“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable” – Dwight D. Eisenhower
Life can certainly be a battle, and the decisions we make can mean personal victory or defeat. So how does planning influence the achievement of one’s vision? The key to success lies in the simplicity of the goals. Vision statements, as noted in J.B. Farrell’s recent article, “Should You Have a Personal Vision Statement?”, can help ensure that when you reach the pinnacle of the mountain you’re climbing, you haven’t been climbing the wrong mountain. By considering what future outcomes you hope to experience, you can begin to formulate criteria with which to make decisions. Acting according to your criteria will enable you to get where you want to go. Keeping your vision statement limited to philosophies and values instead of specific steps and directions allows flexibility in the paths you choose. It keeps things simple and achievable; it focuses on victory, not perfection!
Start right where you are
To formulate an effective vision statement, begin with evaluating your current situation. Ask yourself thought-provoking questions, and be honest with your answers. This is crucial, because you must know where you are now to determine how to get to where you want to be. Here are some questions to start you off:
- What are you currently doing with your time, money, resources, and energy?
- Why are you doing it?
- How satisfied are you with your current choices? With their results?
Next: What do you want on your tombstone?
How do you want to be remembered by your family, friends, and associates? Think about what your true values are. Examine these in all aspects of your life; faith, relationships, health, education, work, finances, and ministry. This time, be as idealistic as you want – this is about your dreams!
How do you envision yourself at your best? How does it make you feel to see yourself living that life? Savor the picture enough to remember it.
Now comes the tough question; how closely do your first answers match up with your second ones? How well do your actions, decisions, and behaviors reflect that ideal you? The answer may be painful, but don’t give up yet!
Getting from here to there…
Bridging the gap between where you are now and where you want to be is the motivation behind the vision statement. Seeing your vision in print will help you maintain your course when tough choices might otherwise throw you off. This is where you have to be careful to not get bogged down in details, but instead formulate general umbrella-type philosophies. The specifics can be used to help set goals later, but your vision statement needs to stay simple. Remember your core values and that “ideal you” as you write out these ideas. Here are some examples to consider:
“I want to cherish my spouse and children. I want my children to value compassion. I want to lead by example. I don’t want all my financial eggs in one basket. I want to live my value of continual education and personal growth. I want to be someone who builds others up, caring more about their needs than my own desires. I want to act in a way that allows others to see the goodness of the object of my faith”.
Once you have formulated your thoughts, prioritize them. This way, when opposite decisions for the same dilemma seem to both fit parts of your vision, you can determine which one is the most important to fulfill. For example, if you get a job offer for a second job (financial eggs in different baskets) but it means lots of time away from the family (cherish your spouse and children), you can determine which one takes precedence in order to reach that “ideal you”. The simpler you can condense your vision to be, the easier it will be to remember and maintain it.
When the results are in…
As you begin to internalize your vision, you’ll be able to choose wisely in accordance with your stated values. These choices might be as little as a walk with your spouse instead of a Sunday afternoon nap. They can make a difference in the words you choose when you’re tired and frustrated. Your prioritization can help with harder decisions too, such as whether or not to take a class or a second job when the opportunity arises.
Be patient with yourself, both in crafting your vision and in fulfilling it. Old habits are hard to break, and sometimes current circumstances take awhile to adjust. Likewise, if you’ve never really stopped to think about your “ideal you” before, it may take time to determine what you really want in life. Remember, too, that philosophies are meant to enable flexibility. Life changes, and sometimes our visions and priorities must change with them. However; if you’ve taken time to think through your vision, you’ll find yourself achieving victory in the battle of life!