CEO Chronicles 7: Your highway to happiness

We now know that the three questions that can change your life forever are Who am I?, Where do I want to go?, and How do I get there?

In the sixth article, we explored the first question – who am I? We discussed how knowing ourselves and having a clear purpose gives us freedom; we explored the steps to take to discover our purpose and write our personal mission statement.

In this article, we will answer the second question – where do I want to go? We will explore the critical need for a destination or vision.

Just like your mission statement discovers your why, your personal vision describes your where. Where am I going? Where do I want to be? Where is my dream destination?

A personal vision defines your end-game, your ideal social media profile. It crystallises your dreams.

It allows you to track where you are going, and whether you are on the right path.

It inspires you to focus forward without looking back on past regrets.

It gives you control. A personal vision allows you to drive your choices and decisions, rather than leaving things up to chance or allowing others make decisions for you. You are in charge of where you are going, making it easier for you to get exactly where you want to be.

A road to nowhere

Life is a journey, a unique one for each of us. For the first part, we are passengers in our parents’ or caregivers’ journey. They decide (mostly) the route, the conveyance, the stops, the milestones and the speed. Around the late teens or early twenties, when we begin our first job, we step out, say thank you to those who have brought us so far, and begin our own independent journey.

At this point in time, we should be asking the most basic question.

Where do I want to go?

Sadly, we don’t even know that we should ask this question. We tend to either travel the road that our predecessors have driven so far, or we start choosing turns and routes based on short-term whims. As we go along, we have no way to plan our route, no way to measure progress, no way to celebrate achievement. While we know we are moving, we only dimly recognise that we are moving without any sense of where we want to be and by when and with whom.

This does not mean that our lives are completely meaningless. Some of us traverse short stretches of happiness, many of us achieve traditional milestones (marriage, house ownership, parenthood, et al), some fortunately avoid needless jams, a few chance upon routes that are breathtakingly beautiful.

But, for the most part, we find ourselves tangled in the inconsequential – traversing service roads and alleys, entering and exiting cul de sacs, finding ourselves frequently at the same crossroads that we had passed a while ago.

A career is an integral part of our independent journey. We look forward to it and hope to excel in it. Too often, however, we find ourselves working in jobs we never foresaw, in roles that don’t play to our strengths, in positions we should have moved past long ago. We decide job and career moves based on impulse, convincing ourselves that this will lead us to nirvana. We find ourselves accumulating more regrets than experience, more whines than wins. We wonder why the trajectory of our dreams is so much flatter and longer in reality.

What then should we do, to break out of this spiral? How can we ensure a journey that is uplifting, joyful and full of meaning?

The answer starts with recognising what successful people do differently from others. They plan ahead. Like them, we need to plan our journey, and to do that, we should

Begin with the destination

Let me ask you a question: when you decide to take a much-deserved holiday, what is the first item on your list?

Yes, you are absolutely right – you will first decide where you want to go.

Everything else follows this decision. How long should the holiday be? Which route shall we take? Should we fly, drive or take the train? Should we stopover somewhere? How much money do we need for the trip? Who should we go with? Should we dress for warmth or for the cold? What documents and certificates do we need to carry?

What culture do we need to prepare for?

When we don’t know the destination, all these other decisions and discussions are moot. We are mired in circular arguments, leading to frustration and inaction.

Similarly, when we start our career journey, we need to plan our end-game. What do we want to be? Where do we want to go? What will give us joy? What will fulfil us, satisfy us, make the journey amazing, fun and eventful?

This career destination is called a ‘vision’.

A career vision is a statement about what we want to achieve in our career. It describes the major goals we hope to achieve, the position we hope to rise to, and the legacy that we hope to leave.

A career vision is something we can aspire to, and which inspires us.

A career vision opens our eyes to our attainable future and gives us a purpose.

Our vision gives us direction and provides us the ability to chart the course of our professional journey. It allows us to recognise delays and deviations. It helps us define our path to joy, our measures of success and accomplishment, and our legacy.

Conversely, without a career vision, we passively allow the external world to plot our career graph. We continue as a pliable passenger, rather than taking control as the driver. Over time, we find ourselves bemoaning our lot, still searching for answers, still feeling like we are missing something. We feel that we don’t have many options and succumb to a sense of quiet desperation.

Sadly, the cause of this misery stems at our own doorstep. It is easier not to have to put in the effort to develop a mission statement or a personal vision. We find it convenient to postpone any investment in ourselves when we are dealing with the minutae of life.

I repeat – having a personal vision is critical. It guarantees you clarity, control and contentment. It makes every day rife with anticipation and every evening replete with satisfaction. I urge you to start the process of defining your vision today.

In the next article, we will discuss the best approach to define and describe our personal vision.

Venkatraman Sheshashayee

Venkatraman Sheshashayee (Shesh) is Managing Director of Radical Advice, a business transformation advisory based in Singapore. He has over 34 years of experience in manufacturing, shipping and offshore oil & gas. Shesh’s previous roles include CEO of Miclyn Express Offshore, CEO & ED of Jaya Holdings Limited and Managing Director of Greatship Global. In his new avatar, Shesh helps SMEs, start-ups and aspiring professionals achieve their potential.
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