Recently, I tried to do some sort of ‘life planning’. Conditioned by the two decades spent in the management domain, my first impulse was to try to write out mission and vision statements for myself.
When I tried to do this, something interesting happened. I was able to write the mission statement very easily. But, somehow I couldn't write the vision statement!
This surprised me quite a bit. Usually, mission (purpose) and vision (snapshot of the preferred future) go together. Then why am I able to write the mission statement so easily but not the corresponding vision statement?
What deepened the mystery was that when I had attempted to write my mission and vision statements a decade ago (as part of a training program that I was attending) I didn't face any such difficulty in writing a vision statement.This left my wondering what happened during the intervening decade that made writing the mission statement much easier and writing the vision statement much harder.
May be, what is happening is that I am becoming increasingly aware of the unpredictable nature of life. I have realized that fixed definitions of success can become more of constraints than enablers - not only what you planned for doesn't come through but also you miss out on other (sometimes 'better') opportunities because you were not open to them.
So a mission (which is more like a compass) fits in much better with this dynamic scheme of things as compared to a vision (which is more like a static picture of the preferred future)! Of course, one can set goals so long as the goals don't make oneself not open to the emerging new/better possibilities that are in alignment with one's purpose(mission). As opposed to goals, visions tend to me more permanent (and with a longer time frame or without a specified time frame). So, the problem is only with putting a 'picture of success' on a pedestal and adding unnecessary rigidity to it by calling it a vision.
Life experience often gives you clues on 'who you are' by showing you 'who you are not'. Of course, life experience also gives you clues on 'what you are designed to do' and 'what is important to you'. This definitely helps in sharpening one's understanding of his/her purpose (mission) and that is probably why I was able to write my mission statement much more easily this time (and felt it to be more accurate).