Your personal vision statement is the image of your desired future—a glimpse of where you hope to end up. It’s like the picture on the box of a jigsaw puzzle, serving as a reminder of the finished image, the ultimate goal.
The concept of a personal vision statement is pretty straightforward to understand. But getting to the point where you’re holding your own individual vision in-hand? I’ll be honest: it’s an endeavor. One that takes some work.
But it’s a great journey. (And I’ve mapped out every step to help you along.)
Today, let’s talk about:
- The challenges of creating a personal vision statment
- The tools you’ll need to get yours done
3 Challenges to Creating Your Personal Vision Statement
Defining your personal vision statement is an exciting, rewarding, and extremely important process. But it brings its own challenges.
While these challenges are decidedly different than those you encounter when discovering your purpose, they’re no less important.
Let’s talk about what to expect:
Challenge #1: Planning
Let’s define an important difference:
Many people confuse an individual vision statement with an action plan.
We’re so oriented toward getting things done that we often jump past envisioning in our impatience to get on with it—to begin “making progress.”
But is getting on with it really so great?
Remember the story of the person who spends his life busily climbing a tall ladder—and finally reaches the top! But when he does, he discovers that all along, the ladder has been leaning up against the wrong building.
So he’s ended up doing a lot—but not getting to the right place.
I’ve met this person more times than I care to share.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s a time and a place for plans. But this isn’t it. Visioning time is a time for dreaming. It’s a time for creating the fuel that will help ignite future plans—not for creating the plans themselves.
If you focus on plans when you should be visioning—if you focus on the how or that what—your fuel will have no fire, no reason for being.
A Japanese proverb gets to the heart of this:
Challenge #2: Conservatism
Your personal vision statement is for you. So be bold! Not just because you can, but because this is what works.
In creating an individual vision, most people skip over ideals and dreams and instead describe their picture of the end-game in terms that seem realistically achievable.
That is NOT what a vision is for.
Don’t fall into the trap of realism or conservatism.
Your personal vision should inspire you. So if it seems sort of crazy, that’s okay!
Your vision is your why—your fuel and hope. So create your vision without any regard for how it will be achieved or what you currently imagine to be realistic.
If you don’t do this, you’re not actually creating a vision. You’re creating a plan. (See above.)
When you read over your vision, you shouldn’t think about next steps. You should just feel excited and inspired.
Many people get tears in their eyes when they read their personal vision statements, because they are personally meaningful, inspiring, and therefore emotional.
Don’t shy away from this! It can be a vulnerable process, but it’s worth every minute. Embrace it.
And here’s an inspiring truth: purpose and vision are so powerful that they often lead to outcomes you never could have imagined possible. So be brave. Dream big.
And write it down.
Challenge #3: Inertia
Simply put, it’s often difficult to get started on your personal vision statement. As you contemplate this big-picture view of your future, a sort of writer’s block often occurs.
That’s when it’s time to dig into your personal-vision toolkit:
3 Tools for Creating Your Personal Vision Statement
With challenges out of the way, let’s get to the good news:
I have a BIG set of tools to help you crank out a meaningful and inspiring personal vision statement. Actually, I have an entire course to walk you through every step. (I’ve been helping people with this for over 3 decades, so I’m not messing around.)
Let’s look at 3 basic tools and tips:
Tool #1: Be Outrageous
At the outset, it’s not important that you know how to get somewhere. That will come later, when you employ strategies to live out your personal vision.
For now, it’s only important that you figure out where you’re going.
This makes me think of one of my daughters, who prefers to wear a compass on her wrist instead of a watch. When you ask her why, she’ll tell you that it’s more important to know where you’re going than when you’re going to get there.
When & how don’t matter right now. We’re just looking to point the compass in a meaningful direction.
We’re defining the destination, not setting the course.
Make it an inspiring and exciting destination! Think of it as your dream vacation—your ultimate “happy ending.”
Tool #2: Start Writing
We overcome writer’s block by writing, not by staring at the page.
So part of the personal visioning process is to just start writing. Wander with your words, ignore grammar, disregard spelling. Just go.
Stuck? Here’s a tip:
Find a trusted helper, and invite them to assist you in the just-start-writing process by asking specific questions about how you picture different aspects of your future. This can be a huge help in getting started.
If your helper doesn’t know where to begin, you can give them this outline of life areas, to help spark ideas and questions:
Jot down notes (bullet points are a great start) with whatever pops into your brain as you picture your future.
How do you behave?
How do people respond to you?
How do you feel?
Use heartfelt words—terms that have meaning for you.
After you’ve spent a few weeks keeping notes, you will see patterns emerging. Your personal vision is beginning to take shape.
(If you need help seeing that shape, just get in touch. An outside perspective and be a quick and huge help.)
Tool #3: Future-Past Words
As you look back over your notes and begin formulating them into a statement or document describing your vision of the future, revise statements like “I will do this. I will change this. I need to accomplish X.”
Phrases like these can trick you into thinking of action plans versus the end result.
By contrast, the art of what I call “future-past” phrasing helps you picture yourself in the future, enjoying a state in which your personal vision has already become reality.
To help you climb into the future and look back, use terminology that communicates accomplishment: “I will have behaved like this. I will have felt this. I will have had the satisfaction of X. I will have seen the fruits of Y.”
Don’t get bogged down with this detail as you first start jotting down notes and dreams. But once you get to the step of finalizing your vision statement, pay attention to this wording. It helps ensure you’re actually picturing your ideal outcome—which is the entire point of envisioning!
Also, to ensure you’re not getting caught up in the how or when, stop yourself from qualifying statements with “if.” This just dilutes what you really want.
So don’t write, “If I have a big enough income, I will fund an orphanage in Africa.”
Instead, be audacious with your goals: “ I will have created an orphanage in Africa.”
Clear. Bold. Inspiring.
Just like your vision.