"Survival" and "predictability" were the primary career standards in the obsolete workplace. In that setting, it wasn't necessary to adopt a vision beyond getting a job that provided these basic requirements.
Today, this mindset continues to undermine the potential for greater engagement.
But there is also another, more pressing reason why we need to change out personal visions. We need deeply personal and compelling visions to snap out of the "trance" of the modern workplace – to rise above aimlessness and motivate ourselves through the uncertain and chaotic waves we now so often finding ourselves swimming.
My expertise in the area of personal career transformation has emerged out of facilitating thousands of participants in both public and organizational settings. Over the years, it has become clear that without a clearly personalized sense of mission, vision, and purpose, little traction takes place. Without our own vision, we tend to push back on learning new life skills, developing more courage, and facing discomfort as we change ourselves.
Organizations make serious mistakes by only pushing one-dimensional visions like "shareholder value." In earlier days, many reacted to my engagement programs with the idea that if we get people to define what they want out of life – if we get them to tell the truth – they will pack their bags and leave. However, if shareholder value is all that we want, the result is "the trance" – the robotic clocking in and clocking out that is symptomatic of the great disengagement.
Eighty-seven percent of the world's workers are disengaged. If our policies and organizational behaviors lull people into trances, they will also leave in trances. The lack of personal vision leads to the great scourge of America's current culture: underemployment. Forty-six percent of American workers say they're working below their capacities. If this is the daily reality for nearly half of our workers, it's no wonder we are having trouble getting along.
It is important for individuals to understand this reality, but it is also time for organizations to realize engagement-driven cultures require a variety of visions. Without a personal sense of mission, vision, and purpose, we are like dogs sunning ourselves. If it gets too hot, we simply move.
Personal vision makes us better workers. We become more willing to learn all that we need to learn to pursue all that we really want in our lives.
That being said, when that vision becomes so very, very important, everything falls apart. Vision will pull us through. Vision will push us to reach out to the mentors and visionaries who can help us transform our careers. However, it must be our vision. When the darkness comes, it must be our light that shows the way. If we've spent no time investing in that, we might just shrug our shoulders and make several steps back. It happens every day.
Perhaps a good place to start is to write out what life would look like if you were happy all of the time.
That's where it began for me. Today, I love my work. I love who I am with, and I love my colleagues. I also love where we live and love where we work. Was there darkness? I won't bore you. Time and time again, it was my vision for life, my mission for work, and my purpose in being here that pulled me out of the darkness and into the light.
Carl Jung once said, "Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes."
David Harder is the founder of Inspired Work.