By Steve Shallenberger, *This article was recently featured in SALT–a community magazine in Salt Lake City.
A few months ago, I was privileged to go to Rwanda to lead a Becoming Your Best success and leadership boot camp for 200 entrepreneurs. Just 20 years ago Rwanda was ravaged by a wave of genocide during a 100-day period when an estimated 1.1 million people were slaughtered by their fellow citizens and neighbors. As we met with this large group of entrepreneurs, we found out that every single person in the room had lost someone in those horrific events. Yet Rwandans are finding ways to come together and unify their country; miraculously they are finding ways to heal. How?
One of the ways the country is transforming into a country of hope and prosperity is through a clear, shared vision of what the country can become. While in Rwanda we were honored to meet with Rwandan president, Paul Kagame and talk with him about his vision, and how it is empowering all Rwandans to turn the page on the horror and anger of the past. Titled “Rwanda 2020,” this vision is not just a hazy set of ideas. It serves as a clear destination for the country. It is the description of what the country can become.
Likewise, in our own lives we too need to begin our personal and familial transformations with a clear vision. But how many of us do this? How many of us take the time to actually discuss and write down a clearly defined family vision? Or help each of our children craft a personal vision of who they want to become? Not many of us, but we should! Think of an airplane getting ready for take off. If the crew has a nice plan such as what altitude they will climb to and what airspeed they will fly, but they do not have a clear destination, the flight won’t be much of a success. Similarly, without a vision to guide us and inspire us, our own desires for change, our own plans to become better are more likely to falter.
Creating a family vision in particular is a great opportunity to unite your family around a common cause or purpose. Your vision doesn’t have to be complicated; and remember this isn’t your plan or a list of goals, those come later to support your vision. A vision is who you want to become as a family (or individual). Anything from 1-3 paragraphs works well. Maybe you want to take the family to dinner and have everyone contribute one sentence to the family vision. Here is one young family’s example: “We are a TEAM…we support each other and encourage everyone’s success! We are kind. We love and hold tight to the gospel. We are loyal to each other. We have FUN together!” With the vision agreed upon and clearly defined, when problems or tensions arise it is easy to return to the family vision and discuss how certain actions are or are not moving the family in that direction. In other words, you shift the playing field from the problem to the vision. And since the vision was created and agreed upon by the entire family, everyone should be united in trying to work toward that end.
Returning from Rwanda, I was newly inspired by the resilience, the forgiveness, and the hope of the people there. These remarkable people have a vision for their country and their lives—a clear destination of where they want to be in 20 years. Hopefully in our own lives we are not struggling to rebuild out of the same type of tragedy, but with the dawn of a new year, we have the opportunity to create a clear and compelling vision of where we want to go in the future. This year rather than chasing problems, try leading with a vision. With your eyes on a clear destination, you will be surprised at your capacity to get there.