The Trouble with Vision
Many people start their journey of NLP and coach training because they are at a ‘cross-roads’ in their life. They are often in a life-transition phase – dealing with big changes, or a lack of purpose – and are looking for some answers.
I have found that people often have a profound sense of guilt that they are not living a more prestigious life and confuse this with lacking vision.
The personal development world is guilty here. YouTube and self-help books are packed with stories giving the impression that a person who lacks a clear vision for their life needs to change dramatically and ‘wake up and smell the coffee.’
But what does this mean in reality, especially if you have responsibilities and lack the resources to ‘jump into the dark’?
Unsure? Have a Go!
Speaking from personal experience, most of the things that people have had success with started with a far more ‘have-a-go’ spirit. It is only in retrospect that my own business looked like it was following a master plan. This reminds me of a story from Apple founder Steve Jobs, who dropped into a few Calligraphy classes while at university and didn’t know why, it just felt right (and didn’t cost much). He went on to invent computer fonts! He explained this using a metaphor: “It was impossible to connect the dots looking forward… but it was very, very clear looking backward ten years later.”
This then brings into question the very word ‘Vision’ – is it a singular thing, or something broader? Does it mean vision for your career, health, creativity, family, wealth, wellbeing, relationships, lifestyle or helping the world? Because, often, people who seem to achieve amazing things in one part of their life, seem to fail spectacularly in others.
Success or Luck?
I also feel some confusion on this matter. I really agree that people should not feel limited about what is possible in their lives. I don’t think it is a good idea to make people who have achieved a stable life (perhaps in a field which they do not consider glamorous enough) feel ashamed of the fact that they are not ‘changing the world’.
Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, looks back on the monumental success of the computer entrepreneurs and points out that part of their success was luck: right place, right time. Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were born in California in 1955 and given early access to computers.
Another popular story is of how Nelson Mandela retained his mental fortitude after 27 years in prison on Robben Island and went on to become a world-renowned leader of his nation. Frankly, I feel I would have crumbled after a few months there!
Examples in Literature
In the classic crime novel, Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the lead character commits murder to prove to himself that he has the same ruthless characteristics as Napoleon. In the end, this crime proves to be his undoing and he ultimately confesses to the police.
At the same time, great writers can inspire us to gain hope and achieve things beyond what we thought possible. Here is a wonderful poem, A Splendid Torch, by George Bernard Shaw:
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.
I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
Ultimately, each one of us has certain talents, drives, beliefs and energy. Our lives are also hugely influenced by luck and time. I believe that, in the vast majority of cases, people’s lives follow a far more haphazard path than the purveyors of ‘Vision’ preach. Personally, my vision is to have a balanced and happy life and I do not want to pay the price of chasing incredible success – possibly because I know I lack the qualities needed to achieve it. What I do feel very strongly about is that, unless vision is something which can improve the quality of life, the answer is to do a few inexpensive experiments (which feel right) and see if any of them take off.
And, who knows, maybe ten years later, you may even be seen as a visionary!
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