I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of having a clear, compelling vision to get you past all of life’s challenges and obstacles.
In fact, it prompted me to do a little research about some of our society’s most successful people. For example, did you know that:
- Einstein’s teachers told his parents he would never amount to anything.
- Thomas Edison went broke four times.
- Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
- A newspaper editor fired Walt Disney for having no good ideas.
- Steven Spielberg was put into a class for students with learning disabilities.
- Colonel Sanders talked to 1005 people before he could find one person willing to try his recipe. That makes his closing ratio 1005 to one – undeniably the worst I’ve ever seen.
What’s inspiring to me about these highly successful people isn’t just their eventual accomplishments. It’s how they were able to overcome their early failures and go on to achieve greatness.
How did they succeed where so many others fail? Because they each had a grand and sincere vision of what they wanted to accomplish. With a grand vision, there are no such things as permanent failures. There are only temporary setbacks.
Ultimate success comes from having a strong vision. To me, a strong vision is all about setting clear goals. So how can you find your ultimate vision? Try asking yourself some of the following questions:
What do you want to have?
Brainstorm wildly with this one, and don’t hold back. List everything you’ve ever dreamed of having. A new BMW. A trip around the world. Or maybe just a couple of beach houses in Maui. Whatever it is you desire, write it here.
What do you want to experience?
Perhaps a new culture? Parenthood? Or simply the pleasure of never again having to call anyone else "boss"?
What are you willing to give up?
Achieving what you want is about making and managing choices, so ask yourself what you’re willing to give up in order to achieve your goals.
If you want to grow your business by 50% this year, for example, maybe you have to give up your C-rated customers. Maybe you have to give up an hour of sleep a night so you can come into the office and make your sales calls earlier. Or maybe you have to give up working out seven days a week to stay at the office later.
What’s your ideal environment?
What is the ideal environment you like to work and play in? What do you want to do with your time outside of work, or when you go home? Maybe it’s riding motorcycles, learning to cook or writing a screenplay. Maybe it’s having children, or spending time with your family. Or it might just be as simple as going to the beach, reading trashy novels or watching more movies.
If you’re staring outside at a blizzard and feel tears begin to well up in your eyes, maybe your ideal place to work and play is in Florida or the Barbados. On the other hand, if the first snowflake sends you running for your skis, you’re probably already in the right place.
What are you grateful for?
Record where you are today, and compare it to where you were two, three, five or even 10 years ago. Note the differences, celebrate your successes – and resolve to change those things in your life you aren’t happy with.
How long do you expect to live – and when do you want to retire?
What do you plan to do after you retire? What do you want to achieve? And if you end up living ten years longer than you expected to, what will you do with your time then?
For that matter, why wait? Is there anything on your retirement wish list you can start doing right now?
When answering these questions, make sure you spend some uninterrupted thinking time. It could be on an airplane or train, on weekends, in front of the fire or while you’re on vacation. Ideally, you should choose someplace that’s both comfortable and stimulating. But wherever you do your thinking, don’t give the development of your vision short shrift. After all, as U.S. Senator Conrad Burns reminds us:
"In life you are given two ends, one to think with and the other to sit on. Your success in life depends on which end you use the most. Heads you win, tails you lose."
Once you have the answers to these questions, surround yourself with people who will help you achieve your vision. My father always said – Colleen, if you want to be rich, study from people who are already rich. Similarly, you will more easily achieve your vision if you associate with people who are already living it. This is the concept of behavior congruence that I discussed on my blog on December 3, 2006.
Of course, things change over time, so be sure to revisit your answers at least once a year to make sure your vision stays up to date with your lifestyle and what you’ve accomplished. It’s okay for your vision to be dynamic, just so long as what doesn’t change is your commitment to it.
Regardless of any short-term changes that occur in your life, however, you may be surprised to find that your grand vision hardly changes at all. If you answer the questions above as honestly as you can, your vision today will likely be very similar to the vision you create five years from now, because they will both come from your core hopes, dreams and values.
Congratulations on taking the required steps for a successful year and beyond. Feel free to send me your vision and goals for the year. It would be my pleasure to hold you accountable for achieving them!