When we undertake strategy sessions for clients, we always start by asking what the ideal end result is that they desire. Inevitably, and virtually always, they start to offer us a plan with some important operational objectives. This is an answer, but it is not the answer we look for. Plans are important but they can develop into a form of organisational imprisonment.
All of us love plans. They tend to give us a sense of permanence and certainty. A sense of direction if you will. But even the most intricate flight plan starts with a destination and the planning works back from there. And to take the aviation metaphor a little further one cannot just keep flying if the aircraft develops engine trouble or the weather becomes unflyable. Then plans must change rapidly!
So, what became of all the plans that were made before Covid? They were worth very little, maybe even nothing, not even the paper they were written on.
But those that still have the Big Vision, the dream in their sights are still moving forward albeit at a slower, or different, pace and probably not on the same trajectory.
If Covid has taught nothing else it has taught us the power and importance of flexibility, agility and the criticality of continuing to dream; and to dream big dreams deep into the future. Without these we begin to lose hope, fall into a state of immobility and a lack of interest in the beauty and opportunity presented by life itself. It has most certainly taught us to get back to basics, and the importance of family, of caring and of compassion. It has also taught us that we are all in this together; we are all connected and interdependent whether we like this or not.
We only walk through this valley called life once. There is no dress rehearsal. No second chance. And if we do not make sure that we know where we want to be it can be an endless, frustrating, meaningless journey to nowhere.
Without this sense of knowing, we will be subject to the whims of our circumstances and those that think they have power over us. No one really wants to feel powerless and with no control of their destiny. Most want to leave something of themselves behind one day: something of value. We are not talking of a material legacy, but more of a spiritual one. We should continually be looking for the essence of our soul, who we really are. Because this is our real legacy.
Much of this legacy depends on the human connections we build with people. This is no theoretical or manufactured construct. It is in the minds of people that legacies grow and live. Think of Mother Theresa, Madiba, Archbishop Tutu, Johnny Clegg, Muhammed Ali. Very few people have actually met these icons, but most have a deeply ingrained vision of what they all stood for. They all represented extremely powerful and deeply positive human values. That is what made them role models and icons with deep legacies that touch us all. Make no mistake none of the icons mentioned were perfect. They all had their quirks but their contribution to the betterment of our society is what we remember.
Those that attempt to build legacies by accumulating and displaying their material wealth and possessions inevitably end up being disappointed. Material wealth is not enduring. Wealth, money moves around. Actually, no-one owns it. It can come and go with equal ease. But no-one can take away random acts of kindness; a memory of someone who stood up against evil; someone who enriched the lives of others without expecting any kind of reward; someone who survived and thrived against all odds. These are the people who leave real legacies that we revere, admire and aspire to.
So, if we want to leave an enduring legacy, we need to create a big vision of that legacy. It is probably going to always just out of reach but always worth aspiring for and striving to achieve. It needs to be a big dream. Something outside of our selfish needs, something that costs us in terms of personal commitment, sacrifice, time and energy. This is the stuff of which global and enduring legends and legacies are made.
If we circle back to where we started this story. For us to get back on track after the trauma of covid and other unsettling events it is critical to create and nurture that big vision, that glowing light, our true north that will keep us driving forward. It is this that will enable us to make the adjustments and changes to plans that are needed for us to keep moving towards the special destination we aspire to; keep us focussed and excited about the future!