If you want to move toward the best future you can imagine for yourself, one of the greatest assets you can have in your toolbox is a compelling vision.

In the context of your LAST.BEST.JOB., a “Compelling Vision” is:

  • A clear and powerful image of what you want for your life in the career time you have left.
  • A vision that draws together your SuperPowers with what the world needs and will pay you for (also known as “Ikigai”).
  • A picture that’s so attractive you’re instinctively drawn to it. It captures your heart as well as your mind. It pops you out of bed in the morning!

Your brain needs a compelling vision! Here’s the neuroscience, in a nutshell.

There are 2 main areas of your brain that govern your actual behavior, the limbic system and the prefrontal cortex.

The limbic system is the oldest part of your brain, from an evolutionary standpoint. Its function is to keep you safe, so this is where those fight, flight and freeze instincts live. It works great for ensuring you stay out of the way of fast-moving vehicles (today’s version of a saber tooth tiger?), but not so great for dealing with the majority of “threats” you experience in your daily life. In fact, it interprets threats to your status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness in exactly the same manner as it interprets that saber tooth tiger (learn more about the SCARF model here). That reluctance you feel to hit the send button on your request to talk to your boss about a raise or a promotion? That’s your limbic system trying to keep you safe, and it happens without you even realizing it.

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) evolved much later than the limbic system. All your rational thought and behavior, your “higher” functioning, lives here. Your PFC is the reason you have abilities like abstract thinking, thought analysis, working memory, planning, decision making, regulating emotions –all the things we most strongly associate with being human.

Your limbic system has a lot more real estate in your head than your prefrontal cortex. It also runs on autopilot, while your PFC burns a LOT of energy. This is why your “away” response – that run to safety – is so much stronger than your “toward” response, and why it can be so hard to live up to your potential. Your best intentions to stay positive and upbeat get highjacked the instant you feel like you’ve been treated unfairly, or like an outsider, or any number of other “threats”.

Here’s where your compelling vision comes in. To overcome that limbic system run to safety, you must be drawn to something very powerful. A great compelling vision:

    • Is concise and easy to remember in a few words
    • Moves you emotionally so the instant you think of it you’re DRAWN to it
    • Pops you out of bed in the morning

How to create your compelling vision statement

Your compelling vision answers the question “How will I use my SuperPowers to meet the world’s needs and values?” Literally, “I will ____________________________ [do X] to __________________________ [accomplish Y].”

To write one, you need to start playing with how you’ll ultimately fill in those blanks. It will be an iterative process; first drafts are always awful. Work on it until you have something that pops you out of bed in the morning! Only you can know what that is.

Here are some examples from people you might recognize (paraphrased a tiny bit to fit the format I just gave you):

  • Oprah Winfrey: I will be a teacher, inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.
  • Eric Schmidt (CEO, Google): I will collect all the world’s information and make it accessible for everyone.
  • Richard Branson: I will have fun in my journey through life and learn from my mistakes.
  • Denise Morrison (CEO, Campbell’s Soup): I will serve as a leader, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference.
  • Sam Walton: I will work with others to lower the cost of living for everyone, giving the world the opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better life.
  • Celia Swanson (former CHRO of Walmart): I will use my voice for women and children, empowering them to break through barriers that limit their ability to be significant.

“Go forth and set the world on fire!” ~ St. Ignacious Loyola

Lorri Anderson
Lorri Anderson

Lorri Anderson is an expert consultant to businesses and a powerful coach to individuals. After a long and rich career as a strategic HR executive, she is driven to give back by changing the Human Experience in today’s workplaces, one business or human at a time.

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