Near the end of his life, India’s Mahatma Gandhi remarked: “I claim to be no more than an average man with below average capabilities. I have not the shadow of doubt that any man or woman can achieve what I have if he or she would put forth the same effort and cultivate the same hope and faith.” Acquiescing and accentuating, Stephen Covey opines that the power of transcendent vision is greater than the power of the scripting deep inside the human personality and it subordinates it, submerges it, until the whole personality is reorganized in the accomplishment of that vision.
The passion of a shared vision empowers people to transcend the petty, negative interaction that consume so much time and effort and deplete quality of life. Once people imbue the shared vision, they become energized by something more important, by a transcendent purpose that makes other things irrelevant. Covey believes that this is what happens when people have a real sense of legacy, a sense of mattering, and a sense of contribution. “It seems to tap into the deepest part of their heart and soul. It brings out the best and subordinates the rest.” Petty things become unimportant when people are impassioned about a purpose higher than self.
The passion of the kind of vision discussed here has a transforming, transcending impact – probably the greatest impact of any single factor on time and quality of life.
One of the most powerful process to cultivate, the passion of vision is creating and integrating an empowering personal mission statement. The concept of personal mission is not new. People from a variety of cultures have created statements of belief, personal creed, and similar statements throughout time.
But as the fellows at Covey Leadership Center have become involved in mission statement work worldwide, they have found that some statements are significantly more empowering than others. They report that people attempting to write a mission statement for the first time often write to please and impress somebody else. “They do not go the distance or pay the price to create a deep inner connection.”
They observe that on the organizational level, this is what happens when mission statements are driven down from the apex and propagated by the Public Relations department. There is no significant involvement, and therefore, no buy-in. The statement ends up hanging on the wall instead of living in the hearts and minds and lives of the people who work there. What Covey and his colleagues are talking about here is not simply a statement of belief. They are talking about accessing and creating an open connection with deep energy that comes from a well-defined, thorough integrated sense of purpose and meaning in life. They are talking about creating a powerful vision based on the true north principles that ensure its achievability. They are talking about the sense of excitement and adventure that grows out of connecting with your unique purpose and the profound satisfaction that comes from fulfilling it.
Almost invariably human beings live three lives. We have our public life, where we interact with other people at work, in the community, at social events. We have our private life, where we are away from the public. We may be alone or we may choose to be with family or friends.
But our most significant life is our deep inner life. This is where we connect with our unique human endowments of self-awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination. “Without these endowments, it is impossible to create the kind of empowering vision that will create quality-of-life results.”
In our deep inner life, we can use our endowment of self-awareness to explore our needs and capacities and integrate them on a very essential level. We can examine our paradigms, look at the roots and fruits in our lives, and explore our motives. One of the most powerful uses of self-awareness is to become aware of conscience and how it works within us.
Conscience puts us in touch with both the unique and the universal. Only as we tap into our conscience can we discover our unique purpose and capacity for contribution. Viktor Frankl said we do not invent our mission; we detect it. It is within us waiting to be realized. “Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus everyone’s task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.”
William Channing on his part had this to say: “Every human being has work to do, duties to perform, influence to exert, which are peculiarly his, and which no conscience but his own can teach.”
Only as we connect with our conscience in this deep inner life can we create the fire within. Mission statements that come out of public or private life thinking will never access that deeper inner core of personal empowerment.
Conscience not only puts us in touch with our own uniqueness; it also connects us with the universal true north principles that create quality of life. We can use conscience to align our values and strategies with principles, ensuring that both the ends and the means of our mission statement – both the contribution and the methods used in making the contribution – are principle-based.
Once we tap into conscience, we can use our endowment of creative imagination to envision and give meaningful expression to conscience-inspired vision and values by creating an empowering personal mission statement. “It is the blueprint before the construction; the mental before the physical creation.”
After writing a mission statement, we can use our creative imagination to visualize ourselves living it. We can use our minds to face and creatively solve the most difficult challenges to our integrity.
When living our mission statement means swimming upstream, going against the environment or our deeply ingrained habits or scripts, we can use our endowment of independent will. We can act instead of being acted upon.
The passion of vision gives us a new understanding of independent will. Without the passion of vision, “discipline” is regimentation and restraint. We do not have trust in ourselves that left to our own internal motivation; we would moment by moment make effective choices.
But the passion of vision releases the power that connects “discipline” with its root word, “disciple.” We become followers of our inner imperatives, subordinating the less important to the deep burning “yes.” The key to motivation is motive. It is the deeper “yes” burning inside that makes it easier to say no to the less important.
Creating and living an empowering mission statement has a significant impact on the way we spend our time. Vision is the fundamental force that drives everything else in our lives. It impassions us with a sense of the unique contribution that is ours to make.
It empowers us to put first things first, compasses ahead of clocks, people ahead of schedules and things. And as we live, love, and learn with greater meaning in our lives, we begin to realize that perhaps the most important legacy we can leave is vision. “What our children and others see of themselves and of their future has a profound effect on quality of life for us all.”