Ideal vs. Reality: What’s Your Gap?

Ideal vs. Reality: What’s Your Gap?

The Plaque

Many organizations have a plaque that displays their mission, vision, values and maybe their purpose posted in the lobby. In most cases, the words are given a passing glance and rarely held up against the daily behaviors of the organization.

Does that mission connect to my daily work? Are we really living our values?

As an organization begins a journey of change, improvement, or transformation, I always advise they start with a description of the ideal. What does great look like a year from now? In other words, who do you want to be? What are you striving to achieve? I ask them to answer the question, wouldn’t it be great if….

If you are feeling compelled or motivated to change, to improve, to be a better version of yourself, you can ask yourself these same questions.

Your Ideal

What is your ideal self? What is your purpose on this earth? Your personal mission, vision and values? How would you answer the question, wouldn’t it be great if….?

While a first pass at listing your values may seem obvious (family, work, religion, spirituality, health), a deeper dive and longer reflection leads to questions.  There is an exercise in Resonant Leadership by Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee) that gives a long list of values and asks you to pick the top 15, then narrow to five then finally to two. The prioritization process asks you to consider, do I aspire to this value or am I living it now? Do I really believe that achievement is one of my core values or would I prioritize connection over that? It is challenging and somewhat uncomfortable to consider.

The value of distilling this question is that it creates an image in your mind of what you could be and that hope sparks motivation.

The Real Self

The next question is, where are you now? What is the gap that exists between the ideal self and the real self?  How are you living in relation to those ideal values? What obstacles are in your way? How will you experiment? What do you need to learn in order to close the gap?

As a leader compares their daily work to the mission, vision, values, purpose and strategy of an organization, one can similarly compare their ideal self to how limited time, money, and energy are spent. Just like a busy leader is compelled by firefighting and the tyranny of the urgent, at home, logistics and transactions are similarly consuming. Schedules, tonight’s game, and what’s for dinner can all be distractions to our personal mission and purpose.

The Most Important Question

Whether your mission, purpose and strategy are on a plaque in a lobby or stored away in a corner of your brain, asking how your daily life connects to this ideal is one of the most important questions a company or an individual can ask.

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