We are at the beginning of a year that is poised to be momentous and unlike any time we have experienced in the history of humankind. Some believe it is the beginning of the end of the world; I believe they are right -- figuratively. The changes we have experienced in recent years have brought us to the end of the world -- as we know it. Nothing is the same, all bets are off; the past has let go of it's hold on the future. The depth and speed of the changes we experienced over the last several decades; environmentally, technologically, economically, politically and socially have shaken our sense of reality.
People everywhere are asking crucial questions: What's important in life? What kind of organization do I want to contribute my precious time, energy and gifts? What kind of community do I want to raise my family? What kind of people do I want to be a part of my life? People are struggling with these questions in all sectors of life: in their personal lives, their families, communities, organizations and governments. There seems to be a growing desire to live with a sense of purpose -- to be deliberate about how we shape our lives, our organizations and communities. A whole new level of accountability and responsibility is facing all of us.
It appears that 2011 set the stage for a "tipping point" -- an unparalleled time in history where the forces of change and the will of people around the world have aligned in preparation for a phenomenal transformation. So as we face 2012 it should compel us to ask ourselves -- What will that transformation look like? No longer can we afford to wait for someone else to define our future - no leader, no hero, or guru is responsible for shaping our future. What 2012 and beyond will look like will depend on each and every one of us taking the responsibility to participate in defining the future we want. Now more than ever we need to take the time to reflect and focus on what we want life to be.
This phenomenon has given us the compelling reasons and the opportunity to envision a better world. We have the conditions, the energy, the tools (information technology and social networking tools) and the capacity to create the world we want person-by-person, family-by-family, and community-by-community. Why not envision the world we want to create for our children, our future generations and ourselves. If we find the courage to create a powerful vision -- a vision born out of our deeply held values, I believe we can create a better world. Why not?
Marjorie Parker has a beautiful description of vision in her book Creating Shared Vision.
Visions are powerful mental images of what we want to create in the future. They reflect what we care about most, and are harmonious with our values and sense of purpose.... A vision is our deepest expression of what we want to create together.
I believe a shared vision can serve as our North Star for exploring and charting our future. Since we have no maps or blueprints for the world to come, a compelling shared vision can enable everyone involved to see the same picture of the future we want to create together. It can fuel our passion and give us a sense of purpose. It can allow us to see beyond the crises of the day, and above our day-to-day minutia and demands. It can lift us above our fears and help us to navigate through the storms that are sure to come. A compelling vision can move us to commitment and give us the courage to act. Most important, a powerful heartfelt vision can enable us to tap into the extraordinary power that exists within each and every one of us to transform our vision into reality.
The great transformations in the history of humankind began with a vision -- a powerful visions that inspired and engaged people to collectively transform their reality. We have always had visionary people in our world -- some used their vision for the good of all -- others for greed, exclusion and destruction. I write about people who put their vision and values to work for the good of all. As I move around the world interviewing people who have successfully put their vision and values to work, it feels like I am always talking to the same person. Although they are highly diverse and unique in their own right, they embrace some shared core values and perceptions -- a way of looking at life -- that transcends time, culture, ethnic origins, geography, institutions, and circumstances.
These visionaries share common attitudes:
How they see the world: They share a sense of responsibility beyond their own lives. They take responsibility for the world they live in and are committed to making it better. They share a characteristic I call "practical optimism" -- although they clearly perceive current reality, they unflinchingly confront it. They have a deep belief that any challenge can be overcome. Their visions are large, deep, and unaffected by cynicism.
How they treat people: They share a deep faith in people -- their capabilities, potential, and their basic goodness. Interpersonal relationships are precious to them and at the heart of everything they do. They therefore lead their lives, organizations and communities with a reverence for all human relationships.
How they make decisions: They feel deeply about things. They respect the knowledge and judgment of others; yet after listening to others, they trust their own intuition. They seem to make decisions with their heart as well as their mind; when their logic and their feelings are at odds -- they go with their heart.
How they build teams: They understand that we are all flawed; nevertheless, they focus on people's talents and strengths. They build teams that fill our weak spots, allowing us to focus on our strengths and allowing others to compliment us with theirs. They understand the value of collaboration and cooperation in accomplishing goals, getting superior results, and fulfilling our basic human desire for a sense of belonging.
How they use creativity: They allow creativity to soar. They share a spirit of invention, believing that any breakthrough idea or product requires an environment that fosters diverse perspectives, experimentation, risk, and play.
How they act: They are out of step with the norm, ahead of their time. They succeed not because they lead us to reconcile ourselves with our current reality, but because they help us to see we can change it. They share a sense of freedom -- freedom to choose their own path and an inability to accept conformity. As Joseph Campbell said, they "follow their bliss."
How they respond to "failure": They are all courageous and resilient. They have all faced tremendous challenges, made lots of mistakes, and "failed" many times. They have also been able to learn from their mistakes so they bounce back quicker, stronger, and wiser. They use their lessons learned to transform their vision into reality.
How they deal with "fear": They stay focused on their purpose, vision and values. When feelings of insecurity and anxiousness emerge, (and they often do) these visionaries use their compelling vision to lift their minds to their higher purpose. They use their values to remind them of what is truly important in life.
How they learn and grow: They have an insatiable appetite for new information and different perspectives. They look to everyone and every situation to learn and grow. They are multidimensional -- deeply involved in and with their family, their community, the arts, and the environment, as well as their work. They derive their knowledge and wisdom from all these sources, so their diverse experiences provide them with a rich array of choices and ideas.
How they are anchored: They all believe they are a part of something much greater and grander than themselves. Some call it God, some call it an "invisible wholeness," and others refer to it as a "field of energy." Regardless of what they call it, they sense the deep connection between everyone and everything. They therefore, make decisions and take actions in light of their impact on the world. They feel deeply connected to a higher purpose and a higher power and they see their work as an expression this belief.
As I look to the New Year I believe that 2012 is very special for all of us that have the privilege of being alive at this most remarkable time in our history. We have within our reach the opportunity and the capacity to put our collective vision and values to work to create a better world. I am talking about the human values we all share; the values that transcend, nationality, race, culture gender, age, and religion -- being valued, being heard, the opportunity to contribute our gifts, to be recognized, to be loved and to pursue happiness. What a beautiful legacy we could leave for our children, our grandchildren and future generations. I feel this is our right and our responsibility. May all our beautiful hopes and dreams come true in 2012!