Having a personal vision means to hold a clear perspective about future, dreams and goals. Vision is the act or power of seeing and dreaming. The act of visioning means to have the ability to see beyond the boundaries, the walls that your blind eyes sometimes build to protect you from a fear of failure. More precisely, personal vision is what moves you in a specific direction in your professional and personal life. The key elements to develop a vision are: being open to receiving what inspiration offers, and acting upon it. Developing of a clear vision is a process trough which, you learn to know yourself, abilities, talents, and aspirations. Holding a personal vision is the best way to face the several changes you experience during your life. Because, beyond every unsuspected circumstance, or moments of indecision about the next step, your personal vision leads you toward the desired destination.
As human beings, you are involved in an evolutionary process, where the most important ability is adapting to different circumstances. Human life is a process of change, through which you change body, environment, beliefs and way of thinking. Across these various levels of change, there is your identity, in terms of personal values, aspirations and professional choices. Each life is a blend of several experiences. Some of these experiences reinforce your strengths and show the weakness. The more you became conscious of this process, the more you learn to have a positive prospective about yourselves and existence.
Richard Boyatzis, distinguished professor of Organizational Behavior, Psychology, and Cognitive Science at Case Western Reserve University explains the process of change of human behavior through the Intentional Change Theory (ICT). This theory states that sustained, desired change occurs in a dynamic, non-linear process highlighted by five discoveries or epiphanies:
- Discovery of the Ideal Self: Who do I want to be?
- Assessment of the Real Self as compared to the Ideal Self: Who am I? Strengths: where my Ideal Self and Real Self are similar. Gaps: where my Ideal Self and Real Self are different.
- Formulation of a learning agenda: building on my strengths while reducing gaps.
- Practice and experimentation with new behaviors.
- The support of resonant relationship.
The first epiphany in this process of change, described by Boyatzis, is the ideal self, that is composed fundamentally of these elements: a dream or desired image of the future, which represents the content, and your core identity, which represents the personal context and a sense of hope, which serves as the emotional driver. These elements support your ability to craft for yourselves, ultimately a personal or shared vision. The ideal self is centered on autonomous motivation: what a person wants to do, and results in sustained, desired change. The motivation is autonomous and there is a promotion focus orientation, or in other words, involving moving towards something positive you are trying to attain.
According this theory, very often you think you are pursuing an ideal self, but instead, you are pursuing what can more accurately be described as an ought self. Boyatzis describes the ought self as an ideal self imposed on you by others, or sometimes, by your own internal desire to please others. In other words, it represents who others think you should be or who you think you should be, rather than who you really want to be. These external expectations or projections end up covering, or even sometimes smothering, the ideal self. It’s like when you lose your inner compass and decide to follow the suggestions coming from whom you trust more. The reason for that is that you believe that being compliant with the external world can make yourself and the people you care about happier and proud of you.
However, what can happen, at some point in the future, is that you have a wake-up call and find yourselves feeling disappointed, frustrated, or even angry. The main reason is that you have wasted so much time and energy in your life pursuing something that was never really what you wanted. In order to recognize that you are entrapped in the ought self, you can see your life engaged in a process of conformity that is a kind of behavior you adopt in order to accomplish the external social requirements. A big mistake would be to lose your identity in the act of conformity, not knowing your real dreams and aspirations and forfeit the personal vision.
If you recognize that you are in this process, what can you do to bring your attention back to the ideal self? According the ICT, getting in touch with the ideal self requires asking and then answering the question: who do I really want to be, and what do I really want to do with my life? In my daily life, do I express my self, my talents, passions, and values as I really want to do?
I would like to underline the importance to get in touch with your ideal self in order to drive the generation of a personal vision which becomes the motivational force for initiating and/or sustaining a desired change effort. The image of a desired future consists of your dreams and aspirations, as well as your passion and what you see as your calling or your purpose in life. The core identity shows relatively enduring individual characteristics including your values. Your values, as well as your dreams and your aspirations for that matter, may evolve over time as you progress through various career and life stages. Finding your uniqueness as individual is a process of learning and discovery. It’s like a seed that needs the good conditions to germinate, emerge and grow.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish”. Proverbs 29:18 (King James Version)
“What is now proved was once only imagined”. W. Blake