Your Personal Picture of the Future

There are three parts to a compelling personal vision: your life purpose, your picture of the future, and your values. In my last blog post, I detailed a four-step process to help you write your personal life purpose statement.

The second part of creating a compelling personal vision is to come up with your personal picture of the future. It’s never too early to start thinking about how you want to spend the rest of your life and how you might want to be remembered. My wife, Margie, and I each have a favorite activity to help people achieve this goal.

Fantasy Friday

One of Margie’s favorite phrases is “A goal is a dream with a deadline.” Back when she was working on her PhD in communication, she taught an extended learning course where she came up with this writing exercise to help people turn their dreams for the future into goals. She calls the exercise “My Fantasy Friday.” Here’s how it works:

Imagine it’s a Friday ten years in the future. It’s a work day but also the beginning of the weekend. Write a paragraph that answers the following questions:

  • Where are you living, and with whom?
  • What are you doing throughout the day, hour by hour? (The more details, the better.)
  • How are you feeling—intellectually, emotionally, physically, and spiritually?

That’s it! After you’re finished and you read what you’ve written, it may surprise you.

When Margie first came up with this activity, she suggested that we write our Fantasy Friday paragraphs separately and then share them with each other. When we compared our paragraphs, we were amazed to learn we had both been dreaming of not only living near the water but also starting our own business. We had never shared either of those ideas before. Keep in mind this was before we decided to move to San Diego and start our own company!

Write Your Own Obituary

At the risk of sounding morbid, I believe it can be helpful to think of your own obituary as your picture of the future.

I first got this idea when I read about Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite. As the story goes, when Albert’s brother Ludvig died in France, the French newspaper mistakenly printed an obituary for Alfred instead of Ludvig. As a result, Alfred had the unusual experience of reading his own obituary. To his dismay, the focal point of the piece was the destruction brought about through his invention. Alfred was devastated to think that was how he would be remembered. It’s believed this incident caused Alfred to set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prize so that he would be remembered for peace, not for destruction.

To determine your picture of the future, I’d like to challenge you to write your own obituary. Since this is not something you can put together as quickly as you did the draft of your life purpose (see my last blog post), I suggest you spend some time on it and then share it with loved ones—not to scare them, but to get their feedback. Ask them “Is this the way you would like to remember me?”

To give you an example, the following is an obituary I wrote about myself. When I first shared it with Margie, she thought I was getting a little dark. But then she got into it and helped me write it.

“Ken Blanchard was a loving teacher and example of simple truths whose books and speeches on leadership, management, and life helped motivate himself and others to awaken to the presence of God in our lives and to realize we are here to serve, not to be served. He continually inspired, challenged, and equipped people to live, love, and lead like Jesus. He was a loving child of God, son, brother, spouse, father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, friend, and colleague who strove to find a balance between success, significance, and surrender. He had a spiritual peace about him that permitted him to say “no” in a loving manner to people and projects that got him off purpose. He knew full well that B.U.S.Y. stood for Being Under Satan’s Yoke. He was a person of high energy who was able to see the positive in any event. No matter what happened, he could find a learning or message in it. Ken Blanchard was someone who trusted God’s unconditional love and believed he was the Beloved. He valued integrity, walked his talk, and was a mean and lean 185-pound golfing machine. He will be missed because wherever he went, he made the world a better place.”

Okay, I’ll admit that some of the things in my obituary are goals or hoped-for outcomes, such as being able to say “no” in a loving manner to people and projects that got me off purpose. (I still have never heard a bad idea!) As for being a 185-pound mean and lean golfing machine, that is also an ongoing aspiration. Ha!

I hope you have fun writing your obituary and also writing about your Fantasy Friday. I think you’ll find both processes interesting and perhaps even learn some truths about yourself as you ponder your goals for your future.

Next time I’ll cover the final step of creating a compelling personal vision—determining your personal values. Hope you’ll join me again!

Writing Your Personal Life Purpose

It’s so easy to get caught up in our cell phones, emails, and deadlines that we often forget to step back and look at the big picture. So, as you read this, pause and ask yourself these questions:

 

  • Why am I here?
  • What do I really want to be in the world?
  • How am I doing on that?

Just as an organization needs to have a clear purpose and sense of what business it’s in, so do individuals. Yet few people have a clear sense of their life’s purpose. How can you make good decisions about how you should use your time if you don’t know what you want to do with your life?

Here’s a simple, four-step process to help you create a good working draft of your life purpose.

Step 1: Describe Who You Are.  Think of two or three nouns or phrases that describe your unique skills or characteristics. For example, my nouns are “teacher” and “example.” You might choose different characteristics, such as artist, scientist, humorist, mechanic, writer, etc.

Step 2: Describe How You Influence Others.  Think of two or three verbs that describe how you influence the world around you. For example, my verbs are “help” and “motivate.” You might choose influence verbs such as encourage, plan, inspire, educate, etc.

Step 3: Describe Your Ideal World.  Create a picture of your ideal world. For example, in my perfect world everyone is aware of the presence of God in their lives. You might have a perfect world where people are successful in achieving their goals, or children are well cared for, or the environment is healthy.

Step 4: Put It All Together. Now, create a purpose statement by combining two of your nouns, two of your verbs, and your ideal world, and you’ll have a good start on a statement of your life’s purpose. For example, my life purpose is:

“To be a loving teacher and example of simple truths who helps and motivates myself and others to awaken to the presence of God in our lives, so we realize we are here to serve rather than to be served.” 

Someone else might have a purpose that reads:

“To be a scientist and writer who encourages and inspires people to care for the natural world and preserve a healthy environment for future generations.”

Another person might have a purpose that reads:

“To be an artist and visionary who reveals a new way of seeing and awakens people to the beauty in the world around them.”

Feel free to dream big during this process.  Don’t worry about not living up to the life purpose you envision—we all fall short of our ideal. Put your fears and insecurities aside as you write. As Nelson Mandela said:

“There is no passion to be found in playing small—in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

Determining your life purpose is the first step in a three-part process to creating a compelling personal vision. In future blogs, I’ll talk about steps two and three—creating your legacy and determining your values. Stay tuned!

 

A Kick-Start for 2017

You’ve probably had your fill of articles and blogs about how New Year’s resolutions don’t work. So I want to give you a positive framework to begin the New Year.  Creating your personal vision for the future is a different way to look at setting and achieving goals.

A clear vision is made up of three elements—knowing who you are (your purpose), where you’re going (your picture of the future), and what will guide your journey (your values). For years I’ve worked with company leaders to create the vision for their corporations and with individual managers to create their leadership vision. It is equally beneficial for people to set their own personal vision about what they want to get out of life. Creating your personal vision will help you get back to the basics and focus on what’s important instead of merely what’s next.

Create your purpose statement

Start by creating your purpose statement. In a few words, this statement explains who you are, what you do, and why you do what you do.

  • To begin, list some positive personal characteristics that describe you. Use nouns such as patience, creativity, artistic ability, sales ability, charm, diplomacy, energy, problem-solving skills, enthusiasm, or something similar. I chose sense of humor, people skills, teaching skills, and role model.
  • Next, list ways you successfully interact with people. Use verbs such as teach, coach, write, encourage, manage, lead, love, help, etc. I used educate, help, inspire, and motivate.
  • Finally, describe your picture of the future, focusing on what you want to create for your life. Write a short description of your idea of the perfect world. To me, a perfect world is where everyone is aware of the presence of God in their lives and realizes they are here to serve, not to be served.
  • There! You’ve completed the most challenging part. Now combine your thoughts into a statement. Here’s mine:

“I am a loving teacher and a role model of simple truths who helps and motivates myself and others to be aware of the presence of God in our lives and realize we are here to serve, not to be served.”

List and define your values

It’s time to create your list of values. This list will guide you and help you understand how to reach your ideal future state. Examples of values include honesty, power, courage, wisdom, commitment, learning, fun, relationships, or spirituality. This could be a very long list, but you must narrow it down to the three or four values that are most important to you. Some people prefer to start with ten values, then narrow those down to the top six, then to the top three or four. My values are spiritual peace, integrity, love, and success.

Once you have arrived at your top three or four values, write a short definition for each one. Remember these are your guidelines for making decisions and determining whether you are living your vision. For example, I define love this way:

“I value love. I know I am living by this value anytime I feel loving toward myself or others, anytime I have compassion, anytime I feel love in my heart, anytime I feel the love of others, anytime my heart fills with love, and anytime I look for the love of others.”

One final suggestion: read your personal vision—your purpose statement and values—every single day. It is a simple way to re-commit and stay on track.

Give this exercise a try. You’ll see that a personal vision statement can hold far more value than a vague resolution that’s easily abandoned. As soon as you define exactly what you want out of life, you will be able to begin realizing your vision.

Happy New Year 2017!