As I drove to church Sunday, I thought about what a blessing it has been to be able to travel around the state of Georgia for the past three years talking to students, parents, and educators thanks to a grant with the Governor’s Office for Children & Families. I have spoken to over 25,000 students in the past three years, though not all of those students have been a result of funding from the GOCF.
As I thanked God for the many opportunities I have had over the past 12 years to have a positive impact on the lives of youth, I could not help but think back to the catalyst that started me on this journey.
Sparking a Vision
It was January 1, 1997, and I had gone to the bookstore in Lima, OH where I was living at the time, to purchase a book about investing. Somehow I ended up with a book in my hand called, The Path: Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and for Life by Laurie Beth Jones.
I started reading it as soon as I got in the car and had read twenty pages by the time I arrived home. YES, I was driving! I have since repented and no longer read while driving. I promise!
I read more of the book when I got home and was up at midnight on the computer attempting to describe the life that I would be living if I could do anything I wanted to do. Describing the “perfect life” was one of the most difficult tasks I had ever attempted to do.
That night I realized it is really easy to complain about what you DO NOT want and often MUCH more difficult to articulate what you DO want. I was very confident that the life I was currently living was not the life I wanted to live in the future.
At the time, I was in a very stressful role where I often spent 12-14 hours a day at work. I may not have known what the “perfect life” looked like, but I knew for sure what it did not look like, and that was being the Human Resource Manager for Procter & Gamble’s plant in Lima, OH.
Crafting a Vision
Here is a portion of the vision that I wrote while still employed by Procter & Gamble, having no idea when or how this vision would come to pass:
My life is so fulfilling that each day I awake with anticipation and excitement. I receive requests regularly to speak to schools, churches and various other organizations and businesses…I’m not at all nervous, because I know I have a message of hope to deliver. There are far fewer people living beneath their privilege as a result of the education I provide. The visible results seen in people’s lives make corporations, foundations and government officials eager to provide the funding I need to continue this work. I have unlimited resources. I look back and wonder how I could have ever been afraid to move into this work – it was much easier than I thought. I know that I’m finally doing the work God has given me and I am making a difference in the lives of children.
Believing the Vision
Something amazing happened when I wrote my vision: though the long hours and stress of my job did not decrease, my attitude changed. I kept a copy of my vision on my desk and every time I became stressed, I would read my vision and say to myself, “My current situation is only temporary. This is the life I will live one day,” and I believed it with all my heart.
I stayed in that stressful job for another year before transferring to a much less stressful job in Atlanta where I spent the last three years of my career with P&G.
I read the above vision now and marvel at how much of it has come to pass. I’m still waiting on those unlimited resources.
As you can see, the vision I described did not come to pass overnight. It would be another 4 years after reading The Path and writing my vision before I actually left Procter & Gamble to pursue my life’s purpose.
I wonder whether I would have ever had the courage to walk away from what most people would consider a successful career in corporate America had I not written and internalized the vision that pulled me toward my destiny.
What about you? Do you have a written vision of your future life? If not, it is not too late to write it. I think you will be amazed by the power of the written word.
It is also not too early to write it, which is why I challenge students not to wait until they are adults to create a vision for their futures. Next week, I will discuss how I help students understand the importance of having a written vision. I will also share the process I use to help them write their visions. If you have not written your vision before then, you may find the process helpful as well. So you don’t want to miss next week’s post.
Have you already written a personal vision statement? If so, how has it helped you? Do you have tips for someone who wants to write his or her own vision statement?