How my vision carried me through the worst time of my life… and how you can set your own

By

Julia May

January 22 this year marked two years since my mother died suddenly. After a summer’s day spent with my two daughters and my dad, with a full moon shining above her, Mum went out to the garden and never came back. Just like that, she was here and then she simply wasn’t.

In the weeks after Mum died I felt the jarring vulnerability that comes when your world tips on its axis. I felt many things but I never felt lost. Though shoved to my knees, I didn’t fall into the wilderness; I had a clear path and knew that once I was back on my feet I just had to keep walking it.

This isn’t a story about grief or loss, it’s a story about the anchoring power of vision, and how it can see you through both the best and worst of times; and if there’s one thing every person has learned in the past year, it’s the knowledge that sudden change can land anytime. Vision is the clarion that calls you forward through the darkness, and has pragmatic benefits too.

My own vision speaks to how I want to “get behind other leaders and equip them with what they need to expedite the systemic shifts we need in the world”. It’s big, chunky and makes me sit up straight. In the time since Mum died, it has also given me a clear external focus when my internal world felt in disarray.

All of this means I can speak with experience when we walk other leaders through their vision, and see the pop that comes when they lift their eyes beyond the immediate horizon. And while my big change was sudden personal loss, you can substitute in any unexpected challenge: loss of a job, an unforeseen promotion; a restructure or heck, a global pandemic.

What is vision and how is it expressed?

Vision is neither fluffy nor tactical, and is as relevant for one individual person as it is for global organisations. Research shows that the ability to imagine and articulate a possible future state is a vital component of successful leadership, creates stability in turbulent times, and that organisations with coherent and meaningful vision statements are twice as profitable compared with organisations without them. There is a commercial imperative.

Vision is a critical foundation of our work, whether for a leadership strategy, a communications plan or designing a visibility program for 1000 leaders. A vision isn’t a shopping list of goals: it clearly states where you wish to be, and how you wish to feel at a particular point in the future in an effort to push thinking beyond the day-to-day and align yourself, and potentially other people, with your intentions. It provides a felt-sense of the desired destination. The best bit? “Catching up with the vision”: when, after focused effort you find yourself having achieved what you set out to, and feel ready to set a new one.

From vision-setting to promotion and a board appointment… in just three months

Tahlia-Rose Vanissum was a participant in our Visibility for Influence masterclass for women in the public sector in 2020. Tahlia-Rose, who is an adviser in the Women’s Safety and Leadership team at the National Indigenous Australians Agency, articulated her leadership vision for the coming year. She says: “I changed my quasi-five year plan in response to this and decided to change my focus from my post-graduate studies back to my career. with the aim to slowly make my way through my degree. That way I have more time to do what I love, make change, make impact and help others to do that as well, with an increased focus on my wellbeing.”

Within three months of setting her leadership vision, Tahlia-Rose had been promoted and appointed to the board of the Canberra Institute of Technology. These are the stories we hear almost every day.

How to set a vision for yourself

So how do you set a vision for yourself or your organisation? We use 4-5 different approaches in our strategy advisory work and programs, but have a simple checklist to get you started:
• Include a time / date stamp, so you know when you’ve arrived
• Write it in the present tense
• Include how you want to feel, or how you want your organisation to feel, as well as what you’re achieving
• Include the qualities of your leadership or organisation that you want to embody
• Include tangible outcomes to know when you’ve achieved what you set out to
• Ensure it evokes emotion: it’s inspiring, motivating, elevating

A simple vision formula

“By xx [date] I feel xx. I have achieved xx, am embodying xx in my leadership and seeing xx outcomes.”

Examples of vision statements

Personal/leadership

By January 2021, I am in flow as a leader of myself, my family and XXX. I am making space to nourish myself, my family and the team. I am working to my strengths 80% of the time and delivering a new digital platform that is comprising 20 percent of revenue. The team is sharing the benefits of a business that is making a difference.

Organisational vision: Visibility Co

By January 2023, visibility is a proven weapon that powers leaders, communities and movements to contribute to systems change. Our methodology is recognised, systematised and foolproof and elevated by a global community of radical activators. We are served by a sustainable and multi-faceted business model. Our visibility is a beacon for others: we are our own best case study for the three pillars. We feel in flow and in our power.

Download our free Vision Mapping e-book

Need more help articulating your leadership or organisational vision?

Sign up to our database to receive our DIY Vision Mapping e-book, a step-by-step process for articulating your vision, which is part of Visibility Foundations, our free 8-week program.


Or contact us to be guided through a process to articulate your vision, or set one for your team or organisation as part of one of our individual, group or organisational programs or strategic advisory services.

About Visibility Co.

Working at the intersection of leadership, strategy and visibility, we seek to be strategic provocateurs and catalysts of systemic change, supporting you to unleash the potential within so you can create a better world from wherever you are.

While we’re not big on labels, we’re often referred to as social impact and communications strategists, or strategic leadership advisors, or visibility experts.

Fancy words for a business, led by Julia May and Sarah Anderson, that brings together purposeful leadership, strategy and communications in truly integrative and innovative ways.

Find out more

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