I think we’ve all had moments where we feel so overwhelmed by tasks and demands that we wonder what we’re doing. Or so stretched by the day-to-day firefighting that we feel hopelessly trapped on an endless treadmill.
As we’ve discussed before, busyness has become an epidemic of our time.
So how do we figure out the answers to the big questions in life about why we’re here, what we’re doing, and where we want to be? It’s so easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of every day and lose sight of what we want out of life.
Just like big corporations, we as individuals need to take some time to really think about our purpose and reason for being.
Crafting a personal vision statement is one approach that can help you rediscover your passions and ignite your desires, aligning your day to day with your life goals and with what really matters to you.
Let’s go through how we can quite easily bring this kind of success from the corporate world to your own life, both personally and professionally.
What is a personal vision statement?
Writing a personal vision statement is making a commitment to live your life in a certain way, drawing from the myriad complexities that make you who you are – like your relationships, belief systems and values, health, well-being, and personality.
It keeps you aligned and helps prevent waking up some Monday morning and thinking, “how did I end up here?”
A personal vision statement is going to be a combination of what you care about and what motivates you, serving as a guide for you as you proceed through your career.
Now, when we’re looking at goal setting, I don’t want you to get a personal vision statement confused with a mission statement. They’re complementary, but different.
A vision statement is focused on where you want to be in the future, whereas a mission statement centres around what you’re doing now that has value and what you aim to achieve.
In other words, a vision statement is more of a guiding principle or philosophy for life while a mission statement defines how you’ll accomplish goals grounded in the present.
When we create a personal vision statement we’re looking big picture and long-term.
Why you need one
I like to think of a personal vision statement like having a compass to navigate through our personal and professional journey.
First, a well-crafted personal vision statement is going to give you direction for every turn and bump in the road. You can use it to evaluate whether decisions align with your values and aspirations, or if options play to your strengths or weaknesses.
It can help you discern whether you’re drifting off course or getting pushed away from where you want to end up. Imagine using it when a new job opportunity comes up – it can help you think big picture and consider the finer details of the offer, not just the title or the salary.
Second, when you can orient yourself no matter what surprises or obstacles you encounter, you can proceed with a feeling of purpose – be that to achieve personal milestones or the greater good. This, in turn, helps us find meaning in what we do and a sense of fulfillment.
Imagine for a moment losing your job. A terrible, upsetting prospect for most of us, but with a clear vision of where you want to be, you’ll be focused on what you need and what you have to offer to get back on track quicker than most.
And third, a personal vision statement pushes our focus from the immediate and short-term to the future in the long-term. It’s making the switch from figuring out how to deal with that one employee today to figuring out what kind of leader you want to be. Perspective, as they say, is everything.
How to craft your own statement
Choose a quiet time to reflect that is free from distractions and demands (turn off your cell phone!). It’s great if you can set aside an uninterrupted hour to work through this process but if that’s impossible then set aside 15 minutes to work through each step.
Get ready to examine your deepest thoughts and feelings.
Grab a blank notebook or some loose sheets or download our worksheet to help you craft the perfect personal vision statement.
How you brainstorm is up to you; some of us do well with lists and others get more creative with doodles.
I want you to be brutally honest and really reflect on what matters to you. Note any common themes that emerge as you undertake this process of reflection or what really resonates with you in this moment. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:
Consider the various aspects of your life: personal, professional, spiritual, social. What comes to your mind? What is most important to you? What makes you happy? What makes you feel fulfilled in life?
Examine your strengths and weaknesses. What do you do well? What do you find challenging? What do others notice about you that is admirable and what have you heard needs improving?
Describe your values, hopes, and dreams. What belief systems are the scaffolding to your personal and professional life? What ideals do you admire? Jot down any wishes or ambitions that come to mind.
Now I want you to shift gears a little bit to delve into what motivates you. Consider your life from every angle and think about what gets you excited about life and what moves you into action.
Remember, you’re writing this only for yourself so be really honest. Inspiration could be:
- Changing something in the world
- Financial gain
- Educational (formal or informal)
- Helping others
- Public recognition, accolades, or fame
The next step is to think about your future. Take time to ponder these big questions to help you think about yourself in the years to come:
- What would you try if you didn’t have to risk money or your pride?
- If you won a lottery and could finance anything you have ever dreamed of doing, what would you do in life?
- If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would be your biggest regrets?
- If people were to talk about the legacy you’ve left, what would you like them to say? Could they say this now? If not, what needs to happen?
Think about everything you’ve brainstormed about yourself in the last three steps. Review your notes and highlight what strikes you as the most important points.
Now, try writing a personal vision statement that draws from this work.
Write in the first person (this is your personal statement – it’s about you!) and focus on the future.
Write with optimism and confidence, using the active voice that you will achieve (not that you hope to!).
Some people give themselves a word limit, but I suggest you write first and then edit it down for brevity. You want to keep it long enough that articulates what inspires you and what you aspire to be, but brief enough that it’s memorable.
Ideally, you want to have a statement comprised of a few sentences that you can memorize as your visionary goal of your future.
We’ve listed some examples below.
Read it over. Post it on your wall and see how it feels.
This is your personal vision statement so you can refine or finesse it as you choose. It may be worth reassessing every six months to a year because sometimes we change course a little.
But you may also discover that your statement is very fitting through many seasons.
Personal vision statement examples
What you write is up to you. This is your statement about your future and what matters to you. Here are some examples to get you thinking:
My vision is to share my knowledge and passion for human resources through work and volunteering to create a more inclusive world. I will lead by example and inspire a love of diversity in those I work with and my children.
I will not forget to treat people well as I gain success because I want to be a leader who encourages respect and values input from all levels. I will strive to find joy and use design to create social change.
My vision is to be a lawyer of honour and integrity who shares these values with others while continuing to grow through ongoing education, pro bono work, and mentoring students.