Oct 212014

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Dr. Earl R. Smith II


Lots of advice is available. The common mantra is ‘get a personal vision’. But the truth is that you already have one. Sure, it may be out of focus and counterproductive. But you do have one. Many would call it your ‘self image’. It is how you decide what you will do and what you will not do. This self image sets your expectations. It holds your private vision of you in the world. It is there with you when you wake up every morning and as you go to sleep each night. So, the question is not whether you have a personal vision. The question is ‘do you have the right personal vision?”

All personal visions are compelling. They control your life and expectations. Your personal vision gets you out of bed every morning and moves you through the day. At the end of each day you have experienced the meaning of your vision. Each of your days is guided by it. So, if at the end of a day you are dissatisfied with the way it went, you need to look to your personal vision and ask ‘am I journeying through life with the wrong one?”

The right personal vision moves you in the direction your life should take rather than one chosen by chance. It gives you a clear understanding of who you are, what you are entitled to and what contributions you can make to the world as you find it. The right personal vision gives you confidence that you are valuable in your own right, that you are entitled to be treated with respect and consideration and that you can make important contributions to the lives of people around you.

You can make changes in your life and those changes are best begun with a search for the right personal vision. My mentoring work begins with this search. It is not as hard as you might think. You need to start with the support of a guide and make the commitment to keep on until you have reached that self-understanding that will reveal the personal vision that is uniquely for you.

Overcoming the Internal Arguments

So what stands in your way? The first is your own inertia. Once you have made an accommodation with life and settled for a personal vision that is a poor fit, you turn that vision into a series of habits. You might consistently underestimate your value to other people, for instance. Once that becomes a habit and part of your personal vision, it is very hard to change the underlying behavior. In a strange way, it involves arguing with yourself.

  • You: You need to stop being that way
  • You: This is the way I am
  • You: Being this way is harming my life and limiting its potential
  • You: This is the way I am
  • You: I need to change, to become the personal I can be not the one I became
  • You: I do not like change
  • You: I will change and find a better personal vision
  • You: I will fight you on this. This means war!

Once you decide to search for a better personal vision, these kinds of internal discussions are unavoidable. It is not that you like your current vision. You might be either ashamed or uncertain about your place and role in the world. Maybe there is a small voice that keeps suggesting a change. But that voice is drowned out by the insistence of the current vision of you.

Step One: Gather the Courage to Listen to That Small Voice

The first step is by far the most difficult. It takes a great deal of courage to contradict yourself; and that is exactly what you have to do. Part of you will insist that things are manageable if not optimal. Change is dangerous and involves the unknown. The push-back can be daunting. But you must not be daunted. The way forward is through that resistance. There is no way around it. You must push through it.

One way to overcome your own resistance is to build a support network around your project of self reinvention. One mistake people make is to keep their resolve to themselves and not share it with others. Behavior change is hard enough with the help of your friends. You do not want to be locked alone in a dark room with your own aversion to change. Declare your intentions to those around you and ask their help in monitoring your progress. You will receive two gifts if you do this. The first is the support of your friends. The second is the gift that you will give them. Beyond a statement of faith in their friendship, you will also give them an example of what they might achieve if they decided to try.

Chart your course and then set about following it. Begin by writing out a clear statement of intention. Make sure that you keep that statement focused on your daily life. Remember, you are setting out on a search for a better personal vision. The constant questions should be:

  • Who am I and what excites me about living?
  • What do I bring to the world that is uniquely mine?
  • What can I invest my time in that will give me the greatest return?
  • What returns do I value the most?

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