Few weeks back I was giving a talk at a big tech company about focusing on the vision. As usual someone asked this basic question- “I don’t know what my vision is”! I am not surprised. This was my question only a few years ago. Over the years, by resolving my own dilemma and by working with my clients, I found a few ways to address this.

Why is it hard?

While growing up we were given standards to meet, tasks to accomplish. We were rewarded to achieve hard challenges, to score higher than others. Things we did for our own pleasure (if any) was a privilege and was not encouraged much. Knowing facts, accomplishing milestones and following rules were valued. After 20-30-40 years of practice in this direction, when we hear “know thyself” (it has been there for thousands of years…), “go for your vision”, it sounds like an unfamiliar territory! Even when we are asked about our feelings, we can only sense a handful, “good”, “bad”, happy”, “sad” and “mad”. We have alienated our inner self, like a distant cousin, we feel awkward when we are to look inside. We keep ourselves busy so that we don’t have to spend time to be with our own self!

Where to start?

It’s never too late to start our journey to “know thyself”.

1.Do a core values exercise

Here is a very quick one: Close your eyes take a deep breath, think about an activity/experience from recent past you felt much fulfilled, life seemed great! Go one level deeper; extract the attributes from those experiences. Some example attributes (values) are: autonomy, harmony, relationship, innovation, family, achievement, relationship, challenge, and contribution.

Do the exercise for several occasions. Notice the recurring attributes; these are good candidates to be your core values.

2. Observe your role models

There might be some people you admire; you want to be like them when you grow up. It could be actually part of them that you like most: For example an experienced coworker who is very good at deep analysis, or another one who is very optimistic and flexible. A role model can be from anywhere, not necessarily from your work place. I admire a former manager who had us first establish the qualities of the possible outcome of any decision. I later adopted that style.

Extract qualities of the role models and compare that with your core values. You should find a common subset.

3. Start experimenting

Now that you have some idea on the core values, start noticing those in your regular life-where those are honored, where those are dishonored. Plan small activities, projects where those values are present.

These exercises will create the awareness about what makes the unique you – what fulfills you and what takes away your energy. Give yourself a month or two to start seeing some results. This will give you the base to think about your vision.

Journey forward

A client of mine worked on this with me recently. The role model exercise did the trick for her. She has now found an area she enjoys and she wants to pursue next in her career. The key is to have an open mind and more important, to have the courage to honor the possibility of fulfillment over the known comfort. When you believe, “I deserve” only then embark on this exciting journey!