Whatever our experience with the LeaderShape Institute was, we take away information which holds personal meaning for us. It’s been eight years since I last facilitated a session but experiencing the power of creating and involving others in a personal vision still makes me as if I just left an Institute.
When I was and undergraduate I took a class called “Great Speeches.” We dissected words, discovered metaphors, and examined the powerful elements of various famous speeches. I have to honestly say that as a sophomore, the King speech was “just an assignment.” It was just another speech to examine over the course of a semester.
Many, many years later in 1996 I co-led an Institute with Christopher Adkins-Lamb and I felt the power of that King speech for the first time. Yep, in front of a roomful of collegiate participants I choked up and my voice became an unintelligible squeak. Then I had to whisper to my partner that he had to step in and lead the discussion as I started an “ugly cry” in the Allerton foyer. Not very professional… but that has stuck with me ever since.
We can all empathize with the participants and facilitators who, after seeing that powerful videotape of King’s speech, are a bit overwhelmed. It’s no wonder they have a difficult time developing their own vision statement or even closing their eyes and imagining something compelling enough for them to act on. Some immediately come up with very short-sighted, organization specific, and yet very attainable visions. They quickly create vision statements for their student organization and can picture a very different organization with a greater sense of purpose. Others draft vision statements which are very compelling yet so unattainable (i.e. world peace) that it’s hard to coach them to develop tangible stretch goals. It’s like a roomful of Goldilocks searching for the “just right” vision.
The important take-away of this work is knowing that the process of vision development is what’s most important. Less important is the product, the printed vision statement.
So, on to the double take.
We can use that same process for creating and/or recommitting to a personal vision as alumni of the LeaderShape experience. In these summer months I’ve been surprised during dinner parties and casual get-togethers by conversations about the work my neighbors and friends doing. Almost every single person I’ve talked with has their dream job in their heads. However, no one has that dream job. In fact, it’s sad how many people are completely unfulfilled in their current jobs. It’s dramatic when they say, “If I could do anything I would _____________.” They are transformed. Their faces light up, they become much more animated, they smile broadly, and their descriptions of these dream jobs are so vivid, you can easily write their job description for them.
Because of those conversations I’ve become reacquainted with a favorite book, The Power of Purpose, by Richard J. Leider. The author uses the analogy of a nautilus shell for one’s life. Out of the shell’s basic center of orientation is a coherent pattern of growth. As it keeps growing, the nautilus keeps adding new chambers throughout its life as it needs more space to grow. The questions Leider provides gets us to think of our lives in stages. He gets us to think about a central question as we move from the center (youngest part of the nautilus) to the outermost (oldest). Here are his questions:
· Childhood: What do I want to be when I grow up?
· Adolescence: Where do I fit?
· Young Adulthood: What is my calling?
· Middlessence: Who have I become as a person?
· Young Older Adulthood: How do I measure my success as a person?
· Elderhood: What value-legacy have I added to people’s lives?
In the process of vision development we’re asked to think big. To think of one’s impact on the world. To consider one’s personal passion and signature strengths. Here are some examples of friends thinking big: An HR director discovers she is more passionate about rescue dogs than her current work. A stay-at-home mom is devoted to her child, and deeply passionate about helping others work toward financial freedom and empowerment. A software salesman would rather spend his time teaching youth good sportsmanship and officiating games so they can pay their way through college.
Leider asks us to have our mid-life “crisis” on purpose. Be proactive and recreate yourself or your work so you can find deeper meaning and life satisfaction.
As we say in LeaderShape speak, “Now go marinate on Leider’s questions and let us know your thoughts…”
Leider, R.J. (2010). The Power of Purpose: Find Meaning, Live Longer. Berrett Koehler: San Francisco, CA.
Thanks so much to Karyn Nishimura Sneath for this post and for these meaningful questions to consider. Karyn has been connected to LeaderShape since 1991 and currently serves as the CEO of NPOWER.