Getting Unstuck Chapters 7-8: The importance of vision and mission

I am reading Matt Perman’s How to Get Unstuck and taking on the writing exercise at the end of each chapter. More information in this article on the introduction.

Part 2 of the book is on Personal Leadership, Perman’s all-encompassing term for what we need to do in order to get and stay unstuck. It is what is required in order to take the personal effectiveness of chapters 4-6 and direct it appropriately.

Chapter 7 discusses the “Power of Vision.” Vision is important for several reasons:

  • Vision is required to put “first things first”. Your vision defines first things.
  • Vision sustains through suffering because it provides a sense of control in the midst of hardship.
  • It enables us to operate from the importance paradigm by defining the right priorities, leading to more deliberate living, and giving us a release instead of control perspective (intrinsic motivation pulls us to our goals more effectively than extrinsic motivation pushes us)

Exercise: Reflect on a time when you’ve experienced the power of vision. Jot down ideas about the vision for your life.

There has been one particular experience where I saw the power of a vision developed and then executed, with great results. I served as the president of the board of a non-profit for two years. My first year on the board I observed that the board had policies that were not followed and this affected the board’s ability to work well with the Director as well as its effectiveness. When I accepted the nomination to the president position I shared a vision of being a board that had updated, relevant policies that helped the organization be more effective. We started by striving to follow the current policies, identifying what did and didn’t work well. Then we changed what needed to be changed. My second year as president we saw the fruit of that as we had expectations of what we needed to do, and when.

In that same position I experienced the opposite as well. I felt after two years it was time for someone else to lead because I did not have a vision for what the organization should do, after the board had built its foundation and had more capacity to do vision-casting instead of being overwhelmed with administration.

For my life, I have tried to do this in the past and I find it difficult to come up with something all-encompassing across the different spheres of my life. I like the idea of having multiple vision statements and updating them periodically but have not made that a priority. I try to do long-term (quarterly and annual) planning and goal-setting which provides a vision for the year in these different spheres.

Chapter 8 discusses mission, particularly Perman’s call to Christians to “Be Missional.” Perman does not want Christians to have any false dichotomy where they believe that church work is the only work that can be mission-driven. So-called secular vocations are also places where we can work to impact and renew culture: by treating our co-workers well; doing good work; and helping to shape our companies and organizations to be people-centered in their strategy.

Exercise (paraphrased): How does your work influence culture, and the way you interact with others reflect your values?

Regardless of my employer, my work in data analytics influences the culture by making businesses more efficient. Ultimately the business chooses who benefits from that, and how much. At my last two employers both customers’ and employees’ welfare has been a demonstrable priority and so indirectly my work impacts them both.

There are other ways that data science can impact the culture, some of which are controversial or negative. I have not been involved in projects like this, but I believe in the power of data science and behavioral science for good. It must be linked to the company’s mission, and in compliance with the ethical guidelines of the company. Where companies like Facebook have gone wrong is when their use of these powerful technologies have become uncoupled from their original mission.