Ten years ago I began writing a book – the first line “my vision was vague, but it didn’t look like this.” Fast forward and the vision is no longer vague. It’s specific, it ties in with my values and there are very real goals attached. In short, I learned what personal leadership is, and its profoundly positive effect.
Lacking vision is an aimless and lonely feeling
There’s a saying – “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Meant to be motivational, I always felt on the outside of the statement. In part because I felt it was a more masculine phrase, but also because for a long time, I didn’t feel very tough. What I did feel was aimless, directionless and lonely.
That was back in my 20’s and my life felt stalled.
I’d graduated from university, spent a remarkable year with the international group, Up With People, returning to find myself alone and without any idea of what might be next. Instead of crafting a vision of possibilities from that year of travel, I felt adrift.
Up until then, the path had been laid out for me. Expectations about schooling and then begin work, of some sort. I’d chosen the year of travel, but it hadn’t brought me any closer to choosing a direction or creating a vision for my life.
My friends were all moving towards big career goals. I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Does that sound familiar? Perhaps you’ve said it yourself, half joking. But it’s no joke, when you can’t connect the dots of your skills and interests.
Loss of personal vision, loss of personal leadership
Personal leadership is the answer to the dilemma, but how does one develop such a thing? Is it taught or is it intrinsic? Nature or nurture? I think the answer is – all of the above.
What I do know, is it can be squeezed out of you. It’s possible to teach someone they’ve no value and won’t amount to much. An effective means to quash ideas of creating a life of purpose. Just ask anyone who has been in an abusive relationship. It also happens to children and teens who have been bullied.
My interests got a thumb down from my family. From involvement with the family business, to pursuing a stage career, to consideration of teaching or social work. I kept looking for external validation and approval and instead was met with criticism, negativity or indifference. This isn’t a recipe for success.
To develop a vision, start with what you enjoy
If personal leadership pivots on the ability to formulate a vision for your life, how do you overcome the idea that what you have to offer is neither special nor important? I believe you start with what you enjoy, add more of it into your life and look for how it can benefit others.
How does this help someone who is trying to build their life? To create a vision, a goal?
As a start, you become a part of something larger than yourself. Connection to others, being a member of a community and using your skill is a way to build up your own sense of value while bringing value to others. There are few things more fulfilling than doing something you enjoy and then finding ways to make it better for others.
A great vision includes benefits to others
When we’re trying to formulate a vision, it starts with a question – what do I want. There is a second question that helps you define the answer. How can what you want to achieve be a benefit to others? The path, of determining what you want doesn’t necessarily reveal itself all at once. It’s why taking steps to begin following an interest will help you decide some of those finer points.
Consider for example an interest in sewing (or podcasting or fly fishing).
On your own, you’ve done a few projects. When you see a local shop is providing classes, you’re interested and sign up. Over the span of the course you get to know others and begin hearing about other events and courses. Then you hear about a new project for people in a senior’s residence. They’re looking for volunteers to assist. Signing up, you not only get to know a few people from the original group better, but some amazing seniors.
Every week you look forward to getting together with your community. Soon,you begin to think about some outreach projects which would bring this skill to a larger population. As you talk it up with a few others, you decide to form a committee. You find yourself busier and more connected than you’d imagined could happen.
Personal leadership is a process, not a destination
Is this your job? No. Will it be? Who knows.
The point however is that through the process you’ve come to understand that not only can you sew (run a podcast or create fly fishing ties), you also have an ability to connect with people.
The benefits are several. First, you’ve allowed yourself to do something you enjoy. Then you put yourself a little further into the world. Finally, you set out a goal to help someone else and was able to achieve it. These are all a part of the process of creating your vision.
None of us are islands. Not at work, not in our communities or in the world. Choosing and following a path gives you the gifts of new experiences, new connections and new opportunities.
Vision, personal power, success
One of the hardest things, is being taught you have no worth. The second hardest thing is not feeling you have the ability to solve problems as they come up.
Without self worth and self efficacy, you lose sight of your internal vision, of what life could be. That loss compounds to a loss of a sense of personal power to make change, for yourself or others. Overcoming this narrow and limiting view is very liberating; and as we know, success leads to success.
Personal leadership is not a one shot deal. It’s an ongoing journey into setting a course, travelling it and correcting and expanding as time goes on. Just because you are unsure now, doesn’t mean that you will always be. Give yourself the gift of starting down a path, of choosing what you want and then believing in yourself to handle what comes up along the way.
If you feel stuck, don’t have a vision or are trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up, know you aren’t alone. If you need help in moving your life ahead, contact me. I can help. I’ve been there.
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