Many people think they know the vision for their life, but they confuse it with objectives like wanting to make a certain amount of money or achieve a certain job title. Other people only have a general idea that is not well defined—like “I want to help people.” A life of freedom and fulfilment requires a clearly defined vision that encompasses your entire life, not just your work. Your vision is the glue that holds together all of your daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly objectives for your life.
Not being able to state your vision in a single sentence is like trying to navigate without a compass. Your vision is your guide. Without it, you cannot expect to achieve your desired outcomes in a timely or efficient manner. So let’s take a deeper look at what vision is and how to craft a vision statement.
Your Life Sentence
Former Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce, who later became an ambassador and author, was concerned that President John F. Kennedy was stretching himself too thin and setting himself up for disappointment and defeat. She reportedly told him that the lives of all great men could be summed up in one sentence. She called that their “life sentence.”
For example, can you tell me who she was talking about when she said the following: He preserved the Union and freed the slaves.
Or how about this: He lifted us out of the great depression and helped us win a world war.
Now, whether you agree with those statements or are a political fan of those people, you probably know who those sentences describe: Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, respectively. That one sentence defines that person’s life and legacy. That brings us to vision.
It is absolutely vital in living a life of freedom and fulfilment that you have a clear, compelling, and defined vision statement for your life. Whether you’re going to die twenty minutes from right now or twenty years from now, if the person delivering your eulogy is only allotted one sentence, what is the one sentence you would want them to say that sums up your life or legacy? What is your life sentence? That’s what a vision statement is.
When I do workshops, invariably there is one person (usually a man) who shouts out that he would want to be said of him at his funeral that “He worked his ass off.” Really? That’s what you want the members of your surviving family, your wife, your kids, your grandkids to know about you?
My father had an incredible career saving the world and working on a space program, but at his wake, nobody really talked about his career. Instead, he was defined by his role as a husband, a father, a volunteer in the community.
That’s what freedom and fulfilment are all about. It’s about a vision statement that doesn’t just define you by your work, job title, or paycheck, but defines you by your role as a family member, your relationships, and, yes, your work. That’s why it’s so important to have that clearly defined vision statement.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau
Purpose + Impact = Vision
Your vision statement is the desired outcome you want for your life. A lot of people ask me if a vision statement is the same as purpose. I used to think it was the same, but after working with hundreds of people around the world and from my own experience, I have come to believe that vision is bigger than purpose. In fact, a compelling vision statement combines your purpose for living with the impact you want to make on the world.
As an example, here’s my vision statement: To save the world by helping individuals fight for lives of freedom and fulfilment.
This vision statement combines my purpose for living—helping individuals fight for lives of freedom and fulfilment—with the impact I want to make on the world—saving it (yes, I have big goals).
My vision statement doesn’t just apply to my work; it applies to my relationships and myself. Whether it’s how I live my life, how we raise our kids, how I build my business, or how I coach my clients, my vision statement provides a guiding star—that destination on a map where I want to end up.
Some people are convinced that you should have multiple vision statements in your life. But they’re confusing vision with objectives. Having yearly objectives, and maybe five and ten year objectives, is important. For example, when you’re in your twenties, perhaps you think your vision is to make partner and earn $100,000 a year. Then when you get in your thirties, you think your vision is to find your mate, get married, and have kids. Those aren’t visions; they’re actually not even purposes. Those are objectives.
It’s critical to have those objectives, but if you go through life from objective to objective without a clear and compelling vision that serves as the glue to hold them together, you are going to find yourself lost. You are going to hit the wall—whether it’s in your thirties, forties, fifties, or beyond—and have that feeling that you don’t know what you were put on this earth to do.
“Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt
Questions to Help You Craft Your Vision Statement
So you may be thinking, “Well, coming up with my purpose and impact and a compelling vision is easier said than done.” And you’re absolutely right. It takes time and deep reflection to craft your vision statement.
To help you get started, here are some questions to think about:
- What are your strengths? How are you leveraging them? How do you wish you could leverage them?
- What are those one or two things you would want to be said about you at your funeral that would make you feel that you passed on a lasting, fulfilling legacy?
- What things, people, and activities make you feel the most passionate?
- Where would you like to be in five years? Ten years? Twenty-five years?
- If you found out you only had one week left to live, what are the one or two things you wish you would have done by now, but haven’t?
- How does your vision align with your strengths? And on that last note, when you look at your strengths, how can you use them to help achieve your vision?
- When you come up with your vision, is it one that is going to allow you to use those strengths every day to achieve it?
Chart Your Course
Whenever you take a trip, you usually know the destination you want to go to, while also having milestones and landmarks in between. Whenever my family and I drive back to Chicago, I plot out our rest stops, perhaps where we’re going to stay overnight. Those rest stops and temporary stays are objectives, but I also have a clear idea of where I want to go. That’s what it means to live an outcomes-focused life.
Your vision statement is your destination. It is the thing that defines your path and all your objectives leading you from where you are today to where you want to be in the future.
Without a vision statement, you will wander aimlessly, perhaps ending up far from where you want to be. With a vision statement, you can instead move toward a life of freedom and fulfilment.