Vision, Part II: Have you got what it takes to want what you want?

October 1975: ice hockey season is coming, and my 12 year-old self is over the moon. Having grown like a weed through the summer, my feet are bursting out of last year’s skates and we are off to get new ones to have me ready for a new season.

I was always very excited about this, but–when I look back at it–there was some grounds for dissatisfaction. When I was a kid, we didn’t have a lot of money. So each year, when I got a “new” pair of skates because I’d outgrown the last ones, I didn’t get a new pair of skates at all. I got a “pre-owned” pair. After a while, I stopped expecting a new pair; ‘new skates’ meant ‘new used skates’ to me.

What does this have to do with creating a vision? Well, when creating a vision for yourself or your team, this is likely to be one of the first challenges: simply allowing yourself to want what you want.

Allowing yourself to want what you think you can have, that is easy; allowing yourself to want what you really want is much more challenging.

What I was doing with my skates is what we often do with our vision. We stop wanting what we want, and start only wanting what we think we can have.

The challenge is that our subconscious is working overtime to protect us from disappointment by simply blocking things out that we want and would be useful to us because–on some level–we don’t think we can produce them.

Children, as those of you who have them will know, do not yet have this problem. They are very good at wanting exactly what they want, independent of circumstances.

As adults, after a few disappointments in not getting what we want, we start to only allow ourselves to want what we think we have a reasonable chance of getting. Somehow, as adults, we start to negotiate with ourselves: “Well, okay, I want x, but given the global economic situation, politics in the organisation and my bosses mood I’ll settle for x plus 5%. We do this to protect ourselves from disappointment. It makes sense, sort of, but is not the right thing to do.

Problem: as a child we want all kinds of things, but–although our parents would have perhaps loved to give us everything we want–they couldn’t afford it. That disappointment can be a real shock to the system; I can still remember the moment that my father explained to me that Santa would not be bring me a tape recorder for Christmas because he (my father) could not afford it. 42 years later.

To protect us from that kind of shock, our subconscious has a helpful little hack: it simply stops us from wanting things that we don’t think we can create. This is a good thing, in so far as it keeps us from disappointment, but a very bad thing as it keeps us from really stretching ourselves to go after things that we want and would be good for us. Many things that we have the potential to be, do or have we don’t even think of because our subconscious is doing its bit to prevent us from being disappointed.

This highlights a useful point; there is a danger in wanting things. You might not get what you want.

Yes, that is true, but you are no longer 5 years old. You can take the disappointment and you will still live. AT THIS STAGE of the process, it is okay to acknowledge what you want. It is only the first stage, where you allow desires to shape what becomes the final product. You have a brain, and you will use it to be “realistic” later in the process.

Fast forward to today, and–knowing all that I now know about vision and subconscious resistance to change–this is still a challenge for me. As with skates in the seventies, so with civil aviation today. More specifically, I struggle to allow myself to want a private jet. I travel a lot. Having my own private plane would be very useful to me. Less time in security queues, landing closer to where I need to get to, having my own schedule…you get the point. Still, it is hard to admit to myself that I want one (much less announce it on the internet).

And yet, I think I shall persist. When I started wanting one, I was flying economy on all my flights. Now, I’m often flying business. The trend is good.

So I’m going to keep wanting my plane. Vendors of used ones need not get in touch.

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