“I have a dream”

What stirring words those are.  Even for those of us who weren’t around to hear Martin Luther King utter them, they echo across the decades with a ring of power and hope.

King knew what he was about.  He had a coherent vision of the future he wanted to see, and was able to communicate it clearly and thus take steps towards bringing it about.

I’m struck how many people want others to follow them, and in many cases can convince people to follow them, but with no real idea of where they’re going.

I’ve had experience of being led by some of this type of person, and some of the opposite, and I must say I find it far, far easier to feel (and be) committed to an organisation whose head clearly knows where he’s going.  (This applies to women, too, but for ease I’ll stick with ‘he’ for now.) 

Maybe I’m just too demanding a follower, but it really does frustrate me to not know where I’m going.  I’d rather have a plan and abandon it than have no plan at all.

So how do you develop a vision?  I’m sure there are a few people who wake up in the middle of the night with a message from the Lord of the change he wants to bring about, and his three-step-plan for using them to do it, but that’s not me.  For me it’s more of a dissatisfaction with the way things are, and a sense of needing to do something about it, but how do I put legs to that vague feeling?

This is where all that thinking and questioning comes into play. Before you can answer the question ‘What do I want to do?’ you most likely need to have a clear grip on what specifically you feel is wrong.  The problems can seem overwhelming until you start to really look at them.

The way I went about this recently was to take a few big sheets of paper (I used cheap wrapping paper), spread them out around me, and started to brainstorm in different categories (one for each sheet) – what’s wrong?; who am I?; what’s holding me back? etc.  I’ll get to some of the others in future posts, but for now I want to focus on ‘What’s wrong?’

All I did was prayerfully think about what it is in society that I want to see changed (and that God would want to change).  As I scribbled down everything that came to mind, I started to see patterns emerging of things that naturally grouped themselves together – perhaps things with a common cause or outcome.  Once I had these links (for me they grouped themselves physically close together so it didn’t look too chaotic – you may need to reorganise into a neater-looking diagram), I got a different coloured pen and started thinking about what the opposite of the issue was, or the solution, or what I wanted to see instead.

This process enabled me to really understand the task in hand, and to group it in ways that started to make sense and lent themselves to some kind of strategic thinking.

On another piece of paper I then formulated this into sentences describing the change I wanted to see, and voila, there, in a couple of hours, was a very rough, but coherent, first draft of a vision statement for the next phase of my life. 

Over the next few days I ‘lived with that’, looking over it, thinking about it, praying over it, tightening it, and gradually boiling it down into something I can more or less articulate (note to self: need to practise this!) and thus that I can start to live out.

Knowing where I want to be going and what things I want to see change helps me to prioritise the many good things I could do with my time, and focus on the ones that align themselves best with the dream.

I found it a really valuable exercise, and if you’re at that stage of knowing something needs to happen, but not being sure what, I’d encourage you to do something like it.  Perhaps in your situation you aren’t looking at problems to be resolved so much as opportunities to be taken, in which case the focus might be ‘Where do I want to be in 10 years’ time?’ or ‘How do I want the world to be different because I was here?’ or ‘Which of the things I do day to day really fire me up, which depress me, which disempower me?’

If you know where you’re heading, it’s a lot easier to find the right road to start walking down.

I have a dream, that you’ll start dreaming!

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