A Case for Hope (Personal Vision Statements)
When I was in middle school, we spent time in art class making collages. We also made them on the weekends with friends. We got all the YM and Teen Beat magazines to cut out pictures of Luke Perry, prom dresses, and hairstyles. Yes, I'm old.
Anyway, we made aspirational words and sentences out of single letters from multiple pages. It was the most self-centered and fantasy land activity, and I loved it.
As an adult, my experience with vision casting took the form of developing “vision statements” for organizations and programs. This is where you can really flex your jargon muscles to create a statement that sounds like every marketing tagline you’ve ever heard.
A vision statement acts as an anchor for decision making and goal setting. It’s a simple statement that brings your values to life.
It outlines the who, what, when, where, and how of your hope for the future.
They’re typically created with three to ten years in mind, but in these pandemic times, it is increasingly difficult to hope. We’re exhausted and impatient for less fear and restriction.
So, why would we decide to talk about dreaming of life down the road?
In Brene Brown’s new book, Atlas of the Heart, she makes a case for hope:
“We need hope like we need air. To live without hope is to risk suffocating on hopelessness and despair, risk being crushed by the belief that there is no way out of what is holding us back, no way to get what we desperately need. But hope is not what most of us think it is. It’s not a warm, fuzzy emotion that fills us with a sense of possibility. Hope is a way of thinking—a cognitive process.” - Brene Brown, Atlas of The Heart, pg. 96
A big part of why we wanted to spend time on vision is because we believe dreaming and crafting vision statements can tether us to hope.
This explainer says, “The vision statement answers the “What” you are working toward and that needs to be something you will absolutely remain excited about.”
There is even some thought that having a vision statement can help reduce stress.
Once Upon a Time
I had no intention of ever owning a home, but it was a dream my partner held so I knew it would eventually happen. In fact, part of our decision to move to Kansas City from Boston was because of the housing market.
While looking for a house, we saw several at the top of our budget. They were in better shape and move-in ready, and we even put an offer on one. Every time we did the math, though, I kept coming back to my consulting income. I knew that every $10-20k more we spent, I would need to work more hours.
I had a vision of being with my kids and working under 10 hours a week while they were little. I held tightly to it as we made this big decision.
There were a lot of house showings that ended in me raining on the parade and holding the line. We ended up in a great home that was on the lower end of our budget.
It was not a point of tension in the decision-making process, because we already made clear what was workable based on our vision for the next three to five years.
Now, it helped that we had a 14-month-old and were a couple of months away from welcoming baby number two! My exhaustion and capacity to work were very real to me.
I also did not know that being with my kids would be so challenging and that I would make a career change, launch a business, and end up working full-time again. But holding onto that vision enabled me to do those things without a bigger financial burden putting pressure on us.
It wasn’t a big ceremony of drafting a vision statement — it just took a couple of conversations and creating the space, to be honest about what I wanted.
I often ask clients the question, “what if there were no obstacles?”
It’s important to note that talking about a vision is a privilege. For much of the world, taking time to explore your desires and document your hopes is a luxury.
We also recognize that a certain degree of self-knowledge (and healing) is needed for thinking about the future with a positive outlook.
If future hope is difficult for you to access, that is okay. You are not broken.
Many of us grew up in spaces where the future only felt overwhelming or scary. If that’s true for you, or you aren’t comfortable contemplating the future for any reason, don’t force it.
Your nervous system will let you know if it’s okay to explore - honor that and be kind to yourself.
Crafting a Personal Vision Statement
We first have to get honest about what we want, which can be difficult for those of us who were not taught (or actively discouraged) from tuning into our intuition.
Challenges of knowing what we want include:
struggling with follow-through
remembering what we want
comparison to others - do you want something that’s seen as unattainable, abnormal, or too small/ silly in your peer group?
we change our minds, expand into new areas, and change lanes more easily
Here are some reflection questions to help you explore what you want.
What brings me joy?
What am I good at?
How do I want to feel at this future time period?
How do I want to use my time?
How do I want to feel about the people in my life?
Is there anything, generally speaking, that I want to have more of?
anything I want to have less of? eg. travel, experience in something, learning, etc.
In our discussion in the Enclave, we acknowledged that some of us are more comfortable approaching this discovery from the angle of what we do NOT want. Trust your instincts. I also want to encourage you to sit with these questions and just notice what comes up in your body. Do you feel resistance, disinterest, repelled? Is it possible to just consider them without requiring yourself to engage with them? You can let them be and come back to them when you feel safe.
Personal Vision Statement Formula
what you want
+ time frame, if applicable
+ what it will enable you to do/accomplish
I want to have a career I like that enables me to enjoy my life.
I want to deeply understand my beliefs and role in the oppression of others so that I can actively work to dismantle all forms of hate and harm against others.
I want to pursue advanced training so that I can expand my support to clients and run more cross-specialty groups.
I want to prioritize connection and play with my family to protect our bonds and ease the transitions into harder seasons of life and parenting.
Feel free to share some of your ideas for vision statements in the comments.