What would Henry Thoreau do to create a Personal Vision Statement?

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What if Thoreau decided to go to his strategic retreat at Walden Pond and create a personal vision statement.

A personal vision statement asks the most important question about you. A vision statement for a corporation would establish how the company views itself. A personal vision statement asks a similar question about how you see yourself. For thousands of years, men and women have been asking themselves what is the meaning of life. However, for a vision statement, you should ask yourself what it means to be truly alive.

So you have to ask yourself, how do you feel about your own life? If you read your own obituary, how would you feel or think about those really great spreadsheets or those pithy business plans? If you did a word search, it’s unlikely that these items would come up in anyone’s life description. Ever. Would you simply carry on and read about the more interesting person in the column beside you? If the answer is yes, then perhaps you should re-address your priorities.

So how does one create a personal vision statement? This does not necessarily have to relate to yourself, but could also relate to the environment around you. Martin Luther King did not have a vision for himself, he had a dream on how the world should be, and he worked towards that. However, most people would find it easier to deal with one’s self as opposed to an entire society.

A personal vision statement should capture in a single sentence what you would want other people to think and say to others about you. Needless to say, everyone should want to become all that they possibly could be. The Army Strong brand does resonate along with be all that you can be.  You could make this into a craft by suggesting vibrant colors and play around with different fonts!

You may be thinking about becoming a truly actualized individual, where all of your internal resources are fully put to the test. Jung conceptualized this as being individualized. Striving to be the best possible person in all aspects seems like an overly daunting task. But you do not have to force yourself to be the best possible person you can be by tomorrow. Take some time. Perhaps even the rest of your life, since the struggle is the most important thing. Or use the term “pursuit” if prefer.

You could strive to be the renaissance man or woman. Consider what the world would be like if we all strived to be like Leonardo. No, not that one. The other one. No one will ever be like Leonardo since that persona has already been done, and he was the best Leonardo that will ever happen, since there could only be one. Instead, be the best person you can be considering what you already have to work with and what else you could develop with the time allotted to you. Ask yourself, would Leonardo really be spending his time watching this rerun of a game show, or would he be doing something more constructive with his time, like creating the next level of mathematics.

If we look at the life of Leonardo we see that he was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, inventor, and scientist. He likely epitomized the renaissance person. He easily bridged the two main planes of thought including science and art. Little has been written about any of his physical exploits. And nothing about his reality drama watching habits.

Creating ‘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. 

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 mean, solitary, brutish and short[2] 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 ways you might 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.

Our lives appear so busy that we find it necessary to carve time out for ourselves. But if time is a river, how do you carve water out of a flowing stream? Once you have removed the water from a river, it truly is no longer a river, just a cup of murky water. I believe you have to put yourself into the flow of the river instead and do the things that must be done to become human. Carving time becomes a travesty.

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 acquiring stuff 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.

When my mother passed away, my brother and I went through her one bedroom suite. With her moving from her place to independent living, she shed most of her belongings. She kept the things that evoked memories instead. A reminder from each place or beach she ever visited.

A Thoreau personal vision suits a slimmed down less stressful lifestyle which allows you to follow-up on the more important things in life. For me, the triskelion, my brand if you wish, really represents what I what to accomplish. Mind, body and spirit working towards a greater wholeness.

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


[1] Bush dismissed ‘the vision thing’ when someone suggested he should think of one for the country.

[2] Hobbes had earlier referred to man’s early life as mean, solitary, brutish and short.

Why do Sinners make the best Saints?

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The most interesting Saints cover a broad spectrum. They transition from the generally bad state to sainthood state. Everyone likes the come from behind kid.

St. Augustine may have had the most sinful past. He fathered an illegitimate child. He eventually abandoned the child and the mother in the prospects of marrying a heiress. His mother, like almost all mothers, persisted that he repent. Eventually he did and turned to the priesthood. As a nod to his party past, he remains the patron saint of brewers. He apparently prayed for chastity, but not just not yet.

Ancient Rome subcontracted out tax collection to locals. These people were generally hated by all. Tax collectors notoriously extorted additional fees on top of the taxes. Even if they didn’t, they were seen as Roman collaborators.

Likely the most famous was St Matthew. Followers harangued Jesus for including roman collaborators.  Eventually St. Matt moved out the money collection business and into Sainthood. I think it is telling that ever since tax collection in the US started, no one working there has been raised to sainthood.

St. Mary of Egypt lived in Alexandria in the fourth century. She was a ‘seductress’. Some research suggests she was a prostitute. Other studies suggest that St Mary never charged for her services. She seemingly liked the challenge.

Fortunately, she joined a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. She did this apparently to either drum up more business or join what would have been the closest thing to the mile high club. Either way she managed to seduce everyone along the way. When she finally got to the holy site, she saw a statute of the Virgin Mary and repented. What must be the greatest turnaround in ancient history, she is now the Patron Saint against sexual temptation.

St. Angela spent most of her life seeking wealth, material possessions and pleasure. As an aside, I really didn’t like where this one was heading. She had several children but was still more interested in gathering possessions.

At 40 she realized the emptiness of her life. Unfortunately, her mother, children and husband died three years later. She sold everything and joined an order and became the patron saint of widows. Part of her tagline includes adulteress. I am not sure what they did for SEOs back then.

The Blessed Bartolo Longo started off as a devout catholic. He may have been looking for more immediate gratification and became a Satanic Priest instead. He joined the Dominican tertiary and helped college students learn about the avoiding the evils of the occult. We can only be thankful that there was no cool aid back then.
All of these people focused on the long game. This means there is hope for all of us.

<a href=”http://Saintly“>saintly sinners

Is happiness just a trap?

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Henry Thoreau said that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. You can see it in the eyes of the men and women that commute to work on a daily basis. They have been consumed by the work that that they do. Most are looking for a way out, or they wonder if there is something more to life. This makes the pursuing happiness goal seem unattainable. Well, there is an easy answer. Just change the goal. If you are doing what you are doing by choice, then you must be happy. If you weren’t happy, and wanted to be happy, wouldn’t you be doing something else? Or at least trying?

That comes across as a bit mean as opposed to being helpful. Here’s an emoji to soften the wording.  🙂

Does happiness remain in one place like a tree in the forest, or does it race around like a retriever in the field? Does one pursue a tree? One normally chases a dog. The metaphors do not assist in the understanding. But pursuing something suggests that it tries to evade you. Police pursue suspects and leads. Perhaps happiness should be pursued as a thief in the night? Or even better, as a neighbour’s retriever making off with your favorite tree sapling.

The pursuit that people conduct may appear to be somewhat aimless. They shift from new hobbies, sports, religions, partners in order to find what may be missing from their lives and ask what the meaning of life is. But you should consider reversing the question and ask instead how to add meaning to your life. This does not mean adding hot sauce to your nachos as you continue to watch contrived reality TV. The term ‘fake’ has been ruined for me. Sorry.

The US Declaration recognizes certain unalienable Rights, which among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. So, no one guarantees happiness, but the government certainly allows you to pursue it. Up to a point. Public nudity always springs to mind. But back to the point, the government recognizes the journey as opposed to the destination. They held these truths be self-evident, basically meaning that it should be obvious. A little description may have helped future generations a fair bit of angst.

Back in 1776, happiness may have referred more to the Greek concept of Eudaimonia, the good life or flourishing. There has been a transition from the happiness of virtue to the virtue of happiness. Very convenient in a consumer based society if more stuff makes you feel happy.

“Greek class is tough!” If Mattel used that line, perhaps it may have saved itself a fair bit of grief and ridicule. The Greek approach to happiness through virtue can be tough.

In psychology, happiness refers to an emotional state of well-being ranging from contentment to intense joy.  The emotional state appears to be the more common usage today, so let’s go with emotion and virtue for now using another approach grooved into the population’s psyche.

The Happiness Pursuit shall be a topic for the next few weeks as we look at ways to travel down this path.

I TETHERED MY MIND ONE DAY, BUT BY THE TIME I GOT BACK, IT HAD WANDERED OFF

Unthethered Thinking

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This is not the same as losing one’s mind since I roughly know where it is when it managed to untether itself. I get texts every now and then. Credit card statements keep appearing. If I arranged a personal line of credit for it, then who knows where it might end up.

I have noticed that you can meet an old friend or acquaintance and predict fairly well how they will react? They can easily start with a good smile, handshake or hug, make good eye contact and start socializing? I have always admired that quality. I always make a mental list of things to do. Enter, smile, eye contact, ask some personal, but not too personal question, and then finally get on with what my purpose may have been otherwise. Of that short list of five things, I often get the order wrong. Perhaps someday.

I refer to this ability to react within a certain range of emotions or activities as being tethered. Someone you can depend upon to react or think in a certain way. It can be comforting. I seem to have to recall how I reacted or thought previously so as not to throw others too far off their stride.

When writing, always write about what you know. Or so I have read. So, obviously, I should know my own mind best. Or so I would hope. But, then how would anyone else know since I am writing this down.

When does a journey start? I suppose it does start with a single step. But when do you know when you are starting a journey as opposed to stepping out for a carton of milk? Both could be called journeys, but you would be reluctant to mark down the milk journey as being significant. Unless the milk journey turned into a real journey.

So the real journey probably began when I turned 35. Not a significant birthday, but I remember starting to read about a whole series of ideas looking for answers. I didn’t even know the right questions.

Sort of a C. W. Lewis approach. If you don’t know the question, then any answer will do.

I remember distinctly when the right question finally appeared. Joseph Campbell discussed the question in this Power of Myth series with Bill Moyer. The way Campbell phrased the question left a tattoo like print in my memory. Campbell said that we should not be asking about the meaning of life, but rather what does it mean to be truly alive.

Having a nice answer to that question right up front, would be somewhat anti-climactic. So, at the end of this story, as long as I remember to include it since it will several months before I work my way to the end, there will be a map. Follow the map to a man. This man will give you a key. Not a real key since who knows how many people will come along, so really it will just be more information. The information shall be key in sourcing some facts, leading to knowledge, and eventually wisdom.

This really means that no one has a hot clue on what the answers might be. So no, there is no map at the end of this story. Sorry if you flipped to the end to see. Good to see you back however.

So I wrote this to give some insights to things that surround us. Some of these things you may not care about at all, like free trade. But trust me, these things care about you. And they watch.

Many things impact how we think and ultimately what we do. I include essays on issues that occupy my mind and ultimately some of my behavior.

I enjoy writing of all types. I adhere to the concept that you must guide the reader as much as possible. If they stop and think, WTF, then you have made their work harder. But be prepared. Sometimes the logic process appears to drop out the bottom. Sometimes we may have to leap across small bottomless crevices. Sometimes I may tell you to run as fast as you can and don’t look back. During those times I am just kidding. This is just a story. What could possibly happen?

The unstoppable resolutions meet the unmovable realities

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Those mighty resolutions start to diminish ever so slowly.

Starting January 1st:

  1. No alcohol this January
  2. No processed foods
  3. Exercise daily
  4. Lose 20 pounds

The next week:

  1. Alcohol only on weekends
  2. Processed foods only when in a hurry
  3. Exercise every other day
  4. Lose 15 pounds

The following week:

  1. Alcohol every other day
  2. Processed foods only when too tired to cook.
  3. Exercise on the weekends
  4. Lose 10 pounds

By the end of the month:

  1. Only one drink at at time
  2. Processed foods cannot be avoided, succumb.
  3. Turn on TV and switch channels manually.
  4. Buy looser fitting clothing
  5. Be content with who and what I am

Developing a gift giving decision strategy matrix maximizes feel good returns and minimizes gift exchange returns

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1. Give them exactly what they wanted. Perhaps out of your price point, but when money is no object.
2. Give them close to what they wanted. But this time within your price point.
3. Give them what they think they need.
4. Give them what they actually need. This is fraught with peril since you may be pointing out foibles.
5. Give them something completely random. This can be cute, unless its a live animal which you should completely reconsider.
6. Give them something that aligns with their thematic lifestyle. Perhaps running gear or cooking supplies.
7. Give them something to push them into a thematic lifestyle they should adopt. I keep getting cookbooks.
8 Give to some charity that can lift people out of poverty. Providing a well for a village goes a long way to reduce disease.
And whatever you do, enjoy the time together since its really just the thought. Right?
#motivation#personaldevelopment#business#charity#management

Should one pursue happiness still?

HAPPINESS BASED ON VIRTUE DOES NOT SEEM ENTHRALLING.

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Thomas Jefferson sought virtue based happiness. This may have been what he meant when he wrote the Declaration of Independence and the need for the pursuit of happiness.

Jefferson’s incredibly extensive education, much of it self-taught, appears to have been included the writings of John Lock, the Utilitarian. Jefferson was also capable in Latin and Greek, so we can assume from this that he was influenced by Aristotle. From this we have the entire concept that the pursuit of happiness endorses the Greek approach of Eudemonia. This has been interpreted to mean happiness, but literally means good guardian spirit. Aristotle’s concept of happiness meant a life well led. Just as you can’t say that an acorn is a tree, one has to look at one’s entire life to determine its’ happiness extent. Essentially a virtuous life can be based on the acts of the soul. So back in Jefferson’s time, he likely meant that overall well-being required someone to flourish as a human being and not this transitory bit of happiness we think of now.

Let’s divide the happiness of an individual into different criteria. One criteria would be to find happiness in the satisfaction of the various desires that individuals have. Therefore an individual could be happy either based on the satisfaction of these desires or the elimination of these desires. However philosophical analysis would also indicate that happiness could be far more complicated. The resolution of various desires would be more clearly defined as contentment. Happiness of the individual would then be dependent instead upon the moral values of that individual and leading a highly moral life. This may be a bit too simplistic since leading a highly moral life is insufficient to some. Ok, most people. Having good fortune is also relatively important. Sickness and poverty are severe overlying factors that can prevent or mitigate against leading a moral life and true happiness.

There has been a transition from the happiness of virtue to the virtue of happiness. This shorter approach can be very convenient in a consumer based society if purchasing more stuff makes you feel happy.

A path to happiness used to be assessed at the end of one’s life. Now everyone wants a continual happiness jolt similar to using one of those instant, non-recyclable instant coffee pods. And every day more ways appear to provide those single serve happiness pods.

The happiness discussion will continue…

#happiness #pursuit

Desperately seeking happiness

Henry Thoreau said the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.

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You it in the eyes of the men and women that commute to work on a daily basis. Work consumes them. Most look for a way out or wonder if there is something more to life. This makes the pursuing happiness goal seem unattainable. Well, there is an easy answer. Just change the goal. If you are doing what you are doing by choice, then you must be happy. If you weren’t happy, and wanted to be happy, wouldn’t you be doing something else? Or at least trying?

That comes across as a bit mean as opposed to being helpful. Here’s an emoji to soften the wording. 🙂

Does happiness remain in one place like a tree in the forest, or does it race around like a retriever in the field? Does one pursue a tree? One normally chases a dog. The metaphors do not assist in the understanding. But pursuing something suggests that it tries to evade you. Police pursue suspects and leads. Perhaps happiness should be pursued as a thief in the night? Or even better, as a neighbour’s retriever making off with your favorite tree sapling.

The pursuit that people conduct may appear to be somewhat aimless. They shift from new hobbies, sports, religions, partners in order to find what may be missing from their lives and ask what the meaning of life is. But you should consider reversing the question and ask instead how to add meaning to your life. This does not mean adding hot sauce to your nachos as you continue to watch contrived reality TV. Others ruined the term ‘fake’ for me. Sorry.

The US Declaration recognizes certain unalienable Rights, which among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. So, no one guarantees happiness, but the government certainly allows you to pursue it. Up to a point. Public nudity always springs to mind. But back to the point, the government recognizes the journey as opposed to the destination. They held these truths be self-evident, basically meaning that it should be obvious. A little description may have helped future generations a fair bit of angst.

Back in 1776, happiness may have referred more to the Greek concept of Eudaimonia, the good life or flourishing. There has been a transition from the happiness of virtue to the virtue of happiness. Very convenient in a consumer based society if more stuff makes you feel happy.

“Greek class is tough!” If Mattel used that line, perhaps it may have saved itself a fair bit of grief and ridicule. The Greek approach to happiness through virtue can be tough.

In psychology, happiness refers to an emotional state of well-being ranging from contentment to intense joy. The emotional state appears to be the more common usage today, so let’s go with emotion and virtue for now using another approach grooved into the population’s psyche.

The Happiness Pursuit shall be a topic for the next few weeks as we look at ways to travel down this path.

How to disconnect from work during the holidays.

Another form of cold turkey.

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1. Decide that you really want to disconnect and then take action. Thinking without action turns into more regret than just all the sugar cookies.

2. Ensure you really can disconnect. If you are the only one that can sign cheques and you can never leave, then you may have control issues. Delegate.

3. Make sure everyone knows. Not only staff, but family. At least family will call you on it.

4. Manage expectations. Use the autoreply and tell people you are away. This ensures they won’t think you are ignoring them. Well, you are, but you have your reasons.

5. Stop email grazing. Pretty soon you have gone through the entire buffet.

6. Enjoy yourself in other ways. If you don’t know how, then practice now.

Happy holidays!

#motivation#leadership#business#inspiration