Three Steps to a Focused Life (Part 2: Vision and Mission)
(Note: This is the second blog in a three-part series on helping you achieve focus in your life)
In this second portion of the series, “Three Steps to a Focused Life”, I feel that the next most important step after honing in on your passions is to explore the purpose and the value of a vision and mission statement for your life. A wise man once said, “Where there is no vison, the people perish.” Those words might seem like overkill to you, (I'm picturing bowling with a bulldozer right now), but I don’t think he's far from the truth.
Hopefully you find yourself surrounded in life by positive people that encourage you and push you to be all that you can be, but I’m sure we’ve all encountered at least one naysayer who seemed to suck the very life from your soul. These people tend to be very broken, people that once were full of piss and vinegar just like you, with dreams and ideals and aspirations! But then life gave them one too many sucker punches to the face and they were “knocked out” of the ring.
They lost their vision.
Now obviously we’re not talking about “sight” here. No, vision is something much deeper. No one can tell you that with more merit than architect Chris Downey. Downey works as an architect and consultant for projects including eye centers, rehabilitation buildings, and transportation projects. Christ is very good at what he does.
Chris is also blind.
After receiving surgery to remove a brain tumor, Downey lost his sight, but he gained something else: insight. Downey’s take on the difference between sight and vision is that “vision is to see with more than just your eyes.” It was his vision, not his sight, that he depended upon to get him through the dark night of the loss of one of his previously most active forms of sense.
So if vision is different from simple sight, what does it mean? We hear all the time about businesses having vision and mission statements, but I have a sneaking suspicion that most people, even the people who wrote the statements, don’t actually understand how they are meant to relate to one another.
It’s like pounding a lemon with a couple of dashes of sugar on top and thinking it will taste like lemonade!
Before you create your own vision and mission statement, you must first understand what they are and their proper relationship. Think of it in the context of taking a road trip. Before you set off, you need to do two things: first, you must know where you want to go, and second, you must figure out how to get there.
Your vision statement is your destination. It says “this is my ultimate goal”, nothing more, nothing less. Economist and author Jim Collins says that well-conceived vision contains two major components- core ideology and envisioned future. This means understanding and fully embracing who you are and the trajectory of you or your organization, whichever it may be.
Another component, and what I consider to be the most critical, is simplicity. Too often we try to cram every piece of information, every characteristic about the recipient of the vision statement, into the statement itself and it ends up looking like a deflated balloon. Let me give you a few examples of the vision statements of several EXTREMELY successful companies and you’ll see what I mean:
· Walt Disney: To make people happy
· 3M: To solve unsolved problems innovatively
· May Kay: To give unlimited opportunity to women
· Nike: To experience the emotion of competition, winning, and crushing competitors
What kind of vision statement is “to make people happy”? Doesn’t that seem too simplistic, like a child could have said it? Exactly. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “To be simple is to be great.” The irony of the simple is this: as the world has grown more complex, so has the desire for simplicity. Authors Thom S. Rainer and Eric Geiger put it this way: “The amount of information accessible to us is continually increasing. The ability to interact with the entire world is not possible…The result is a complicated world with complex and busy lives. And, in the midst of complexity, people want to find simplicity.” Why do you think Apple as a company has been so successful in what they've done? They were able to take the complex and make it simple. I can attest to this fact as I sit here writing this blog on my Macbook pro. There is something powerful and calming about the simplicity of this machine, from its operation to its physical construction.
Now that we understand the importance of being precise and specific in picking our destination (vision), it’s time to move on to understanding how to plan the route (mission). If a vision statement is your purpose, a mission statement describes your process, or how you plan to achieve your purpose. A powerful mission statement follows many of the same rules as the vision statement regarding power through simplicity and clarity. An example of a powerful, supportive mission statement can be found at Venture Church in Bozeman, Montana. Venture’s vision (their purpose) is “to help people take their next step spiritually”, and they do that through their mission statement (their process), which is “loving God, loving people, and serving others”. If you ask just about anyone who has been around Venture for long, they’ll most likely be able to recite both the vision and mission of the church, which is more than most organizations with lengthy, difficult vision and mission statements can say about their members.
If you’re wondering if your vision and mission statement are simple enough, think Geico: is it so easy a caveman could do it?
If you got this far, you’re well on your way to a focused life! I promise you that developing a vision and mission statement for your life will be a very helpful step as you pursue more focus in your life. But as I said in my last blog, good things take time. Don’t rush this process. Allow yourself the time you need to let ideas percolate before preemptively acting upon the first, unfiltered thoughts that come to mind. And by no means is this blog an exhaustive resource for you as you formulate your own vision and mission statement. There are innumerable resources out there that I suggest you check out, such as Jim Collin’s ‘Built to Last’ (or any of his books for that matter), or ‘Simple Church’ by Thom. S Rainer and Eric Geiger. These are great resources for anyone who’s willing to buy into the power of simplicity.
I look forward to sharing more about how to have a focused life in my next blog, so stay tuned!
PS: If you liked this post, have a question, or even disagree, leave a comment below!
(Note: For the final blog in this series, I will be explaining the value of giving up good things so that you can achieve great things.)