Successful leaders should possess several qualities, and I believe one of those is having a clear and powerful vision that identifies who they are and where they want to go.  Do you know who you are and where you are going?  Why would I want to follow you if you don’t know where you are going?  Do you know your strengths, values and purpose?  Do you know what you believe in most and how you are meant to contribute to the world during your short time here?  I would like to help you write a vision statement that is unique to you at this moment in your life so that you can improve your leadership skills whether you currently hold a leadership position or not.  You don’t have to be the president of a club or the captain of a team to be a leader.  Each of us can lead every day wherever we are by being the best people we can be and offering our authentic selves in service to others.  It is likely that your vision statement will evolve as you do.  You want to write a statement that works in your personal, professional, student, family and organizational life.

You at Your Highest and Best

We all have good days and bad days.  Lots of things happen and come at us every day.  No matter what external factors occur, we always have a choice.  We can either respond the way we always do from our automatic habits and cultural understanding or we can be mindful and creative in the way we respond to each situation.   You have probably had moments when you responded with grace and clarity after taking a deep breath in a tough situation and moments you maybe regretted when you reacted before you even had a chance to think.

What are you like when you are at your highest and best?  What adjectives describe you when you are exactly the person you want to be?  Think about your role models and their positive qualities you embody when you are the best version of yourself.  Generate a long list and write these traits down.  You will select some of these words as you craft your own vision statement.  Here are a few possible ideas to get you started: healthy, balanced, calm, funny, smart, compassionate, forgiving, grateful, energetic, enthusiastic, wise, competent, and successful.  Write as many words as you can.

Grab a marker and ten note cards or pieces of paper.  Choose your top ten words from the long list you created that most accurately describe you at your highest and best.  These should be traits that you have embodied before but you may not be perfect at them 100% of the time.  You may have to stretch a little and make mindful choices to live out these words when the hardest moments come.  For example, at my highest and best, I am calm, balanced and organized.  If you ask my friends, family and co-workers to describe me in three words, those three will probably not be their top picks.  However, I know what calm feels like.  I’ve been there before, and I strive to live calmly more often.   When I am centered and living as the best version of myself, you will meet a very calm Amber.

Which of the ten words you’ve written are most important to you?  Make sure you follow the “Five Ps” in selecting your words.

The “Five P’s” of a Powerful Vision:

  • Personal — it’s about you, not about anyone else
  • Present — it’s in the present tense, not a conditional future (even if you don’t model it all the time)
  • Positive — it’s what you are committed to, rather than what you’re not
  • Passionate — it’s alive to you; it makes your spine tingle and gives you ‘goose bumps’
  • Purpose  —  it’s about the bigger picture of your intention, and the difference you expect your way of being to make in the world

Write one word in big letters per note card.  You should have ten cards with one word each for a total of ten awesome words.  Now that you have written ten words that describe you at your highest and best and are true of the “five P’s,” really look at them.  Move the cards to different positions as you study them.  Which words pop out the most?  Which grab your attention?  Which feel right?  Select your five most important words and put the others to the side.  Take a deep breath as you look at these five words.  Now see if you can choose your most important three words and put the other two aside.

Crafting a Powerful Vision Statement

Now that you have your three most important words, you want to write sentences that incorporate these words and how they manifest themselves in your life when you are at your highest and best.  Remember that your vision must be personal, present, positive, passionate, and serve a purpose.  Start your sentence with the phrase, “At my highest and best, I am _____________.”   Notice, I didn’t say “will be,” “hope to be,” “sometimes am,” “wish I were” or “am not.”  Elaborate on your words to make the fullest meaning of how you exhibit this positive and present word.  For example, “At my highest and best, I am forgiving, first to myself and then to those who have hurt me knowingly or unknowingly.  I let go of the past and live in the present.  I am also calm, even in the face of ambiguity, bad news or a very stressful time.  Do you get it?  See if you can write a few sentences for each of your three adjectives and underline your words.  Read your vision statement out loud.  Does it bring up tears?  Does it give you “goose bumps”?  Does it make you excited to get out there and change the world?

Aligning with Vision

Visions provide direct support as we live and work in situations of difference. Craft your guiding vision. Commit to being an expression of your highest and best. Make choices that support you living in alignment with your vision.  When you find yourself at a crossroad where you have to make a decision, ask yourself what your highest and best self would do and if that is in keeping with the vision you have written.  As you navigate life with its ups and downs, difficult choices and dilemmas, ask yourself the following questions: Where are the gaps between my current reality and my vision of myself at my highest and best?  How does this situation confirm my vision? What aspects of my vision does it confirm? How, if at all, does this experience suggest I change or refine my vision?  What might I do to bring my current reality into alignment with my vision?  Do your best to live out your vision and may all your dreams come true, dear leaders!

Blog created with support from Personal Leadership Seminars

Amber Cordell is an OISS International Student Advisor and the Coordinator of International Student Orientation.  She is also a facilitator of Personal Leadership Seminars and an instructor of EAD 315: Student Leadership Practices.