Helping clients create powerful visions is one of my favorite things to do. And as much as I’ve written about it, there’s always more to learn. Today I’m sharing a personal story and lesson that I’m incorporating as I revisit my vision for this year and beyond.
When Your Reasons No Longer Hold
Over six years ago, I started a practice I call Fitness First. I haven’t missed a morning workout in that time. When people ask what keeps me going, I often point to the fact that I had resolved to start every day with activities that would get me into my physical body.
I also have a very clear and detailed vision for my physical health and body (as well as the other parts of the compass that keep me pointed in that direction).
Over the past few months, for the first time since I started this practice, I’ve felt a lot of resistance in getting to my morning workout. The force that used to pull me seems to have weakened, and I have had to exert more willpower to push myself out the door.
Last week, I revisited my long list of reasons why exercise in general, and putting my workout first, is important to me. For the first time since I started my practice, I found that none of my once-compelling reasons was holding.
Among other things, I wasn’t seeing results, nor did I feel good during or after my workout. My workouts were making me angry, and they weren’t helping my focus. Even worse, they were shattering my confidence. It’s no wonder that I was struggling to find motivation. Who would continue to do something that made them feel incompetent, angry, depressed, and frustrated? I actually thought about quitting, but I concluded that would only make me feel worse.
Relying on willpower is fine for a while, but it’s not sustainable. So, I did what I always do: I revisited my compass and looked for where it needed recalibration. In this process, I sought wisdom from trusted sources and found what my vision was lacking.
The Essential Element of Vision
In the introduction to Tarot of the Spirit, which is my bible of tarot study, Pamela Eakins writes about her experience traveling to El Salvador working with a team of doctors and nurses and meeting with the revolutionaries.
She thought the world’s problems could be solved if only we had the right vision.
She had a belief that vision would solve everything.
She writes that her worldview was “shattered” when she realized that
while the revolutionaries had written goals, their resolutions did not begin to approximate anything that might create equitable social change that would endure, social change with vision.
Two points stick out for me here.
(1) They had written goals, but no bigger vision.
This speaks to a point that I have previously shared about the difference between vision and goals. Vision isn’t just a bigger over-arching goal; it provides the context for goals, outcomes, and action. Goals, even if written, don’t get us anywhere without a vision that we’re driving toward.
(2) Their resolutions did not approximate anything that would lead to enduring social change; social change with vision.
I’ve written previously about why “resolutions” don’t work, most often focusing on the fact that most “resolutions” lack resolve. A resolution is a firm decision to do (or not to do) something. It connotes a quality of being determined.
What I think Eakins is speaking to here is relates to a deeper insight about resolve that I had started to uncover in my experience with my Fitness First practice:
Even a fierce determination can be unsustainable if your resolve is only focused on your life and your personal outcomes.
Vision Must Extend Beyond Ourselves
As I reviewed my vision for this area of my life and the list of reasons why I committed to this practice, I realized that they had one common theme: they were all about me. The results I desired for myself. How I feel during and after a workout. What gives me focus.
We may have compelling reasons to support our resolve, but if those reasons pertain only to our own desires, they will eventually grow thin and weary. Desires shift over time, circumstances change. Disillusionment can set in if we don’t see results or feel what we expect to feel.
To find sustainable success and fulfillment, as well as sustainable motivation for action, our vision, and what we do and create in support of that vision, must extend beyond ourselves. What we do cannot be simply for our own material, physical or even spiritual gain; our vision must encompass the world around us.
This doesn’t necessarily mean we need to have a World. Changing. Vision. in every area of life.
It can be as simple as entering into the activity with a different mindset or intention. In the prologue to The Places That Scare You, Pema Chödrön writes about beginning an activity with a compassionate aspiration and ending an it by dedicating the merit of the occasion to all beings. This is part of the “three noble principles.” Whether we believe we failed or succeeded in our intention,
we seal the act by thinking of others, of those who are succeeding and failing all over the world. We wish that anything we learned in our experiment could also benefit them.
In yoga practice, it is common to set a dedication of our efforts to someone else. When we reach a challenging part of practice, it helps to recall that dedication and remember that you’re doing what you’re doing for that person too.
Our Actions Always Impact Others, So Make it Intentional
Whether we intend it or not, how we act — in ways big and small — impacts and affects the world around us. Simple choices you may not think about, like walking down a certain street, stepping into a store, which subway car to ride in, impact others in the space. Every action has an impact and a consequence. We often don’t know whose lives we’ve touched.
Sometimes, even the simple (or not so simple) act of being willing to be seen in our courage — and in our struggles — can be enough, in that it gives others the strength to step into their own power.
Given that we are going to affect the lives of others no matter what, it seems wise to incorporate this awareness into our vision and be intentional about it.
When we live in a purposeful way that considers how our speech and action affects the world around us, when we infuse our behavior with an awareness that we are all connected, and when we dedicate our efforts to others, the most simple of actions can take on greater meaning, and this can help us push through the tough spots on the path.