A Shocking Illustration of Taking a Life Statement Seriously

We are free in any situation to focus our attention as we see fit. In the short run, how we focus our attention determines what we achieve. In the long run it determines who we become. If we hold an image of a result we want to create, our behaviors will begin to align with our mental picture. Our picture becomes a stabilized point of potential and our energy begins to flow towards and organize around the picture. We become creators of an emerging future, this includes our own future.

As we move towards our purpose, we tend to develop hope and enthusiasm. That hope and enthusiasm gives us the capacity to persist in the face of adversity. Our hope and our enthusiasm also does something else. It radiates to others and attracts their attention. As others feel our energy, they seek to understand our aspiration. Some may choose to invest in our aspiration. People of purpose become leaders because they symbolize a desired future and radiate energy that comes from doing so. Consider an unusual illustration.

In many programs I teach executives to write life statements. Often the initial reaction is resistance. They see no reason to waste their time. So I invest in helping them see the many possible payoffs. Usually they become interested and engaged. This happened with a group of government leaders from the senior executive service. At the end of the week I had a shocking surprise that has since added to my conviction about the value of writing life statements.

In the class was a man of Asian background. Occasionally he added comments to our conversation and I began to form some impressions. He was unassuming, much more of an introvert than an extravert. His comments seemed sincere and wise. He readily participated in our various exercises and willing supported others. I was drawn to him. When I introduced the notion of writing a life statement, he became animated. During a break he told me that he had been working on his own life statement for ten years. I was impressed and asked him to share any insights he might have.

At the end of the week, the executives are invited to share and coach each other on the material in their life statements. This is often a profound experience, as it was in this case. At the end of this session my friend again approached me.

He first explained that he had originally had a degree in computer science and then went back for a degree in humanistic psychology. I noted the great contrast and he nodded. He again pointed out that he had been working on his life statement for ten years. While he was a great believer in life statements, he said this course took him to a new level of awareness. He could now incorporate far more into his life statement and he was anxious to do so.

He pulled out his phone and showed me his original life statement. It was like others I had seen but with one big difference. Drawing on his computer science background, he had integrated an impressive set of metrics. He then explained that every week he gives himself a score on each metric. Then recalculates what he should be doing.

I told him I did not know of anyone who exercised that much discipline around their use of their life statement. Curious, I asked him how old he was. The answer completely shocked me. He was thirty-two! I would guess that the average age of the people in the senior executive service to be around fifty. I was stunned and told him so. He smiled, thanked me, and went on his way. Later I told this story to the person who co-teaches the course, Kim Cameron. Kim’s eyes lit up. He said, “Let me show you something.”

One of things that Kim does in the course is review the research on the energy networks in organizations. The research suggests that having a network of positive energizers is a big predictor of organizational performance. Kim then invites the participants to do a simple exercise in which the participants evaluate and score each other on how much positive energy each person radiates.

Keeping the data anonymous, Kim produces a computer map showing the energy network in the room. Each actor is represented by a circle. The size of the circle shows the degree to which others feel energized by a given actor. Kim pointed to a circle that was twice the size of any other. He asked me, “Who would guess this to be?” It was the same thirty-two year-old man.

How could such a young, quiet man have so much positive impact? The answer is that he is an extraordinary man of purpose. He is a highly centered human being who radiates positive energy into everyone he encounters, including his much older peers. I left this experienced inspired and determined to help more people write life statements.

 

Reflection

Why do people resist the notion of writing a life statement?

How do people of clear purpose influence others?

How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?

 

 

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