Do This to Define Your Life and Leadership Vision

by Alli Polin on December 22, 2015

life and leadership vision

Over the past few years, each member of my family chose a word to set the tone for the year ahead. It’s also an exercise that I used with my clients to help them create an intention for how they wanted to live and lead. Words were chosen that packed a powerful punch like “challenge” and others chose words like “sustain” which for them was also a challenge. However, having a word didn’t consistently inspire actions aligned with values and purpose; it was missing a tie to a larger life and leadership vision.

Like many New Year’s resolutions, all were in the forefront in January, February, and even March. By June, most of my clients had to be reminded of their word when we looked back over their progress for the first half of the year.

This year, I’m forgoing the one word concept (although I still like it and for some it’s definitely a game changer). Instead, I’m asking a simple question:

What do you most want for your life and leadership vision?

Okay, I lied. Not so simple. Still, this is a tremendous exercise for you to not only set the tone for the year but also define what you want – create your robust vision. It’s more than a word, it’s a clear course for what you will create. 

We all know that value of having a clear vision for your department, division or organization, but it works on a personal level too.

Say it with me: “I matter. I’m making a promise to myself.”

You don’t need to look ahead five years, this is all about a vision for the next 12 months. Before you get started, think about how you best process and reflect. You may want to journal out the answers, discuss them with a coach, mentor, friend or partner, or just sit with them until an answer emerges.

Ask yourself:

What do I want the year ahead to feel like?

What kind of memories do I want to have when I look back at the end of next year?

Who are the key players?

What kinds of choices do I need to make?

What will make the hard choices easier?

What am I willing to give up?

What am I unwilling to compromise?

What values will lead me forward?

Willing to Make Radical Choices for Your Life and Leadership?

When Y2K was fast approaching (remember that?) I was traveling for work Sunday to Friday most weeks. I sat down with my husband and told him I wanted a dog. He laughed and told me that when I was ready to make a significant change, and be there to help care for the dog, we’d get one.

December of 1999 I left a job I both loved and was good at, change management consulting, and took a new job within my company that cut my travel down to one week a month from four; by January, we had our dog. I wanted to feel like a family, my husband was a key player who wasn’t getting enough of my time, I was unwilling to continue to live apart.

Compromising Values for Success? Not Worth It.

Fast forward to 2010 and I was a VP of People and Innovation for a Fortune 500 company and constantly on the road once again. This time, we no longer had a dog but two (totally awesome) children.

The son of an important client was visiting our team and his flight home was canceled. I was the senior leader onsite and company senior leadership asked me to change my Friday flight home to hang out, entertain and take him to dinner. Thing was, that day was also my son’s fifth birthday and we were going to have a family dinner. Ultimately, I had a less than memorable dinner with a nice kid and missed dinner and cuddles with my kid. Within six months I left the company and started my own coaching and consulting business. Family was not something I was willing to compromise and I was awakening to the fact that I had done it for far too long.

Challenges Can Bring Clarity.

This year ended for me with health issues and unexpected surgery. As I look forward I also took the time to look back. While the first nine months were filled with exciting travel and sweet family moments, there were also times that work led the charge on my life.

Client calls in the evening were common as was after dinner work long into the night. Running a small business can be all consuming, you are not paid every two weeks unless you’re doing billable work. I was not only working, but also constantly focused on new business development. Too many nights family time was taken over by working while the kids played.

In October, everything changed.

I was away from my family for several months and was grateful to be healthy despite my prolonged recovery. The only time I turned on my phone for weeks wasn’t to return client emails or to tweet but to FaceTime with my husband and children.

What do I most want in 2016?

There were years I would have said the top things I wanted was more business success, growth, new professional challenges. I still would love those things, but that’s not where I landed this time.

A full life. I am putting having a full life at the very top of the list. No parameters will be set around what that means but when I have opportunities that come up, I’ll be able to ask myself if it is moving me closer or farther away from that vision. Work, family, friends, travel, exercise, writing, publishing, speaking, course creation, workshops are all a part of my vision.

The key to having a full life is enjoying the moment not cramming in as much as possible.

I will let things go that before I’d chase.

I will be present where I am, and not planning the next only to miss out on the now.

I will cuddle with my laptop closed.

I will write and share because it adds a creative energy to my life.

I will make time for the people who matter.

I will travel to new places and old favorites.

I will support without judging.

I will go out of my way to be kind to strangers.

I will create space in my life for new friends and relationships.

I will embrace a full life.

Break the Frame Action:

After you process the eight questions earlier in this post, put your “I will” statements in writing. Really, do it. Write them down.

Post them on your bulletin board or vision board or put them in the front of your planner or make it your screen saver. Don’t let June roll around and you vaguely remember your promises to yourself in service of your life and leadership.

Move beyond what you want to define what you will do. It’s action, not ideas alone, that creates change. Goals and dreams are within your reach, but only you (and your aligned actions) can make them happen.

What do you most want for your life and leadership in 2016? What’s your vision? 

Make this the year you put yourself first – take action on what matters most to you – your life and leadership. This five-week eCourse is just what you need to get into motion: Get Unstuck and Choose to Move. Get inspired and into meaningful action. 

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Chery Gegelman December 22, 2015 at 7:54 am

Alli – Thank you for being real about how our focus derails over the course of a year, how work can so easily move to the front of our lives, and how the call of our loved ones, and unexpected interruptions of “normal” life can underscore for us what we value most.

I look forward to catching up with you after the New Year to learn more about the biggest lessons from this season in your life.

In the meantime, I hope you are making cherished and fun memories with your loved ones.

Big hugs from across the pond!


Alli Polin December 22, 2015 at 10:08 am

Truly look forward to a catch up with you too, Chery. Here’s to a spectacular year ahead!


~ Alli


Terri Klass December 22, 2015 at 8:07 am

Fantastic post for all of us to think about as we enter a new year Alli!

For me, 2016 will be a year to keep growing and connecting with colleagues. It will be a year to let go of some personal commitments and allow myself to follow what is most meaningful professionally.

Wishing you a wonderful 2016, Alli, filled with good health, adventure, love and joy!!


Alli Polin December 22, 2015 at 10:12 am


I appreciate that you will let go of some personal commitments to focus to make room for more meaningful work. We can’t do everything and be everywhere and making those choices truly are the essence of balance and fulfillment.

Wishing you a wonderful 2016 ahead too! Look forward to more in person and virtual connection with you.

~ Alli


Grenae Thompson December 22, 2015 at 9:17 am

Thank you for writing this, Alli. Just what I needed to get a “fresh start” in 2016 and focus my energy. I tend to be all over the place and think I can do everything. Wrong!

For me 2016 will be filled with more family moments, de-cluttering, health, art and writing – all through the lenses of Awareness and Reality Testing – and generous sides of gratefulness and serendipity.

Have a wonderful holiday with your family, Alli, and come back stronger in 2016.



Alli Polin December 22, 2015 at 10:16 am

Here’s to fresh starts, Grenae! Just ordered a new planner and TONS of colored pens. Filled with possiblity.

Your priorities for the year resonate with my own – love the room for serendipity too. Going to embrace it with open arms.

Thanks for your connection, insights and support. Grateful!

~ Alli


Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ December 22, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Hi Alli,
Great new post that will carry everyone over the hump of whatever is stopping them. Timing for this is wonderful as people start to make their New Year resolutions — and wonder if they will keep any of them!

Kudos and Happy Holidays,


Alli Polin December 22, 2015 at 9:06 pm

Resolutions are great and it’s even better when intentions and great starts become positive habits. Thanks so much, Kate!

Happy Holidays to you too!




LaRae Quy December 23, 2015 at 4:55 pm

I love how you lead with “vision” rather than goals when talking about the new year.

Too often, we get married to our goals and what we really should be asking ourselves (and constantly updating) in our vision for our life. THEN plot goals to get there.

Great post, Alli…and so good to have you back!


Alli Polin December 28, 2015 at 4:18 pm

Goals are great but you have to know where you’re headed… not only what you want to do. Losing 50 lbs? Great! How will your life be different – that’s what matters.

As always, appreciate your insight and connection!!


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