Leadership Skills Essentials: Vision
There is real skill in being able to visualize a future that is not the default future. This talent has been coined different names: visualization, mental imagery, and even reality distortion field (in the case of Apple’s late Steve Jobs). Top olympic athletes win, not based on talent and hard work alone, but based on their capacity to visualize their winning game or race. These athletes visualization technics are such that their bodies respond, in present time, as if they were in fact at the end game – heart racing at lightening speed, sweat dripping from their forehead, heat rising in their bodies.
Leaders have to master visualization and then learn to embody the visualized future in real time. When no one else can see this future, a powerful leader is making present time decisions, and acting in accordance with, this future imagery. Add charisma to this skill and you have a award winning recipe.
In my experience, most leaders can identify future goals, but have a much harder time visualizing a comprehensive future image, be it of their own life, or the future of an organization and team. Furthermore, when leaders typically do visualize this designed future, they fail to embody this vision day-to-day. A vision written on a piece of paper, is not enough. The key is to turn present time decisions in light of this future. I have a few key tools for writing a powerful vision, and I also have a few key practices to help leaders embody this vision.
Tools for Writing a Powerful Vision:
- start by establishing the key areas of your life (often referred to as domains of life, in the coaching jargon): for example, I have a category called mother and a category called creative expression, as well as work, community, and spirituality. I think everyone needs a relationships category (with sub categories), health and well-being, and creative expression. I also think that money, and hobbies or free time are critical. Without knowing what we would love to create that isn’t work related, we will have a harder time finding balance and freedom.
- place yourself some time into the future: this is where the mental visualization is so important. If you write a vision without firmly establishing when is this vision happening, things may get jumbled and confusing. Are you one, three, or five years out? I was taught to write visions three years out, as a starting point, as it provides enough time for us to trick our subconscious that we can make this happen, while not being so far out that it is too hard to place more definite imagery. These days I work on a three year vision first, and then imagine what life is like 18 months from now, assuming this 3-year vision is a reality. It helps me in being even more concrete about my longings and desires.
- write in the positive: you have a negativity bias. Everyone does! Therefore, if you write down what you do not want, your mind will be extra focused on that. Instead, use your vision as an opportunity to shift your focus from what you do not want, to everything that you would like to create. It is harder to write what we want, because we often do not ask ourselves this question. We do not spend a lot of time contemplating what our heart’s longings are, unless we purposefully take the time to do so. This is your time. Use your vision as an opportunity to dig deeper, and to let go of conditions and constraints. I know what you are thinking! “karen, but the reality is…” And, yes I know – you have bills to pay and commitments to take care of. Yet, when you allow yourself to remain in the positive, you will open yourself up to ideas that you could otherwise miss. Try this out!
There is a lot more to visioning but this is a good start!
Next, after you write down your vision, here are some tools to put this vision into practice:
- start your day with a to-be list: as strange as this may sound at first, the trick to realizing a vision is not in identifying the necessary action steps. The trick is to first embody this vision by changing our way of being, in the present moment, in accordance with the vision we would like to realize. I remember attending a relationship workshop years ago and hearing this concept, that single men and women needed to embody the ‘I am in love’ state of mind, to attract love. It was a weird concept to me at the time, but today this makes total sense. If I walk around resentful that I don’t have the relationship I want (or the money in the bank, or the house, and you can fill in the blank), I am putting myself in a vibrational frequency that resonates with the very opposite of what I want to attract. Mahatma Gandhi said this many years ago “become the change you would like to see in the world.” He did not say go after the change you want, he said become that. What state of being is most resonant with this vision you wrote down? Wear that on like you would wear a brand new suit or dress.
- have a gratitude practice in place: although this may seem unrelated, placing ourselves in a state of gratitude shifts our focus from scarcity (what is not presently here), to abundance (everything that is already here). Honestly, if you are reading this blog post at the comfort of a chair, with a personal computer and phone, and access to WiFi, you already have a few things to be grateful for. I love writing my gratitude down, because it firms on paper what I like to be reminded of. My gratitude practice has evolved and I find that scanning my day for the smallest and most specific things that would otherwise get forgotten in the hustle of the day to day, is most effective. I do this every night, before going to sleep, which also sets the tone for a great and restful night.
- ask powerful questions: yes, at some point you will need to take action steps toward your vision. To do that, I like to begin by asking myself some powerful questions around the very specific things I like to create. I like to start these questions with “what opportunities are available to me, today, to ______?” When I allow my mind to scan my day-to-day for these opportunities to create what I want, I begin to find answers. It is not magic, it is just a matter of focus. Have you ever noticed how easy it is to find the shoes you so wanted, when you put some effort in trying to find these shoes? You look, and you shall find!
If you want to have a tool to help you put your vision into practice, and if you would like further guidance in writing your vision, check out my Daily Memoir, a 90-day practice I have created for my clients wanting to turn vision into reality! FIND OUT MORE HERE.