A Personal Failure of Vision

You should know about the time I failed miserably. Well there are many of those times. But for this week, we’ll focus on one—my New Year’s resolution.

We’re less than a month away from 2019. That means we’re less than a month away from creating a fresh set of New Year’s resolutions. Those elusive goals we create with determination only to forget by the time the snow’s melted and spring flowers bloomed.

If you caught last week’s post, we talked about what vision is, why it matters, and three rules to guide your vision for yourself or your team. But it’s one thing to talk about it … it’s another to think about it in real life. How the three rules apply and where we fall short in real life—that’s where we headed this week.

We often start the new year motivated. This is the year … the year we’ll chase that new job, or spend more time with our spouse and children … live a better life. Yet research suggests we fail to see through 80% of the resolutions we make. Exercise and weight loss are the most popular resolutions made annually, yet the spike in gym memberships in January always precedes a fall through the spring. The effect is so predictable, fitness companies construct their business models around it. Think about it next time you’re at the gym—does it have the capacity for the large January crowd? Or is it so full after the holidays, you’re waiting until things ‘return to normal’? As I think through why so many of our well-intentioned goals are left to die each year (my own included), I can only ask why.

You made your resolutions for a reason, didn’t you? Did losing weight, getting a new job, or spending more time with your family suddenly become less important, less worthwhile? Of course the answer is no! Yet when push came to shove, those resolutions—and many more like them—fell by the wayside as winter gave way to spring and our lives overtook us. Why did we allow distractions to derail our effort? Was it because we didn’t see the value in those ideals? Or was it because we didn’t see an early result, or even the potential for an early result, so we ran out of gas and cut our losses? Let me ask you this … did any of your friends or family know about your resolution? Did that affect the outcome?

So where did I fail? Every year I resolve to exercise more or in a different way, to seek a new fitness goal. I’m a distance runner and have enjoyed foot races since high school. So with a couple marathons under my belt, I resolved to check off a long-time bucket list item—to run an ultramarathon. An “ultra” is any race longer than the 26.2-mile marathon distance. I wasn’t looking at a 50 or 100-miler, ‘merely’ a race that exceeded the 26.2 milestone. I settled on the Dead Horse Ultra 50k. I ran their 30k with a friend in November 2017 and loved the experience, despite a tough course and sub-freezing conditions at the start. So it should’ve been easy—same course, same town, same time of year. Only this time, pay a bit more for the longer distance and get a few more miles in throughout the year. Well, I thought about it every couple weeks. I was running and felt alright through the summer. But every time someone asked about my goals for the year, I’d reply with, “my goal is to run my first ultra …” and the conversation would end. I wouldn’t elaborate—and more importantly—I’d never think about it afterward. On top of that, I never shared the idea or talked through it with anyone close to me—my wife had an inkling. Few friends, even fewer coworkers (okay, none). So what went wrong? Back to those three rules

My goal, like anyone else’s, amounted to a vision of the future I hoped to realize. Was the idea of running an ultramarathon aspirational? I’d argue yes—it’s beyond what I’ve accomplished before and certainly takes effort to accomplish. Was it developed? Now it starts to break down. I knew which race and knew I wanted to “run an ultra”, but what mental energy had I dedicated to the idea beyond that? I never visualized what it would take to train for it, and certainly didn’t put together in my mind the images of me running the race. Without that to start, what could I hold onto as the year progressed and I allowed the rest of life to consume me? Was it shared? My wife knew, like I said, that I wanted to run an ultra. But that’s all I said, nothing tangible to latch onto and with which to hold me accountable. As if I was afraid to think about it. Afraid it would actually happen.

Where’d that last bit come from? Of course I wanted it to happen! But did I? Was I prepared for the training, the travel, the preparation ahead of a 30-mile race that would no doubt tax me physically and mentally? Where I ran the risk of not finishing at all? I don’t think I was. I wasn’t ready for the effort it would take to support the goal, so I prevented myself from working through the idea in my mind and preparing for days on the road and trail, putting in miles and stretching and sleeping and getting ready. How many of your goals—your resolutions—do you drop because you’re afraid of the work you’ll have to put into them? This is why the three rules are vital to the success of any vision you have for yourself or your team’s future.

Aspirations and dreams are powerful, and provide a great foundation for where you want to be a month, year, or five years from now. But they’re nothing without the development needed to support them—what will it take to make that vision a reality? What’s the work involved, what level of effort will I have to expend, what sacrifices might I need to make to enable that vision? These are important questions to answer. Then once you have the answers, SHARE THEM! With your family, friends, coworkers—anyone close to you whom you trust to get behind you and hold you accountable. If it’s worthwhile—if it’s meaningful—then it won’t be easy. The visions we have that mean the most require the most thought and a village of support to achieve. That makes success all the more sweet. Because achieving a lasting vision isn’t about us as individuals. It’s about how much better we can be so we can do better for everyone around us.


Next week we focus on vision in the workplace, and what can happen if you charge hard toward your vision–at the expense of teammates.

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