Purpose and vision are 2 of the most impactful tools that you, as a leader, can bring to your team—and that you, as a person, can bring to your life! These are the building blocks to your future, the picture of who you are and where you want to end up.
We often hear about the importance of having a personal vision or of understanding our life purpose. In our work lives, we are told that strong leaders hold a vision—and that when we live out our purpose, a fulfilling career will follow. There’s even a great deal of spiritual discussion around these concepts: Proverbs, for example, teaches that “where there is no vision, the people perish.”
This is all well and good. But where should you begin? With a clear definition of what purpose and vision are:
Your purpose is what you’re built for. And in every case I’ve ever seen, it’s also what makes you come alive, what lights you up.
Many people who have completed my life-purpose discovery process explain purpose as their center, essence, engine, or fountain of meaning.
Metaphorically, our purpose is like an internal microchip; it’s how we’re wired.
Understanding your purpose will give you the conviction to design your vision statement and the incentive to see it through.
We can describe vision in less esoteric terms: it is the ideal picture, the endgame, the result that you imagine for your future.
A vision is like the photo on the box of a jigsaw puzzle: it shows what you’re shooting for—gives you an image to check your progress against. In work or life, operating without a vision (as most do) is like assembling puzzle pieces with no picture of how it’s meant to look at the end.
How are purpose and vision different?
Broadly, purpose is something you discover while vision is something you create.
Meanwhile, creating a vision is more a process of acknowledging what your ideal future looks like, so that you can leverage your purpose to begin moving toward that vision with intentionality.
As you begin to think about your own purpose and vision for the future, keep in mind that in practice, these 2 essentials feed on each other, informing each other as you progress through the lifelong process of discovering, forming, and refining each one.
Together, purpose and vision function like a rolling wheel, wherein the cycle might look like this:
This is not a black-and-white, start-stop process. It’s an ongoing, continuous interchange that progresses with you.
When you start down this visioning path, you can begin with either purpose or vision; I’ve seen both work successfully. In fact, the first step in my discussions with clients is never to determine which comments constitute purpose and which fit into vision, but to help people get comfortable with discussing the things that really matter to them.
It’s not terminology or categorization that’s important. It’s the process—one that should become an exciting and essential part of the rest of your life.