A Vision for Your Life

Pulitzer prize-winning composer Gian Carlo Menotti said, “Hell begins on that day when God grants us a clear vision of all that we might have achieved, of all the gifts we wasted, of all that we might have done that we did not do.” No one wants to look back at life and see time and opportunities wasted. That’s why it’s important to recognize the value of having a vision for your life before too much time passes.

I share this because, as I watch men out in the world of business, I have noticed how most of them live reactively rather than proactively. Their lives are little more than a series of reactions to the circumstances they are confronted with each day rather than a proactive life based on a vision of who they are and what they really want to accomplish. They clearly have no real plan or strategy to make life conform to their dreams and their goals. They yearn for a life of significance, yet most do not have the ability and sometimes even the motivation to see beyond their present reality. Few have developed a vision for their lives and they just drift along each day.

I first realized the significance of this almost twenty-four years ago, as I was considering a career change. I was revisiting Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, which I had read once before. As I began to look at the second habit—begin with the end in mind—it was as if a light bulb had finally turned on in my mind.

What this means is that as we consider our lives and our future plans, we must start with a clear understanding of our ultimate destination. Covey contends the best way to do this is to give serious thought to the legacy we leave behind. He asks us to consider a very effective thought experiment of attending our own funeral:

As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers. The first is from your family, immediate and also extended— children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents who have come from all over the country to attend. The second speaker is one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person. The third speaker is from your work or profession. And the fourth is from your church or some community organization where you’ve been involved in service.

Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate?

What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?

Covey believes this is the foundation that will enable us to develop a vision for our lives (or mission, as he likes to call it). Once we develop a well thought out vision, we then can begin to plot a course that will make sure it becomes a reality. Instead of wasting our lives and living reactively, we now have the criteria to measure everything we do in life, including our priorities, our choices, and the use of our time.

Richard E Simmons III is the founder and Executive Director of The Center for Executive Leadership and a best-selling author.


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