If you’ve been in the corporate world long enough, you’ve likely seen more vision or mission statements than you’d care to think about. Some of them are well thought out and impactful, but many ring hollow.
A shared vision is, however, a critical component for a team to function at a high level. If you don’t ultimately know why you’re doing what you’re doing, where you’re going, or why your team even exists as part of the big picture, then you’re probably not going to be very successful. To illustrate this idea, I always liked the visual of a bunch of people in a boat, with a destination off in the distance, but everyone paddling in different directions.
Strong teams are great, and they’re a blast to be a part of, but step back and think about yourself for a moment. Have you ever thought about your own vision statement? What do you want to achieve? What’s your passion? In Simon Sinek terms, what’s your ‘why’? He argues that the most successful companies start by understanding why they exist, not by focusing on what they do or how they do it. If you truly understand your ‘why’, your purpose, the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ will follow – not the other way around.
So back to you, and use this same logic on yourself for a minute. You may have thought about your purpose from time to time, but have you ever taken the time to try to clearly articulate that purpose in the form of a personal vision statement? Start by thinking about your legacy. How do you want to be remembered?
One of my favorite personal finance blogs out there is Get Rich Slowly. Not too long ago, he wrote about this topic, and he lays our four steps you can take to help craft your vision (he calls it mission) statement, based on the book How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, by Alan Lakein. I’ve summarized the steps below, but head on over to that article if you want to read more.
- Write down your lifetime goals. Assume money is no object, and write down anything that comes to mind. Highlight the 3 that rise to the top for you.
- Write down how you’d like to spend the next 5 years. Not what you could or should do, but what you’d like to do. Again, highlight the 3 that stand out most for you.
- Write down how you’d live if you knew you only had 6 months left. Anything you’d regret missing out on? Yep, circle the 3 things that appeal to you most.
- Combine any common responses from the first 3 steps, and write them down as “My Most Important Goals”.
- Based on step 4, begin to craft your vision statement. Keep it as short and simple as possible so that you can remember it!
A point of clarification here: this post is about a ‘vision’ statement, whereas the post I’ve referenced above talks about a ‘mission’ statement. These terms are often interchanged but, based on some internet research, are quite different. A mission statement is generally present tense, whereas a vision statement is more forward-looking.
Why bother with this exercise, you might wonder? A clear vision guides your behavior and decisions. It helps you focus how you spend your most valuable resources – time and money – to ensure that the decisions you make ultimately support, not detract from, the larger goals you’ve set for yourself.
I’ve written my vision statement below:
Educate others on the basics of personal finance to lay the foundation for a life of personal freedom, happiness, purpose, and impact.
Although I’d already come up with this vision statement prior to reading about the steps above, it still holds true for me after I take myself through that exercise. It also turns out that this is the mission statement for the company I started!
You might wonder how an understanding of the basics of personal finance can lead to these other things, so I’ll do my best to succinctly link them. Understanding the concepts of personal finance allows you to make smart decisions with your money. This, in turn, provides you a measure of personal freedom such that you aren’t tied to a job or career you find unfulfilling, freeing you to more easily explore your own purpose to help you leave a positive impact on the world.
Patience is Key
I started this post with a reference to the corporate world and, now that I’ve been out of it for a few months, I like to reflect on my years of working for companies of varying sizes. One thing that stands out is that my day-to-day career was not supporting the vision I had for myself. Granted, that vision didn’t just appear out of thin air; the experiences I had along the way, combined with my own interests, helped me to realize my own personal vision statement over time. So, even if you complete the exercise above, you may need to exercise some patience if that vision statement doesn’t come to you right away; I promise you it will eventually!
I’d like to end with a quote from Mark Twain. Of all his famous quotes, and there are many of them, this one is one of my favorites. He said, “the two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”
If you haven’t figured that second day out just yet, don’t rush. Keep your eyes and ears open to potential opportunities you may not have considered previously, and pay attention to your own dreams.