Do you have a vision that drives your life? Or are you like a pinball, bouncing around against the bumpers of life, not sure of exactly where you are headed next?
I have experienced both. For much of my early life, I felt I was directed by external forces. I recognized within myself a desire to understand life, but that quest more often than not took a backseat as I followed the whims of outside powers. I knew I needed to be working towards something more important but I was too busy working with whatever was in front of me.
One of the Proverbs states in part “where there is no vision, the people perish.” I take from this a couple of meanings. One is that as an individual, I will not thrive until I have a vision for my life. Another is that humanity as a whole is best served by focusing upon a vision for our collective lives. It’s my belief that our identifying our vision and living a passionate life in pursuit of that vision feeds and supports humanity moving towards its highest vision.
I first awoke to the importance of having a vision when I read Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He studied the characteristics of successful people and culled from their behaviors seven key characteristics for success. One was “begin with the end in mind”. Although the concept of knowing where you’re going before you start any endeavor is common sense, as it’s often said “common sense is not that common.” As Covey put it, it’s as if we climb a ladder and get to the top and realize that we’ve put the ladder against the wrong wall.
If we have no vision, then what is directing our lives? I thought about that recently. This gets into the psychological concept of motivation. After all, why do we do anything? There are a number of psychological theories regarding what motivates us. All of them have some truth, in my opinion. The theories that make the most sense to me are two – one related to our evolutionary past, the other Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Both I’ve written about many times before.
Evolutionary psychology says that the physical evolution of humanity locked in key motivators – consider them like animalistic instincts – which drive our actions. Maslow’s theory outlines “levels of needs” – physical, safety/security, love/belongingness, self-esteem, self-actualization. He suggested that lower needs drove our actions until they were met and we were then free to be motivated by higher needs. There is obviously overlap in these theories – Maslow’s lower levels are obviously tied to our evolutionary past. Our animalistic nature demands that we have air, water, food, shelter, safety from harm, sex, produce offspring and so on if we are to survive and continue our species.
It appears to me that we humans are driven by these animalistic needs for much of our lives. And, even when we meet our basic needs and reach a point where Maslow says can focus on higher needs, we still might not do so unless we have a vision that directs us to these higher realms.
Ever since reading Covey in the early 1990s, I have always had a vision statement giving guidance to my life. That vision statement has continuously been adjusted as my life evolved. I’m not static and as I gain wisdom, it’s important to make sure I am making appropriate adjustments to ensure my energies are being expended towards the proper end.
Recently I took a personal retreat (which I wrote about here) with the desire not only to relax but also to gain guidance on what’s next in my life. Both aims were accomplished.
One of the outcomes of this retreat was a call to revisit my vision statement. I not only rewrote my vision statement, but I also took it several steps further – refining my personal role in working towards manifesting that vision, laying out a structure for my life’s actions and defining key phrases.
My rewritten vision statement is as follows: “There is a shift in people’s awareness and actions that leads to the creation of a world that works for everyone.”
To that end, I see my role as follows: “Mark Gilbert is an evolutionary teacher assisting in the creation of this vision through the personal, public and partnership aspects of his life.”
To give color and flavor to those statements, I have gone on to describe what I currently see as a world that works for everyone, what the key concepts are that I believe I am called to teach, and the specific actions that I am taking in my personal, public and partnership areas of my life towards that vision. If you are interested in these details, here’s the link to my revised “Vision and Teachings” page on my website. There are a number of aspects of this on which I will expand in upcoming articles.
For now I simply ask you – what’s your vision? What’s your role in creating that vision? What are you doing to move you towards it? If you’re not sure how to answer those questions, then you may be focused to a degree on your lower needs. It may be time for you to raise your eyes to a higher vision and take those first steps toward it.
Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!