A Thoreau style Personal Vision

pexels-photo-268660Creating ‘the vision thing’[1] took me several years. Ok, several decades, and I’m still working on it. Trying to create a personal vision in simple, clear and effective ways can be tough. Taking years kind of tough. If no vision comes to mind, then some of the collected works of the great essayists might provide you enough background to pick a particular way to create one. This might even include some of the greater poets (most aspire to reading poetry but I admittedly haven’t gotten the hang of it).

However, from a collected works perspective one of the greatest visionary writers would be Thoreau. By visionary, I suggest that the writer eloquently promotes an enthralling way of life clearly and simply. When Thoreau wrote that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation he suggested that they had no real goals or visions, just a continuous state of anxiety and drudgery. He wrote that living was so dear that he did not want to live anything that was not life. Although his time at Walden Pond was somewhat short, he only lived there for two years, he wrote a wealth of inspirational prose based on these experiences. He provides a classic explanation of his rationale.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… and not, when I came to die, discover I had not lived.”

Here Thoreau paints a tremendous vision of what life should be all about, living deliberately. As a true leader, he does not necessarily flesh this out in any detail as to what his really means. However, he has set out a noble objective and he has left his readers with enough flexibility to determine how they might achieve such an objective. We can look at a later passage to see that living deliberately could mean any number of things.

“I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

Here we see that life can run the full gamut of a life solitary, brutish and short to a type of ecstasy only achievable by being part of it. To him, nothing is more important than life itself and having all of the money or beauty in the world will not make up for a life wasted, or even shortened. He does provide certain guideposts to determine what living deliberately would require, and this would be to “simplify, simplify, simplify”. It would be difficult to achieve one’s goal if one is surrounded by reams of trivia. Other non-life things would have to be put to rout in order to get to the core of the matter. This also includes cutting close in order to carve away what gets in the way and defining life as a type of art. The essence of any great art would be to do away with anything that gets in the way of the thing itself that is being represented.

Perhaps the other attributes of leadership are not quite there, such as facilitating the change required to make such a change. Simplifying life in order to get at the art of life may be more difficult than most of us would like to acknowledge. This again does not suggest that taking time to get the kids to soccer interferes with your living deliberately, since interacting with your children on any level could be the sublime part that Thoreau mentions.

We can look to see if there are any particular tactics you might try to use and free up some more of that precious, and most often limiting factor called time. The amount of time per day is already fixed, so we can only look at getting some more time available to set out other objectives you might want to accomplish. Do not expect time travel any time soon. Besides, if someone had already created it, you would think that they would have visited our time line already to try to find out what were we thinking when we did whatever it is that we did in the past.

Finally, you need the wherewithal to make available any resources that might be required to facilitate what you are setting out to accomplish. In a corporation, this might look like accessing the necessary training and people to accomplish a particular objective. Personally, this means something slightly different. Having the necessary resources could be as simple, or as complicated, as making the necessary time available to accomplish what you are setting out to do. This of course, can be really dependent upon your own personal situation. It can be hard to find the necessary time when you have to run the children to their hockey lessons across town, or if you are running double shifts just to put enough food on the table. Your time has already been set out to accomplish as much as you can in the time allotted. These various constraints will straighten themselves out in their own time lines, and this might not be the same as yours.

Thoreau suggests that the oversupply of resources might be what gets in the way of living a deliberate life. When he suggests that we should simplify our lives, we should be simplifying our purchasing at the same time. This runs counter to the majority of contemporary thinking that the objective of life would be to gather as many things as you can put your name on before you die. If this is not your sole objective, then it appears to be a major indicator that you ran your life well. A proud moment in any couple’s life is when they finally get their first house. Considering the life span of a mortgage, Thoreau suggests that the couple did not get their house, but rather, the house got them.

A Thoreau personal vision suits a slimmed down less stressful lifestyle which allows you to follow-up on the more important things in life.

 

 

Pixabay

Source: pixabay.com

[1] George H. W. Bush and “the vision thing”. Bush was not impressed with some advice to go to Camp David and figure out where he wanted to take the country.

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