creating your personal vision

Part 6 in a series: Let’s Be Frank about Spirit and Meaning

(Links below to previous installments)

Frank decided to quit his job. The price of “success” was too high. The awakening he experienced that morning in his study helped him realize that he needed to get off the speeding treadmill before he killed himself. But what did he really want?

Frank had spent most of his adult life chasing society’s definition of success. What was his? What did he value most? Where would he ideally like to be? What was his purpose or reason for being?

Frank spent weeks wrestling with these questions. He started keeping a personal journal to record his thoughts and feelings. He hoped this might help him learn more about himself and understand what really mattered most to him. He realized that his values had become centered around wealth, career success, and personal recognition. He thought hard about what values he wanted to build his life around. He decided they were family, continuous personal growth, financial security, and a job that connected with his soul.

Developing a personal purpose or reason for being was especially tough. Frank finally wrote, “I am here to learn how to personally grow and enrich my inner life. I will try to help others do the same. I will contribute to society by raising children to become effective adults, doing meaningful work that makes a difference, and strengthening my community and country.”

Frank’s vision of his preferred future began to take shape as well. He’d always enjoyed literature and live theater (but in recent years had no time to enjoy either). He began to envision moving to a small town famous for its theater and summer festivals. Knowing how the town and theater were struggling, he saw himself using his marketing talent to help revive the struggling community. He took a few trips to the town to look at houses and investigate the possibilities.

His marriage was in big trouble. Frank admitted his affair to Deb and broke off his relationship with Michelle. Deb was angry and hurt. They began seeing a therapist for marriage counseling. It didn’t seem to do much to bridge the huge rift between them. In one of the painful discussions about their future, it dawned on Frank that he and Deb had spent more time planning their vacations, buying cars and homes than they’d spent planning their lives together. He suggested they try establishing a joint vision of their ideal future together, clarify their key values, and to try writing a statement of purpose. Frank shared his with Deb. She listened patiently.

When he was finished, Deb sat in icy silence. Frank asked a few times for her reactions while she stared coldly at him. Finally, she exploded, “Your post card picture of artsy theater and small-town life is unbelievably selfish! Did it ever occur to you I don’t want to drop my career and leave my friends here? What about the kids? Do you really think they want to be uprooted so you can play the hero and big man about town?”

Frank responded in kind. He could give as much fire and venom as he got from anyone. In his heart, he knew she was right. A few days later, when they’d both cooled off, Frank and Deb took another stab at developing a joint picture of their ideal future together. It was tough work. Many of the pent-up frustrations and issues they should have dealt with all along gushed out. At times they had to break off discussions and go their separate ways. But as the weeks passed, a possible picture of their shared future took shape. Maybe, just maybe, they could rebuild their relationship and close the yawning gap between them.

Since the beginning of civilization, humans have pursued growth. We’ve restlessly tried to do and have more and more. For much of the western world’s history, growth has been expressed in the outer, material world — possessions, territory, money, economies, etc. Our environmental awareness, pandemic, spiritual, and shifting values are showing us the limits to outer, material growth.

Think about a few strong leaders you know personally. They may be a manager, team member, teacher, family member, or community leader. One of their special characteristics is likely their strong sense of self. They know who they are (or aren’t), where they want to go, and what really matters most. They care about the opinion of others, but they don’t try to please everybody and play the parts that others want them to play. As authentic leaders, they don’t lead their lives from the outside in. Rather, they lead from the inside out.

Inside out leadership comes from our depth. It is leading from our center. A centered leader is continually exploring inner space and drawing outer leadership strength from their heart and soul. This is how they enrich their lives. It is the source of the spirit and meaning they bring to their families, teams, or organizations.

As with relatives, we often don’t get to pick and choose neighbors, teammates, bosses, and the like. Some of them aren’t people we’d invite to dinner or choose as a friend. However, leaders love their organization’s greater purpose and see its products or services contributing to a bigger world that they love. That love — and desire for growth and development — extends to everyone involved.

Like the Tin Woodman in The Wizard of Oz, will Frank find his heart? Will he learn to love enough to nurture his own and others’ growth? Will Frank and Deb put the pieces of their marriage back together?

Let’s Be Frank about Spirit and Meaning Series