Shortly after I had completed my second season of bobsledding, I found myself back in Jamaica sitting in the officer’s tent as usual talking about bobsledding. On this occasion I was talking about the progress our team had made in the short time we were involved in the sport. One senior officer, expecting to get a good laugh at my expense, asked me to speak in more detail about the progress we had made. He wanted to hear about start times and race results and how they compared to the more established teams. I simply told him that we had made the transition from being media darlings to true competitors.
Undoubtedly, you’re thinking that that was a strange response to the question. You may remember, that back then the Jamaica Bobsled Team was not taken seriously and was seen as a media stunt and an amusing sideshow to the serious business of Olympic bobsledding. Thankfully, none of us on the team ever saw ourselves in that light.
How do you see yourself?
The vision we had of ourselves and the one that mattered most was decidedly different from what others had of us.
We saw ourselves as equals—athletes with the talent and the ability to become world-class bobsledders. We had a vision of ourselves marching in that opening ceremony and having an opportunity to give of our best against the best.
Today the Jamaican Bobsled Team is almost a household name all over the world and generally recognized within the sport as a veritable threat. That reality exists today primarily because of the vision we held in our minds all those years ago. Our team, like all the other athletes you see competing in the Olympics and every single person who have succeeded in life in areas outside of sports, didn’t allow anyone or anything to determine the limits of our success. The way you see yourself today will significantly impact your life tomorrow.
What is the vision you have for your life? In five, ten or even twenty years from now, what are some of the things you would like to have accomplished? What milestones would you like to reach? These are key questions for you to answer because you can never get to your destination unless you know what it is.
If you are someone who is unsure of what you want to do with your life it may be helpful to complete the following sentence: “All my life I’ve always wanted to…” It will not necessarily clearly define your vision but it will help to point you in the right direction. Vision is a preferred future state and truthfully answering this question will help you to start creating a mental template for what that future will look like. Lets say your response is “All my life I’ve always wanted to work with children” You then have to determine the capacity you see yourself working with children?
It could be as a teacher, a pediatrician, or a day care provider among other things. Whatever it is, the means of turning that vision into reality will not always be readily obvious but through persistence, it is ultimately achievable. Since I became aware of the Olympics in High School I have had a vision of being an Olympian but it required years of “searching” before I ended up as an Olympic bobsledder.
Practice the art of listening
It is through your vision that you determine your dreams and ultimately set your goals. How do you know what your dreams are? You know through the art of listening. Not listening to others but rather listening to yourself. Listening to others will result in you embracing the goals and dreams that they would impose on you. You will be accepting the limitation that they have imposed on you. Don’t confuse this with accepting advice from others. I am talking about two entirely different things. If you embrace the vision of others as your own you could never be fulfilled and you’ll end up like a dog that’s always chasing its tail. The tail is always in sight but out of reach.
Take ownership of your vision
We will always have people in our lives, family and friends who think they know what we can or cannot do and see it as their duty to tell us. In most cases I believe it is done with the best of intentions but in the end it hurts us because that is not something that we truly desire. The question of vision for your life is one that you and you alone must answer.
In the example above, lets assume that your heart is really calling you to be a teacher but a friend or family member convinces you to become a pediatrician. You may end up being a good pediatrician but although you are working with children you probably would never be as good a pediatrician as you would have been a teacher because you simply wouldn’t be as fulfilled
1. Complete the question “All my life, I’ve always wanted to…”
2. Do some soul searching to determine the specific path you want to take to fulfill that vision. I.e. becoming a teacher vs. becoming a pediatrician
3. Start identifying specific steps that will take you along that path.
i. Short term: Identify the college you want to attend. Apply for financial aid, etc
ii. Medium term: Complete a 4 year degree and start working in the field
iii. Complete a Master’s program; open your own school etc
4. Identifying the people who can help you through critical phases of each step
5. Start now.
Keep On Pushing!