V is for Vision. Why you need vision to fulfil your potential. This post is part of our blog series, The A to Z of Being Babyproof, a celebration of the attitudes and behaviours it takes to balance career and family – because “babyproof” is not a destination, it’s a blueprint for having it all and making it work.
Noun def: “the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom”
The English language is a complex and beautiful thing. We have a rich vocabulary of words – many of which mean similar things but are slightly nuanced in interpretation. Think about the concept (above) of an imaginative projection into the future – how would you describe it? A vision, a dream, foresight, insight, an objective, an aspiration, a goal, a wish?
Well – this is actually a definition of ‘vision’ as a mental concept. It’s more than a goal or objective which is short-term and specific; it implies more responsibility and intent than a wish which doesn’t take ownership of the future, and it is bolder in scope and definition than the vaguer dream or aspiration. When Martin Luther King famously said “I have a dream”, he was actually talking about his grand vision for the future of black people in America – it was a vision because it was bold, well-defined, and rooted in personal values, ambition and real possibility.
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Inspiring stuff – and a brilliant example of why I believe having a ‘vision’ is key to taking control of your life, steering it where you want it to go, and ultimately fulfilling your potential.
This became all too clear to me in my own life. When I was working in the City, I had no ‘vision’. Sure, I had short-term goals and vague dreams; to get to the end of a tough project, make it through to the weekend, save for a deposit on a flat or take a holiday. Imposter syndrome meant I was terrified of being exposed and convinced my luck would run out – I was so busy keeping a low profile and trying to hold onto what I had, I didn’t dare look up to consider what lay beyond the horizon. I had run out of ideas and never gave myself time to think boldly about what I wanted in a wider future. Also somewhere in the back of my mind was the belief that if I came out and acknowledged what I wanted, if I shared my ambitious ideas, that this would jinx me! It was only years later that I was able to engage with and ultimately define my personal vision of a successful entrepreneurial future as a working mum.
If this resonates with you and you find yourself with hopes and dreams which you are currently afraid to articulate, or if a lack of a defined vision is preventing you from making important decisions – or even if you just don’t know what you want from life – then this blog is for you.
I want to show you why, in order to succeed and fulfil your potential, you need a big compelling vision of your future and not just small goals, or woolly hopes and dreams – and I will describe how you can successfully create this vision, avoiding mistakes along the way.
So, what can ‘vision’ do for you?
1. Vision is a powerful motivator.
Consider what it’s like when you’re climbing a mountain and can only see the steep path ahead or the obstacle in front of you, compared with how you feel when you focus on the magnificent peak at the top. Consider how you feel when you’re running a race and you can see only the road stretching ahead of you compared with visualising yourself crossing the finish line to the sound of applauding crowds. When you have kids there may be times when the exhaustion, conflicting priorities and the day to day challenge of it all wreak havoc with your motivation (lack of motivation is working parent pitfall no.4 – have look at my blog on this here). Having a vision helps you stay motivated through the tough times.
2. Vision will help you fulfil your potential.
A vision is necessary if you want to fulfil your potential. Most of us limit our thinking and goals to what we think we can do. We base it on our current circumstances and what we perceive to be our skills and experience. But often we are wrong about ourselves, limiting ourselves through self-doubt and fear. A vision gives you permission to imagine yourself or the world as something vastly different from how things currently are. In doing so, it raises you above the limitations of your circumstances and your thinking and creates the opportunity for you to be more than you think you can be.
3. Vision puts the universe on your side.
It puts an alternative reality (i.e. different to your current reality) out into the universe and makes that reality possible. I’m a firm believer in the power of our thinking and what happens when we project our thoughts into the universe. Focus all your thoughts and attention on the negative, and it can act like an invitation to the universe to send all the negative stuff your way. Fortunately, the opposite is also the case. Having a positive vision of the future you want is like reaching out to the universe and the universe responding by sending you the things, people and opportunities that will help your vision become a reality.
4. Vision focuses you.
Your brain receives billions of messages every second and has to process these in order to make sense of the world. It’s an exhausting job, so to make it easier, it filters out as much as possible, focusing only on the things it already knows how to do or has seen before. Having a vision provides clear guidelines to your brain about what to pay attention to. The bigger, clearer and more compelling the vision the better. That’s when you start seeing the people, things and opportunities that the universe is sending your way.
As Sylvia Ann Hewlett says in her book Forget a Mentor, Find a Sponsor:
“So I say to you: Dream big. Build a magnificent castle. Adorn it, embellish it, and hold it in your mind in glorious Technicolor. It will power you through the tough times, and when you arrive, you won’t be disappointed.”
It’s clear then, that creating a personal vision of your future can really help you negotiate the minefield of adult life, work and family. But how do you go about creating one?
Creating your vision – do:
1. Identify your values.
Your values are the things that matter most to you, the things you need in your life to be happy, so when it comes to creating your vision, your values are the first place to start. A vision built on your values will resonate deeply, inspire you greatly and is guaranteed to be lead to something authentic and fulfilling. Not sure of your values? Take a look at my blog post here for how to identify them.
2. Think bold.
If absolutely anything were possible, if you pushed all limiting circumstances aside and dared to dream audaciously, what would you imagine for your future? Liberating yourself from mental barriers will enable you to tap into what you truly want. Challenge each and every assumption you make about yourself and your capabilities.
3. List the important areas of your life.
What is important to you? Family, career, finances, health? Imagine what your best day in each of those spheres would look like and write it down.
4. Super-size it.
Because most of us are not well practised at giving our imagination free reign over our ambition, whatever vision you can come up with, supersize it! Take that vision and make it 10 times larger. What would the picture look like if it were 10x bigger, 10x more impactful, 10x more absurd? When it feels ridiculous and scary and impossible, that’s when you know you have a real vision!
5. Make it compelling.
It’s not enough to have a vision. In order to be truly effective, that vision needs to be compelling. It needs to be something you can visualise – literally see it in technicolour on a big screen in your mind. The better you’re able to achieve this, the easier it is for the universe to send you the signs, people and opportunities you need to make it happen, and the more effective your brain will be at spotting and taking advantage of them when they come your way.
Need help making your vision compelling? You’ll love this week’s free guide to creating a compelling vision – link
Creating your vision – don’t:
1. Dismiss the idea.
Open your mind. Don’t make the mistake of thinking vision is an airy fairy bit of mumbo jumbo that’s all made up and doesn’t work! Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it and followed through. If you’re thinking “it doesn’t work”, check out my blog on thought barriers and how they sabotage your success.
2. Rush it.
Creating a compelling vision requires deep thought, reflection, inspiration, perhaps research and resources. In other words, it requires work. It’s easier to keep your head in the sand and be short sighted, but the rewards are well worth the effort.
3. Think it’s corporate speak.
You hear companies talk about vision all the time. We’ve all heard about Steve Jobs’ vision for Apple and Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for Facebook. Successful companies talk openly about their vision and share it with employees, shareholders and customers because they know the power of vision to motivate and inspire. We can use this power on a personal and individual level too.
4. Play small.
If your vision feels achievable or comfortable, it’s too small. It needs to be big, bold and scary in order to be compelling and command your focus.
5. Assume you’re not a mover or shaker.
We tend to think change is achieved by big people in high places, not by ‘people like us’. But change happens on the edges. Movements may have a leader, but it’s the small everyday people that create the wave. Be part of the wave.
“We like to believe that change happens at the centre, that it begins at the seat of power. We’re wrong. All change happens at the edges. It starts with the first person who decides to expose a truth. In doing so, they rewrite the story.” Bernadette Jiwa, from Story Driven
Most people I know like the idea of having a vision, and vow to do it one day but never do, because they never commit to doing it or they just put it off until a future date that never arrives. Be different. Be someone who commits to spending time on what is important not urgent. Set aside an hour to create your vision.
Know someone who would enjoy this blog? Pass it on!
Caroline Flanagan is a Keynote Speaker, Babyproof Coach and Author of Babyproof Your Career, The Secret to Balancing Work and Family so you can Enjoy It All. Caroline believes passionately in the dream of having it all, and founded Babyproof Your Life to train and prepare ambitious career women for the marathon of working parenthood so they can find their own way to #enjoyitall and #makeitwork. You can reach Caroline at firstname.lastname@example.org