Being confident in the workplace (and yes, a virtual conference call qualifies) is a fundamental building block for a long and successful career in most industries, but it’s easier said than done. Even for people who are blessed with natural confidence, there are plenty of work-related circumstances that can see it deteriorate.
A work environment that’s competitive, a bad boss, potential downsizing, or finding yourself at odds with the values that your employer embodies or tolerates can all be sources of doubt and uncertainty that can trigger a confidence drop.
You can fix that by invoking the power of a single, very special technique: Just take a moment and remind yourself of your personal vision.
Have a doubt-shaking personal vision
A personal vision is nothing complicated. It’s a clear, concise articulation of what you believe is your purpose.
Some people seem to lead their whole lives with a built-in personal vision that they’ve never questioned. You know, those people who become world-class experts at something because they never quit practicing it long enough to wonder if they were on the right path.
A lot of athletes, artists, and musicians come to mind, probably because they feature prominently in the collective social awareness, but it can apply to anyone. Elon Musk became one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, for example, by applying his personal vision across multiple industries and domains. Other people who want to be doctors, parents, or teachers, succeed at making those dreams their reality by keeping their personal vision close, often without even realizing it.
Don’t worry, those people are the outliers. Most of us struggle with identifying a clear sense of purpose in our lives or careers, and that may be because we’re trying to find it instead of realizing that it must be created.
How to create your own personal vision
A personal vision isn’t created in a vacuum, it’s an answer to a question. The first step in defining your vision is putting the question into actual words.
There’s not just one question to be asked, of course. There are many, and asking a number of them is likely to help you orient yourself in the landscape of what matters most to you. Some of the things that you can consider in formulating your queries are what impact you want to make, what kind of state you find desirable, and what type of person you aspire to be.
These are some examples of questions that may help you identify what you value and lead you toward your personal vision:
- If I was totally immune to fear and anxiety, what would I do? How would it make me different from who I am now?
- If self-discipline was my superpower, what would I accomplish with it?
- Of everything I’ve ever done, what accomplishments am I proudest of?
- If I could suddenly own any business in the world, but was limited to a salary of $50,000, what business would I choose?
- If I could wake up tomorrow with three new expert-level skills, which three would I most want to have?
- What is the best gift anyone could ever give me?
- If I could pass on my best ideas, in perfectly preserved form, to someone who I knew would use them, which ideas would I choose?
Asking these questions—and again, they don’t have to be these exact ones—might not give you a clear picture of exactly what your next steps should be, but the answers will help shine a light on the things that matter to you most. This exercise of cultivating self-awareness will put you on the path to a well-defined vision. That might look something like this:
- “My personal vision is to become a leader and inspire others.”
- “My personal vision is to bring everyone around me closer to their wellbeing potential.”
- “My personal vision is to create a company that delivers genuine value.”
It doesn’t really matter what your vision is, as long as it’s something you can break down into actionable steps and achievable short-term goals. Keeping it short will help you commit it to memory. It’s also helpful to write down your vision and put it somewhere you see it often, for instance, on your desk, bathroom mirror, or refrigerator.
Achieving your personal vision will take dedication and hard work, like anything good in life. It requires taking the time to break it down into exact, actionable steps and then really committing to following those steps. Don’t stress yourself out over them. It’s okay to take a day off. And if you ever start to feel yourself losing focus, just take some time to remind yourself of your vision.
Last, but not least
If you’re going to use your personal vision to shore up confidence in the workplace or in other dynamic situations, it obviously must be something that gives you a sense of confidence. Here’s where a little Catch-22 may come into play. For the anxious among us, even the prospect of committing to one vision may induce a downward spiral of self-doubt.
To solve this apparent paradox, you have to create your personal vision fearlessly and don’t worry if it changes. It’s entirely possible that your sense of purpose will evolve in response to where life takes you. However, that shouldn’t stop you from committing to what you feel is valuable today. Throw yourself into it, believe in it, and become it.
And when you’re feeling a bit unsure or unsteady in yourself or your career, just take a moment to focus and say: “Right now, my personal vision is . . .”
Brendan P. Keegan is the CEO of Merchants Fleet.