Episode 196 – The Power of Vision and Positive Thinking

Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to our podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today! This is Steve Shallenberger, your podcast host with Becoming Your Best. This podcast is dedicated to our granddaughter, Bella, whose birthday is tomorrow, along with all of our wonderful grandchildren and to you, who will go on to change the world for good.

Ralph Waldo Emerson gave this great quote, “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character and sow a character and you reap a destiny.” That is why the title of this podcast today is the mighty power of Positive Thinking.

William James also added another great quote, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering the attitudes of their mind, their thoughts.” So, how can you organize your thoughts that are meaningful and essential for you, to have a life that you desire, and want, and hope for?

One important answer is to train your thoughts – positive thoughts, winning thoughts – through a personal vision. If you don’t have a personal vision it’s far easier than you might think to create one, and if you have one already, it is worth going back and being sure that it reflects all that you want and hope to be and do.

Now, your mental creation, that’s what this is really, it’s a mental creation, literally precedes the physical creation, the reality and that is what your vision is, it captures your thoughts, it precedes this physical reality – first the thoughts, then the act, and you’ve created a new, current reality, a new life, and a new way.

Recently, I have been listening to several audiobooks, it’s been so fun! And for the fun of it, I decided to listen to Becoming Your Best – The 12 Principle of Highly Successful People and Leaders. Having been the author of that book provides an interesting perspective. And this has reminded me of the tremendous value of reviewing the principles, which are timeless and in themselves quite amazing! And as I listened to the chapter on Lead with a Vision, I was impressed with the examples, the characteristics of a meaningful vision, whether it’d be for your organization or for you, personally. This is a great chapter for every one of you to go back and review, to study together in your family and with your team, to assign somebody to teach to your group.

Let me just quote from page 27 and 28 – these are examples of a personal vision: Now, this is why is so important – just think about each one of these, they’re the thoughts that we entertain, these are the attitudes that we have and as you have these thoughts, think about the acts, the habits that they produce and the fruit that comes from behaving this way.

Here you go, I’m just going to quote right out of the book some of these examples of a personal vision. “I am an individual of unquenchable curiosity and feverishly inventive imagination.” This is by one of the all-time great inventors in the history of the world. “I shall not fear anyone, only God. I shall not bear ill-will towards anyone, I shall conquer untruth with truth and in resisting untruth I shall put up with all suffering.” That one happened to be from Mahatma Gandhi. So, these are just really wonderful and good examples of things that we may consider putting into our vision. That’s why this chapter is just chock full of great resources that can be of help to us.

Alright, I’ll just go through the rest of these examples: “I shall live this day as if it were my last.” “I achieve the seemingly impossible. I am the master of my fate and the captain of my soul. I am a person of total integrity. I am physically fit and take care of myself. I work to maximize my health, energy, and peace of mind.” Again, just think about the power of these thoughts. “I am a game-changer, I am making a difference for good personally, in my relationships, and within my organization. I am leaving the world a better place than I found it. I consistently ask myself what my best or my organization’s best looks like and I work doggedly, to get to the best that can be. I am not complacent. I am vigilant and keep looking for ways to improve.” And here is the last example: “I am a faithful and loyal spouse and enjoy a deep relationship with my family.”

So, as you can see in these examples of vision, it doesn’t really have to be long or worthy and sometimes there’s great power in being short and concise. Other times, your vision might need to be several paragraphs. Again, the power is in actually having a vision that’s written and clearly understood. This is what’s put in the thoughts in front of us, creating the ideas, the action.

So, how can you do this? Okay, here we go, it’s really quite simple. Number one is, get a piece of paper, and down the left-hand column write six to seven of your life’s roles. And may I suggest that there are a couple of fixed roles for all of us. The first one I’d recommend is your role of you as an individual, “personal” is how I’d describe it. And within that one, it encompasses the different dimensions or facets of our life – physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional, financial perhaps. So, that’s the personal aspect with the dimensions, and how do you see this, what are the words that describe you in those areas?

And here is another one, among those six or seven you may consider, that’s common for all of us and this is a new insight that I had, just a couple of months ago, and that is describing one of those under your vision, as dreams. What are some things that you would like to accomplish? And that’s different in describing, for example, what kind of a parent you are or what kind of a business person you might be, how you interact with other people or how you give civically or in your church. So, those are different roles, of course, but those, too, we all have in common. We have some dreams and they’re extremely powerful. So that’s number one – just get a piece of paper and write your roles down, include in those commons ones.

Number two, with this clean sheet in front of you, with your roles sketched out, simply listen to your heart and mind and inspirations. Describe how you choose to live and treat others. Conduct yourself personally and professionally and what dreams do you want to accomplish? This is a fun process. It make take an hour or two – you don’t have to do it all in one sitting and you may come back to it time and time again until it’s complete and the stakes are high. It is your life and influences you and everyone around you. So, don’t be afraid to think big on some of these things.

And the third step on this is, may I suggest that some components are enormous for you and will have a huge impact on your life. One set of words for you to consider is this – and just think, again, about the impact of something like this in your vision – “I have a positive frame of mind. Ever positive. I do not allow negative thoughts into my being in any way. I dwell only on the good and the positive. I dwell on the joyful side of life, even in adversity because in truth, negative cannot help me, in a single way. The positive allows me to consider helpful solutions and ways forward that are useful. Although there are challenges, setbacks and the fiery furnace can get hot, life is good, and I work to make the best of it in every situation. I soak up knowledge and information. I read, study, and listen. I love gaining new thoughts and ideas. I review my favorite books – my faithful friends that inspire me over and over.”

You see, this is what Highly Successful People and Leaders do, as they align with these powerful principles. I hope that this is something that you say to yourself and whatever leadership capacity you’re in, what is the vision? What are we going to do? What do you hope to be and accomplish? So, whether it’s a civic role, or a family role, a parent, a grandparent, or even a son or a daughter, what’s the vision? We set the vision, include the whole group. If it’s professional, whether it’s your team, or a company, whatever it might be, bring those around and say, “What’s the vision? Let’s talk about this. How would you describe it?” And you are the catalyst to bring this to fruition, that people gather around and it brings passion to what they’re doing. This is what Highly Successful People and Leaders do.

Now, let’s just see a few examples today, in leading both your life and organizations you may be associated with, including your family. Here’s one example: I have been associated with the America’s Freedom Festival, and it is a 4th of July celebration in Provo, Utah that’s gone on for probably 100 years. Particularly in the last 30 or 40 years, it’s developed into a very significant celebration of maybe 30 different events, most of those simmered in about a 10-day period during the 4th of July.

One of those events is called, “The Hope of America” This event is 5th graders singing patriotic songs. It’s a whole program of about an hour and 15 or 20 minutes. It’s amazing! We now have over 8,000 5th graders participate. It’s in the Marriott Center on the Brigham Young University campus and of course, the place is packed. It now goes over three nights in a row, so that we can accommodate all these students. They wear red, white, blue and yellow shirts and make up the American flag. It is something to behold. And so inspiring, as they sing the songs of Hope of America and they get how powerful freedom is.

Well, in our capacity, and thinking in this line that we have, the Leadership of the America’s Freedom Festival set back and said, “What’s the vision that we have?” – and this includes our National Advisory Board. One of the visions that we have, that we can see in the future, is called, “The Hope of America 50 States” and that is having 5th graders throughout the entire country, sometime around this time, singing these songs in an hour or an hour and a half program. This is going to be so inspiring.

So, first comes the vision, right? The thoughts. And then, it becomes an action, and then it finally starts taking form and it will become a reality. And so, we’ve put a plan in place, so won’t this be fun, in five years from now, to see how we’re doing. Will we have 5th graders in all 50 states singing these wonderful patriotic songs? This is the power of a vision! So, this will be fun because we’ll be able to watch it happen, but I can tell you from being involved, as soon as the vision was hatched, the ways to do it started becoming organized and now we’re putting together a plan that we can all interact around together and you can just feel the energy.

Okay, here’s another example of this. I was teaching – this was four years ago, taught together with Rob a three-day breakthrough leadership conference, entrepreneur leadership conference in Kigali, Rwanda. Our wonderful friend, Emery, helped set this up, he is amazing, and we had over 200 young entrepreneurs there. I’ll never forget, as we covered these principles of vision and annual goals, one of the fellows came up to me and said, “My goal, my vision, is that I want to get my MBA from a University in the United States!” He said, “I had that idea today!” Well, what was so powerful, if you don’t have the idea in the first place, it’s very difficult to ever be able to achieve anything like it, unless you have the idea. It was just about a year later, I was sitting at my desk and received a phone call. And he said, “Hi, this is so and so from Rwanda.” He said, “I want you to know, I’m calling you from the University of Oklahoma, where I’m starting my first day of class in their MBA program.”

This is how it happens. So powerful! I’ve got a number of other examples. Also in that class is an extraordinary woman by the name of Lydie. Oh, my Goodness, fabulous lady – probably 40 years old, give or take a little bit, could be younger. I mean, she looks a lot younger but anyhow, I think in that range. She said, “One of the visions, goals I’ve always had, is to create some schools.” And she said, “So, I’ve got it! I’m going to do this.” We went through a process called, “The six steps of planning and execution” so actually she left with a defined plan of who would do what, when.

It was interesting because I went back two years later and she could not wait to come up and report. She said, “I not only have one school, I now have two schools, with over 800 students and these are state of the art, wonderful schools.” Think of the world as being changed because of Lydie. Last year she just finished, by the way, graduated from the Harvard Business School. And returning to her country will have a great impact.

I know our sons, Rob and Steven, when they were teenagers, were sitting in the Stadium of Fire, a part of this 4th of July celebration, and 45,000 people there and the F16s flyover, a four-ship formation. They looked at each other right then, and said, “One day, we are going to fly those F16s right over this stadium!” This was such a compelling vision! It impacted everything. They had to get good grades and they had to point themselves in a certain direction, which they did. It was life-changing and just a few years ago, we were fortunate to sit in that stadium, and watch those jets come over, where Steven was flying one and Rob was flying another one of them. Oh, my goodness, it was thrilling! And this is the power of a vision. It’s a very big impact. They got permission from the Pentagon to do that because brothers in the same family, by rules, are not permitted to fly in the same formation, in case there was an accident. In this case, they gave special permission. Isn’t that amazing?

And now we look at the next generation. Rob’s son, Robbie, has an interest in perhaps being an Airforce pilot. Or being a doctor, going through the Airforce. See how this can have an intergenerational impact? Another one of Rob’s children, Bella, a daughter, her vision is to be an author, a poetess. She’s already completed her first book, which she did at 12, and she is so talented in this area. This gives us the chance to develop these thoughts, these talents that we have, and put them into a defined reality.

I’ll just tell a quick story about David Shallenberger, another son of ours. David is so talented, but he also is a cat with nine lives. It seems like he’s lived a little bit on the edge. It’s interesting because I know that one of his visions is to be a finisher, is to live life in full. But also, to never give up and hang in there and to try to lift others. He graduated in engineering and had been accepted in the Law School, was married and had two children, at the time, and they were visiting our home in Provo Canyon. At this particular evening, he went out and was riding a skateboard, a longboard, if you will, and one of his brothers was behind him on the four-wheeler going down an inclined there, on the road, and he had a plan that if he got going too fast, that he would bail, just jump over and jump off.

Well, he did get going a little too fast and so he didn’t want to stay on the longboard, and, as he was coming to that point where he needed to come off, he jumped off and he rolled down the hill, but what he didn’t see, was the 15-foot embankment that he rolled down in the field. And as he rolled down this, he saw a flash of light and he knew that something had happened. His brother quickly called us and we came down and his brother started to pick him up, he said, “No, I need to lay here.” And so, we came, we called the ambulance, it took 45 minutes for them to get there, they stabilized his neck and we got him to the emergency in hospital. The neuroscience physicians, specialists saw him, they took the X-Rays and put him up on the wall and there, as clear as anything you can see, they said, “You can see it right there, he has broken his neck, on the C1 and the C2.” This is the one that Christopher Reeves broke and really controls the breathing and 90% of people die when they have this type of an injury.

We knew it was very serious and life-changing. They put a halo on Dave – this is this big, metal apparatus that goes around the neck and holds the skull in place so that it can’t wiggle and gives it a chance to recover. There were clean breaks on all four sides of that vertebra for both of those. Oh, my goodness! I looked at that and of course, just a fraction in one way or another, may have severed the spinal cord, but in this case, he had his feeling and he could move around.

Well, he had been accepted into Law School, which was scheduled to start in seven or eight weeks, and now he had a broken neck. What are you going to do? Well, his vision was to never give up, was to be a finisher. He said, “I am going to start law school, with all the rest of my classmates.” Sure enough, that’s exactly what he did. We traveled up there with him and helped him do the moving. He said, “I look like Frankenstein, walking around with this halo”, but he did start Law School and graduated with his class. The halo came off about eight months later, I guess it was. Now, he has this wonderful background of both being an engineer and a law degree and this has been very helpful for him.

But you can see the impact that this has on life! We have seen this application in the lives of each of our children and I see this in the lives of our employees, as I watch them grow and progress, professionally.

One of our amazing coaching clients with Becoming Your Best is a fabulous woman, and one of her sons worked in her organization as a key leader. Unfortunately, over time, things went south. She had to fix this situation. Her vision was to resolve the issue with him leaving the organization – which you can imagine how tough this must’ve been – and, maintaining a loving relationship as a mother for him and his family. This is a great example of leading with a vision, and managing with a plan. And when will this be outdated? Never! These are powerful principles! What’s the vision and what’s the plan? I’m so happy to report in this case that this had a positive outcome and she’s been able to do both of those. At least, it is a work in progress.

Another example is my business partner’s vision – think of the vision. Dave Cark, who is really an extraordinary, remarkable fellow, earlier in our career, 25 or 30 years ago, had a vision, a dream, and it was to help those not in the position to help themselves to get out of poverty. And this resulted ultimately in him coming up with the idea, with the help of his father and a couple of our advisors, to set up a school in Central and South America that would do exactly that. It is now, all these years later, successfully functioning in 11 different countries, blessing the lives of thousands of people each year, who are graduates and including their families.

Now, what would’ve happened if Dave did not have that vision early on? The world is such a better place because of this. And in our business, we regularly pause to reflect upon our vision and goals. We talk about them, we make adjustments and we go. The question is always, “How can we be among the best at what we do?”

Well, the last example I’ll share today, is the Young Presidents Organization Forum, that I’m privileged and honored to be part of. And two weeks from now we will have a forum retreat for a few days in a remote location. And I am this year, the forum moderator. So, as we’ve talked about what we might do, one of the things we are going to do is an activity doing exactly what we were talking about today. It’s focusing on our visions! And the activity is this: What are your hopes, dreams, and vision for the next 3-5 years.

Now, this is an extraordinary group. There are seven of us, each one, of course, is a president of an organization, each one is civically involved in different organizations, each one has a family, and is very conscious about their own life. So, this is going to be an extraordinary experience! Right now, each one is preparing and then, when we get together, we’ll be given 30 minutes to report on what they’ve come up with. They’ve done exactly what we’re talking about today. A clean sheet of paper, roles down the left side, and now think three to five years out.

Now, we’re not as young as we used to be, this is not an old group, but we’re certainly not young as we were in the early parts of our careers. So, many things have changed. So, what will that look like? The answers will be in total confidence. And this will be a great haven to share what really matters. I’ll give just a couple of mine because I’m in the middle of doing this, just to give you a flavor. But, I’m just thinking three to five years out, and by the way, this is all in rough right now, I haven’t finished it, but certainly one of these, part of my vision and my role, personal, is to stay steely-eyed positive. In the background of what we talked about, you know what I’m talking about here.

Another one is to stay physically fit and maintain a healthy diet. Here are some other things I’m thinking about, is to take piano lessons and to continue tennis lessons. I’m blind of one eye, and so I’m trying to figure out how to do this better with one eye. Another one is to take a look at art lessons. So, those are some of the areas just kind of impersonal but I’ve done this for husband, which is to make the best of the time with Roxanne. How about a father and a grandfather? I’ve got certain things in mind there. Some family trips we’ll set up. How about with companies? You know, Synergy, Becoming Your Best. How about with the Freedom Festival? I’ve talked about one of those. Hopefully, I can play some small part in the Hope of America 50 States. I’ve got some other thoughts there.

Here’s another one I’m really pumped about, is on our property, is to create a secret garden, a place where you can go in, it’s a secret garden and it’s just a little haven that’s amazing. With family and friends to stay in touch, with regular reunions, and to stay in touch with family and friends. So I’m looking at these and I’m 68 today. Five years from now, that means I will be 73, give or take a little. Oh, here’s another one I put – be in the position to live to 95 to 100, in good shape. Well, I’ve got to make it through the next five years and kind of maintain that, so that I have the opportunity, at least, to keep these things up.

Well, these are the kind of thoughts that we can have that will have a giant impact on our lives. The fruits of aligning with this principle of Lead with a Vision, simply cannot fully be put in words. However, the influence of this practice will impact every area of your life, including health, happiness, and prosperity. And the reason I’ve provided so many examples today is to encourage you to be thoughtful and deliberate about your vision and annual goals and to move into action. And from this podcast today, here are some leadership actions that you can take:

Number one, take a look at your vision. Get it in place, review it. Adjust it as needed, and observe the impact that it has on your thoughts and life. You are taking charge!

Number two: To help you do this, invite a friend or family member or coach into your circle to help, let them know what you’re doing and that you would like to share with them your vision. Let them know a draft that you’re working on will be done in the next two weeks, and ask if you can share it with them. This accountability will bless both of you.

Number three, print out your vision and put it in a place where you can review it frequently. Number four, once you have that complete, then you can think about your annual goals. They, too, are simple to capture. It’s just a clean sheet of paper, roles down the left-hand side, just like with the vision, and by each role, what will you do this year to realize your vision?

There’s a big difference between goals and visions. Vision is the direction, the goals are what you are going to do this year. And try to make them smart goals. In other words, specific, measurable, achievable, relevant to your vision and also time-sensitive. These will have a big impact! Once again, you could share these with a friend, family, member or coach. Your thoughts organized this way will literally become a reality. And this is how you lead a life by design versus living a life by default! And remember, the vision of one, can influence many.

I’d like to finish today with where we started – Ralph Waldo Emerson – and maybe these will even have a deeper meaning. “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; and sow a character and you reap a destiny.” And by William James, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”

I would love to have you share your vision with me if it would be helpful. And if you’re inclined to do so, this will be held in total confidence! I would not share it with anyone. Just send your vision to me, at and I’ll get it, you can just write to that email and feel free to direct it to me, and I’ll get it. Let’s learn and grow together!

What we discussed today is a practice by a very small percentage of people. It reminds me of the quote by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens, can change the world! Indeed it’s the only thing that ever has.” These are small groups, it’s a small group of people and they’re the ones with a vision, they’re thoughtful and committed to change the world. It’s not only their world, but it’s also the world of those around them in both seemingly small ways and big ways.

This is Steve Shallenberger, your host with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day!

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