, I knew at that time that I wanted to be a contestant but the timing wasn’t right for me. Not at that moment because I had small kids and I couldn’t focus on being on Survivor at that time. I had to put it on hold until I was ready to make it a must-have. When I made it a must-have, I wrote it down on paper. I put a plan into motion. It wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. It took me four years and nine videos that I submitted before I got picked as a contestant on the show.
A vision should help you continue to learn and grow. It should push you to higher ground to achieve more than you ever thought possible. We talked about what a vision is. You have to start by defining it and have a common understanding of what we mean by vision. I also mentioned that there are three different types of visions. You could have a personal vision, a career vision or a business vision. Let’s take a step back and break it down so that we can discuss each one of those separately. I mentioned that depending on what your needs are and where you are in your life, you must have a personal vision if you want to continue to learn and grow. All of us should always want to continue to learn and grow each and every day. This personal vision is something that is important to you and to you alone. It could be for growth and development. It could be a challenge that you put forth for yourself, but the key here is to understand that no one else can set your personal vision. It’s all about you.
Let me give you a few examples. Let’s say you’re an athlete and you’re working to perfect your craft, your sport, whatever your sport is. You go to practice every single day. You could have a vision that says, “One day, I’m going to be on the Olympic team for my sport.” You can have a vision that says something like, you want to become a professional athlete or let’s say you’re a gymnast. Your vision could be to perform a routine with the highest level of difficulty. Doing something more than you do now. These are some examples of what a personal vision could be, like for an athlete so to speak. It’s all up to you. You have to be focused and committed to doing whatever it takes to achieve your goal. It must be so important to you that it’s a non-negotiable and to do anything that it would take to make that vision come true.Be focused and committed to do whatever it takes to achieve your goal. Click To Tweet
When I tried out for Survivor, I was rejected for years. I could have given up and no one would have thought lesser of me because it was a lofty goal. It was a tough one to reach because it was not in my control to achieve it. I was waiting for other people to make decisions. I first had to get picked by the casting team. Once I made it through the casting team, I had to make it through another level with the producers of the show. Once I got past the producers, then they had to figure out if I was going to fit into the theme that they were looking for. All those stars needed to align to make my vision come true. Sometimes your vision is not 100% within your control and that’s okay. You just have to understand for yourself what you are willing to commit to doing. In the athlete examples, those elite athletes give up so much to continue to get better and stay on top of their game.
My oldest daughter was a top athlete in soccer. She was ranked in the top 100 soccer players for her birth year. She was playing soccer since she was four years old. She practiced three times a week and had games on the weekends. I used to drive her an hour to practice because the team that was good for her at her age was an hour away. There were teams that were close by, but the teams that were close by weren’t going to be able to push my daughter to get better every single day. She played up a few age groups in order to continue to improve her skills. She made all these sacrifices. When she was eleven, she was playing with thirteen-year-olds. It’s a tough schedule.
Visions aren’t easy. You have to give up a lot. She missed birthday parties, dances, prom, weddings because she then had a tournament or a game that was critical that she couldn’t miss out on. The choice was hers. I didn’t make those choices for her. You can wish for things to happen to somebody else, but your vision is your own. If she wasn’t prepared to put in the work to be the best that she could be, even if I wanted it for her, it wouldn’t happen. Your personal vision is your own. It’s important to think about what you’re looking to accomplish because you are your own accountability partner. Nobody else is for you. If Gabi went through the motions of let’s say go on a practice. Let’s say when she was at practice, she didn’t go all out and she didn’t push herself. The only one that she would be fooling would be herself.
We all know what we’re capable of and it’s up to each and every one of us to make things happen for ourselves because if you don’t do it for yourself, nobody else will do it for you. You have to challenge yourself to stay fresh no matter what it is you’re trying to perfect. It could be learning a new skill. It could be learning a new industry. Whatever it is, you cannot stay comfortable. You have to continue to challenge the status quo. Don’t get comfortable in your day-to-day lives. Make yourself comfortable with being uncomfortable because that is the only way to learn and grow. This is what a personal vision is. It’s something that is so important to you. It’s something that you have a passion for, that you are passionate about and that you are willing to fully commit to achieving. That’s why it’s so important because it’s all about you. The time and effort and what you put into your vision are critical.
I was talking about personal vision. I gave you the example of Gabi, my oldest daughter to be a college athlete, to play at the highest level. For her, it actually worked out but sometimes it doesn’t always work out. My younger daughter also had the same vision. She too was playing soccer since she was four years old and wanted to play in college as well. In her senior year, she tore her ACL and she lost an entire year of playing soccer and therefore lost the opportunity to get a scholarship and fulfill that dream. She was disappointed. She probably wished that she could have done it, but things happen, and you have to adjust and move on. Some things that are out of your control, you can’t let that take you down. She didn’t let that get her down. She went to college. She had a great time at college. She learned a lot. It’s a stretch goal.
Visions are stretching you, but when things are out of your control, you have to move on and choose a different path. Dani graduated from college and got her Master’s and is continuing to pursue getting a doctorate degree to be a professor. She readjusted her vision and sometimes you have to do that. That doesn’t mean that she gave up and that you should not allow yourself to give up just because things get hard. That’s what makes us grow. When things are tough, those are the things that we learn from the most. Think about your personal vision and set aside a vision. If things are out of your control, don’t get yourself down, readjust, move on and continue moving forward. Continue learning, growing and pushing yourself. If you don’t do that for yourself, nobody else will. That was an example of a personal vision.
Let’s talk about a career vision. It’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a vision that you have for yourself related to your career. You must answer the questions for yourself. What do I want to do? Many times, we take a job because we have too at the time. We need the money. We have to pay bills. Think of this, we spend most of our time at work. We have much less time at home doing the fun stuff that we love to do. If you’re in a job that’s not rewarding and you don’t feel like you’re going anywhere or you don’t feel like your contributing towards your personal vision, you’re not going to feel fulfilled. You’re going to eventually hate it and want to quit. If you don’t specifically create a career focus vision for yourself, you’ll see that the weeks are going to turn into months and the months are going to turn to years.Make yourself comfortable with being uncomfortable because that is the only way to learn and grow. Click To Tweet
When you’re ready to retire, you’re going to look back and you’re going to say, “I should have done whatever that is. I should have done this. I should have done that. I wish I would have.” Don’t let yourself fall into that trap. Think about what your passion is and find a job that links to it. It’s not always easy because you have to find a career that you love. You have to find a company that you connect with where you can align with their culture. That’s when you become satisfied. The most satisfied people at work are the ones who truly enjoy what they’re doing. Many times when that happens, you don’t even feel like you’re working. You get fulfilled every day by doing what you love to do.
I remember talking to one of my girlfriends on Survivor who works for SeaWorld. She hangs with the dolphins and the whales and trains them all day long. That is her passion. She absolutely loves it. You can see when she talks about her career, the smile on her face. She’s fulfilled every day. That is the career where the vision was linked to something that she loved doing. You have to find a career that is going to give you that joy because if it’s great, you’re going to feel excited about it. If it’s not, you’re not going to want to be there and you’re going to fall into that trap of, “Woe is me. My job sucks and I don’t know what I’m supposed to do about it.” None of us want to spend ten hours a day at a job that we don’t like. We’d rather spend it learning and growing. It’s up to you to create that career adventure for yourself. We talked about a personal vision where you’re pushing yourself to either learn a new skill or to achieve something greater than you’ve done to date. A career focus vision where you’re attempting to maybe climb up the corporate ladder or you’re breaking into something new and different.
The last thing is a business vision. It’s a little bit different. It is what it sounds like. It is all about business. It’s all about making sales or growing market share or constantly innovating to stay relevant in the ever-changing environment. These visions are usually linked to maybe a company or a company that you own or a corporation. It could be a business owner. It could be a national sales leader. It could be the CEO of a company. If you fall into this category, it is also imperative that you have a vision because in these cases, you’re responsible for other people. With a personal vision, you’re only accountable to yourself. With a career vision, you’re also accountable for what you need to do. In a business vision, you’re setting the tone of the company. You’re setting the guidelines, the goals and the purpose of this business.
People are looking to you to define their path, to understand the goals and objectives of the company, to show them why you are in business and what you’re trying to accomplish. What problems are you solving for your customers? These are all the questions that your team will need to understand from you. If you’re running a business and you don’t have a business vision, stop what you’re doing right now and get to work because other people are counting on you to share that with them. It’s imperative that you have this, or your people will not know what they should be doing. They won’t know when they’re successful. This type of vision is complex because there are so many layers within organizations that you have to deal with. If you’re a CEO for example, you need to define the roadmap for your entire team. You need to ensure that they truly understand what your vision is for the company so much so that when they walk out of that meeting, they can now feel a part of it and understand how they can help to achieve it. Everyone must be on the same page. There lies the problem.
I’ll give you an example. I was working with the senior team, the CEO and his direct reports. I was doing a strategic planning session for them. When I was talking to each of them individually, they all didn’t seem to be on the same page. At the meeting, I went around the room and I asked each of them to describe the purpose of the company. Why are you in business? What are you trying to accomplish? What is the purpose of the company? I would not let the CEO go first. What are your goals and objectives? What are you focused on? To the surprise of the CEO, I was not surprised because I knew this already. When his team began to speak and talk about what they thought was the purpose, it was not at all what he had in mind. None of his team understood his vision. The reason was that it was not crystal clear to him yet because he still needed to refine it, to work through the true essence of his purpose for the company.
If you’re the one in charge and you set the stage for your organization, for your company and for your team and if you’re a wishy-washy or unsure, then everyone else will be as well. There’s no possible way for them not to because you are sharing with them things that are unclear. That doesn’t mean that you just rush into something because Carolyn said you have to have a vision. It has to be a well-thought-out vision. Let me give you another example. I was working for a large company and there was a division of the company that was in a risky business. It was in this do or die mode, meaning that the CEO said to the president of that division, “You need to increase market share by X percent and bring in revenue of how many millions,” and it was very clear cut. That number was non-negotiable. The vision was clear. They had to increase market share by X and they had to bring in the revenue of Y, whatever that is. “You either make the number or we’re selling off the division because it’s costing us money that we don’t have.”
The president of that division knew exactly what he had to do. It was crystal clear and it was a stretch goal. It was tough but he wanted to maintain that division. He met with his senior team. He shared the vision of the company. They were going to retake control of their business. They were going to get every single solitary person in that division to understand what that goal was and what the consequences of not achieving it were and how they fit into the plan. The bottom line was that they made it. They succeeded because they focused on what they needed to focus on and everyone was in lockstep together. That is what a business vision is.Visions stretch you, but when things are out of your control, you just have to move on and choose a different path. Click To Tweet
We’ve been talking about the different types of vision. It may sound pretty easy to create a vision but let me tell you, for most of us, it’s very difficult. It’s only a two-step process to creating a vision. First, you have to define what you stand for and why you exist. Second, you have to be able to articulate effectively your aspirations for the future. These two steps are very difficult. Let me tell you from experience, they can be tough. Why is it so difficult? Because we get lost in both the past and the future. We think about all the things that have happened to us already up until now. We’re obsessed over the wrong decisions that we made. We all make bad decisions sometimes. That’s a part of life. That’s a part of learning and growing. We think about with regret of some of the choices that we’ve made and others that we should have made but didn’t. We can’t change the past. I always say don’t “should” on yourself, because the past is gone.
The Two-Step Process To Creating A Vision
You have control over the future. That’s the beauty. You have the ability to change the course right now. Even knowing that you have the ability to change course, some people get lost in the future because there are so many endless possibilities. You can take this road, you can take that road, you can go here and you can go there. There are so many twists, turns and choices and so little time. In this instance, because there are so many options, some people get lost in the options and can’t truly focus on just one. Then nothing gets done because you’ve started sixteen different things and you never finish any of them because everything’s halfway done. You’re not focused. Then you get frustrated and then you go back into your comfort zone, which is the very worst place to be. Don’t get stuck in your comfort zone because that’s the one place where you do not learn and grow.
Crafting your vision is not as easy as one would think, which is why so many people don’t have a vision. Think about it this way. If you don’t have a vision, what you’re really doing is pursuing someone else’s vision, because you’re following someone else. What are you doing for yourself? Nothing, because you don’t have it. You haven’t thought about it. Do you want to spend time achieving somebody else’s vision and not your own? There are going to be times in your life when you have to do things for others. I’m not saying to not do that, but there’s also a time that you set aside to do things for yourself. It takes the same time and effort to pursue your own vision. Take some of that extra time back and define your purpose. Define it out loud. Define what you stand for and what your passion is. Scream it from the rooftops if you have to, but get it done because those days of fulfilling someone else’s vision are over.
Do you know the song, It’s My Time? I love that song because it’s your time. I used that song on my Survivor tape, the first one I did. I didn’t get picked that year, but it was my time eventually. You have to take the time to create your future. To have a vision that defines who you are and what you’re all about. That’s what I’m talking about. The time is now. First, you need the right mindset. It’s that can-do mindset. Step one is you have to believe in yourself. You have to believe in your skill set. You have to believe in your dreams. You have to believe that you are worthy of pursuing those dreams. This can’t be wishy-washy. You must believe in your own ability to accomplish those dreams because too many times we tell ourselves that we can’t. We’re harder on ourselves than anyone else. Sometimes that pushes us down.
This is one of my pet peeves. Worst yet, we tell ourselves that we are going to try. I’m going to go off on a tangent a little bit because this is one of my pet peeves. There are two things that I urge you right now to stay away from and to eliminate from your vocabulary. The first is I should have, “I should have done this. I should have done that,” and try. The “should haves” are useful for one thing and one thing only, to learn from. If you can learn from your mistakes and if you will learn not to make those same mistakes again, check off that box because that is impressive. That’s what you want in the future. You don’t want to make the same mistake twice. You can’t change the past, so don’t relive it over and over again.
The second is when you say you’re going to try because when you use that silly little word, that horrible word try, you are giving yourself a pass to fail because you can always say, “I tried.” Eliminate that word from your vocabulary right this moment. For example, if you say you’re going to try to run an eight-minute mile and you don’t run that. You don’t feel bad because you tried. It’s much better to say, “I’m going to run an eight-minute mile, and if it doesn’t happen now, then I know what I need to do going forward to make it happen.” It’s much more powerful to say it that way and not to give up. Take that oath right now. Don’t fall into those traps that we just discussed. Eliminate those words from your vocabulary and you’ll be on your way to getting yourself focused on the things that you’re passionate about.
Vision is so important for all of us. It’s just two little steps. First, you have to determine what your purpose is and what your passion is. You must define it for yourself. There are three different types of vision. The personal vision, that’s non-negotiable. Everyone has to have it. That’s something for yourself. It could be personal development. It could be to fulfill a dream. No one can determine that except for you. It’s not a once and done. You may achieve your vision and then go on to the next one. Think of it as achieving some of your bucket list items. Next, we talked about a career-focused vision. We talked about the fact that each of us goes to work every single day and we spend a lot of time there. We certainly don’t want to spend time doing things that are not fulfilling. You want to focus on what your career should be. How does it link to who you are and what you want to accomplish? You have to plan for it. If you don’t plan for it, nobody else will.When things are tough, those are the things that we learn from the most. Click To Tweet
We talked about a business vision. It’s so important. If you’re running a company, if you’re leading people, if you own your own business, you need to know why you’re in business. What is the value that you’re providing to your customers? Because your people need to know that. They need to understand what the goals and objectives are and what it takes to get there. You have to be crystal clear because if you’re not crystal clear about it, they can’t be. You can’t get other people on board if you’re not. Don’t get stuck in the past. You can’t change the past but you can learn from it. Learn from it and move on. Don’t get overwhelmed with the future. There are so many possibilities but find the ones that linked to who you are and that linked to what you’re passionate about. Think about the title, Are You Nearsighted or Farsighted in Your Vision? Are you looking just for the things that are right in front of you? Or are you opening up your mind to challenge the status quo? That is what I mean about vision.