Lightyears Beyond a Vision Board

This is the second of five articles in the Give Birth to Your Visionary Business series, originally delivered as an email series starting on Martin Luther King Day of 2017. I've ported it here to the blog without changing the original content – which is just as relevant as it was a year ago. Learn more about the entire series here.

I hope you enjoyed the first lesson and have been practicing “non-struggle” with yourself. If you’re still struggling, I’m gonna have to refer you to these guys.

For this second lesson on visionary business leadership, I want to talk about creating a vision worthy of a visionary. 

The new year is traditionally a time for visioning, and for good reason, especially in North America where winter invites us into our creativity caves to reflect and imagine where we’ll go in the year ahead. This vision we come up with will be our north star. It will be the filter through which we evaluate opportunities. It will be our motivation in times of struggle.

It’s Time to Up-level Your Visioning

As a newbie entrepreneur, you could get away with flying by the seat of your pants pretty well. You could plan just a month or two out and make decisions on the fly. This was appropriate actually, because you were discovering a ton about who you were and how you work.

But now that you have a foundation established, a team counting on you, and need to make high-impact decisions quickly, being without a vision is like being a football quarterback outside of the pocket. You’ll end up running in circles and getting slammed.

In each lesson I will highlight a visionary leadership capacity. Last time I talked about holding a high bar for what’s possible, while being fully appreciative of what is so. Now I’d like to introduce…

Visionary Leadership Capacity #2 – Always hold a clear and compelling vision for your life and business.

A Better Version of a Vision

Very few people teach visioning well. The Harvard Business School crowd tends to create visions that lack heart, soul, and personal meaning and pair them with overly-detailed strategies that have little relevance in the messy world we live in. Meanwhile, the hippie/spiritual crowd is making vision boards with magazines cutouts that are great for capturing the feel of what you want the year ahead to be, but lack specificity.

Last year, I set out to create a better version of a vision – a precise yet visual map of what’s important to me for the year. This was a vision for myself, not anyone else. (Although I will talk my collaborators and closest supporters through it so they know how to best support me).

Here is what I came up with:


This year I did a similar process, but found that I needed a somewhat more complex structure to capture the full nuance of my 2017 vision: 


If you’d like to create your own mindmap, it’s not too late! Here’s what to do:

First of all, keep in mind that your vision doesn’t need to look like mine. My 2017 vision doesn’t look like my 2016 vision, because both were improvised structures to organize different material.

I’m going to teach you the process I used for my 2016 vision, because it’s somewhat simpler. This will be familiar to those of you who were on my newsletter a year ago.

Supplies needed:

  • A set of Animal Medicine Cards or tarot cards of any variety
  • A piece of poster board or a mega Post-It 
  • Colored markers. I use Mr. Sketch sniffy markers. Mmmmm.

1) Spark divergent thinking by picking a card from your spirit animal / tarot deck. I picked an antelope, which represents taking action. I like it! The reason I suggest starting this process by picking a card is that you’re seeding your vision with a theme that’s beyond your linear mind and will stretch you in unexpected directions. Once you’ve read the description of your card, draw a picture of your animal or symbol in the center of your mindmap (to the best of you ability – artistry is a bonus).

2) Choose the 3-7 areas of life that you want to create goals for. You don’t need to include every every of life. I chose body, relationship, money, business, and learning. Draw an icon for each area of life somewhere on your mindmap. I arranged mine in a semicircle below the antelope.

3) Come up with a primary goal for each area of life. What makes a great goal? A great goal is:

  • Aligned with who you are, who you want to be, and what you most deeply want. In other words, it's resonant and thrilling, rather than something you *should* do.
  • A stretch. Ideally, you’re not sure you can pull it off. Not necessarily because it’s a high-achieving goal – perhaps it’s a stretch because it goes against old habits and cultural norms that you’re longing to break out of (i.e. you want to do less and have more space in your life).
  • As specific as possible. If it’s measurable as well, that’s wonderful, but don’t get caught up on measurability – not all that is meaningful in life can be measured.

Whatever the goal, make sure you’re excited about the journey as well as the destination. Even if you fail to meet the goal exactly, the pursuit will have been worth the effort.

4) Explore each goal some more. For each goal, create a cluster of words surrounding it that add further clarity and nuance. You could add secondary goals related to your first goal. (For instance, my primary goal in the realm of money was to have my first 6-figure year. A secondary and related goal was to tuck away 20K of that income into savings.) You could also describe experiences related to your original goal (i.e. In the realm of relationship, the most fun year of living together imaginable would include going on travel adventures). Just be careful not to go into “how-to” mode – this process is about clarifying your goals and vision, not making a to-do list or action plan.

5) Create a primary commitment for each goal. You can see I arranged my mindmap with the commitments on the top half of the page, color-coded to the goals below. Commitments are important because they are your pathway to your goals. Commitments include ways of being as well as things you’ll do (or not do) to reach your goal. For each goal, ask yourself, “What’s the most powerful commitment I can make that will propel me towards my goal this year?” For instance, in the realm of business, my goal was to fully step into being a business coach for sensitive badasses. The primary commitment I made in relation to this goal is to stay laser-focused, because I knew I’ll be successful so long as I don’t get pulled in a million different directions.

6) Once you’ve identified your primary commitment, as with your goals, you can add more color by naming secondary commitments. With the business coaching example above, in addition to staying laser-focused, I committed to making space in my life for my business, being strategic about what I say “yes” and “no” to, keeping steady attention on my business, focusing on how I can serve others, and getting the help I need. (As you can see, shorthand is AOK. Unless you’re writing a newsletter about your goal-setting process, this mindmap is for your eyes only.)

7) Make it your own. At the very end of the process, I realized there was another theme underlying all of my areas of life, which is that I want to cultivate a respectful relationship with myself, so I wrote that phrase on the bottom of my mindmap. If you too stumble on an underlying theme, perhaps involving your relationship with yourself, feel free to add it. I also wrote “10X more trust, ease, joy, and love,” because that was a theme I was already exploring. All this to say, don’t worry about your mindmap looking like mine. Trust your creativity and make it your own. With sprinkles on top.

Looking back on last year’s goals, it’s interesting to see which ones I succeeded at, which ones I failed at, which ones continue to stay relevant this year, and which ones I’ve outgrown. You will have the same experience next year looking back at this mindmap you create now!

Exercise: Create your vision for the year.

You can create a mindmap just like mine, or do something different, so long as the process involves:

  1. Generating a ton of ideas, throwing most of them out, and keeping the gems. (If you don’t do this, you risk picking an “easily available” vision rather than an “ideal” vision.)
  2. Exploring how your ideas fit together and mutually support each other to create an incredible life for yourself and others. (If you skip this synthesis and alignment step, your life and business will be all jangly.)
  3. Staying focused and simple without losing the nuance of what you’re creating. (It’s a fine balance indeed.)
  4. Feeling for “resonance” and “dissonance” so everything vibrates at the same high level. (This is the emotional/energetic logic of visioning that the Harvard Business types miss.)
  5. A resolved visual representation that you can refer to all year to inspire and guide you.

Take your time with this. Do not rush it. Last year my vision came together quickly. This year, there was more complexity to work with, and it took some perseverance to have all the pieces fit together well. So don’t judge your process – just stay with it until it’s complete. It will be worth the effort!

With love,

Next up –
Building Your Visionary Team