CEO Chronicles 9 : Without a vision, you are blind

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision” – Helen Keller

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

In this article, we will continue with the second question – where do I want to go? We will learn how to define and to describe our destination or vision. Why is a vision so important?

About three months ago, Rajesh C. confided in me:“I am 35 years old,” he said. “I have changed seven jobs in 12 years.

When I look at how much some of my classmates have progressed, I feel terribly envious of their success.

“Each time I changed my job, it was for some short-term gains rather than looking at a bigger picture. I remember moving jobs one time because my new designation was ‘Senior Technical Executive’ whilst my current designation as ‘Technical Officer’, and I thought that the change would make me feel a sense of esteem. That move was a horrible mistake and I left the company within a few months.

“I never had any clarity in my mind about what my long-term goals are.

“In my last job, for the first time in my life, I had to work under someone three years junior and take instructions from him. This was really difficult to digest in the beginning, but I needed the money and the security of the position. By the time I left, I had lost much of my self-belief and confidence.

“I really wish I had planned my life better and set out on my career with a clear purpose and vision. I feel like I have been wandering through a desert blindfolded…”

How do we define our vision?

As with the mission statement, drafting our career vision involves thought, introspection, and reflection. We need to start with asking ourselves some guiding questions, such as:

  • What are the five things that we most enjoy doing? (These are the things without which our days would feel incomplete)
  • When our life is ending, what will we regret not doing, seeing, or achieving?
  • If we had more than enough money, what work would we do for pure satisfaction?
  • What would we most like to be remembered for when we are reminiscing about our life in our old age?
  • If we could choose any one person, living or dead, whom would we most want to emulate?
  • If we had our work life to live over, would we have chosen a different path that would have led to more success and happiness?

During this exercise, we should constantly picture how we would want our professional life to be, without constraint or obstacle.

Four fears that could blind you

Often, we fall short of envisaging and enjoying fulfilling careers and lives because we are held back by various negative sentiments. Four such factors that I have come across are –

First, cultural conditioning. “Oh, I can never be a general manager, I only have a high school diploma!”

Second, inability to visualise. “I have tried visualising my future, but all this does is generate wild dreams. Anyway, what is the point? I have chosen my bed and I have to lie in it!”

Third, fear of failure. “Isn’t it better to think small? What if I dream of being a senior manager, and am never able to succeed? I will feel miserable!

Fourth, need for perfection. “I can write a vision, but how do I know this is the right one for me? If it is not perfect, it may lead me down the wrong path!

These factors seem real. They lurk in all our minds. They hinder and obstruct. But, once we have identified and recognised these traps, and developed our long-term life and career vision, these fears will never trouble us again.

Using your vision successfully

Once we have answered and reflected on the questions above, thought about how we want our life to be, decided on our destination, we are ready to create a “working vision.”

Ideally, we should write in the first person. Clear statements about the future we hope to achieve. We should fully articulate the vision that we want for our life and our future. The more detailed we can make our image, the better we can see it and feel it in our mind’s eye.

A personal vision can take any form you want – text or pictures or video or a combination of all these.

Do you recall the mission statements from ‘Mission Possible’? Let’s look at their vision statements :

Joell, the teacher: “I will teach at least 1,000 students in my career. I will mentor at least 100 students. I will positively impact and change the lives of at least 10. Also, I will inspire every student who has studied with me to like and enjoy maths and use it gainfully in her/his life and career.”

David, the CEO: “I will lead a transnational billion-dollar market cap public listed company. We will develop at least three products or services which will have meaningful impact on the productivity of our clients. I will ensure that every employee of this company feels that she is working in the best company in the world. And finally, I will be seen as an industry leader.”

Tanya, the home-maker: “I will make my home safe, comfortable and happy. My family will always know that I am there for them. I will be seen as reliable, dependable and trustworthy. My spouse will know that he always has a friend and confidante. My children will grow into happy, good and successful people. Our family will be liked and will contribute to our community and to our country in every possible way.”

Describing and defining your vision guarantees you clarity, control and coherence.

Once you have a draft of your personal vision statement, review it a few times – alone, with your partner, with your parents, with your mentor. You may, in the process, find a better or more resonant way to write a line. You may, on receiving feedback, change a few words. Don’t try and make it ‘perfect’; make it truly yours. Own it, embrace it, it is your guiding light.

Then, as Ms Girdler says, surround yourself with your vision. Make it visible to yourself, to your family and to your friends and colleagues. Let it remind you and inspire you every day wherever you are.

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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