Aerial view of Xiamen, China from the plane
(6 min read)
Ever since I began delivering personal development and leadership training workshops in China, work has been bringing me to different Chinese cities, many of which I (embarrassingly) never knew existed before. It has been nothing short of another wild, if not scary ride. Having to conduct training and coaching sessions professionally in Mandarin (English is obviously my mother tongue), doing real time English-Mandarin (and vice versa) interpretation as my mentor only speaks English, finding the right Mandarin words to land specific distinctions during sessions, making sense of all the diverse accents, understanding how the people on this side of the world function are just a few challenges I encounter.
But I’ve always loved exhilarating work – it keeps me on my toes. I keep learning, expanding my capabilities and growing. It makes me alive. What’s a few stumbling blocks, if they are not there for me to overcome?
More importantly, what keeps me going is the awareness that whatever I do now is a step closer to the vision I want to create. Lofty as it may sound, I work towards making the world a better place – one where people live wholesome and fulfilling lives by fully loving and accepting both themselves and others.
Also, taking new previously unimaginable challenges is the way I lead by example; after all, I am a personal development and leadership trainer and coach. If I don’t walk the talk and have my personal life take off, then there is no power in my professional work.
Interestingly on one of my previous work trips, I had an unplanned chance to explore my ancestral roots. That encounter left me with an insightful realisation that even my own ancestors had great visions of what they wanted to create.
I was in Quanzhou, a city that is an hour’s drive from the more popularly known Xiamen. Little did I know that my ancestral hometown of Yong Chun, which literally means “eternal spring”, is located right there.
Before this, I’ve only heard about this elusive “Yong Chun village” as a young child. I was always eavesdropping on what the adults were saying, and this “Eng Chun”, which is Yong Chun in the Fujian dialect known as Southern Min (Minnan), came up countless times.
So imagine my disbelief when my driver told me that Yong Chun was close to the hotel where my training was conducted. My heart literally skipped a beat. In fact, that moment felt surreal.
When I was aboard Xiamen Airlines heading back to Singapore, I found myself irrationally drawn to everything related to my heritage. For a start, I began listening to the announcements made on board in Minnan, feeling accomplished that I could understand around 60% of what they were saying (thank you grandmamma, you taught me well).
And then I found myself drawn to the aerial view of Quanzhou, Xiamen and its watery surroundings (Xiamen is a coastal city located right next to the South China Sea). My brain was on full throttle mode as I attempted to connect the dots between what I had heard as a kid to my imagination of how my ancestors’ lives were like. Being a third generation Singaporean, it was clear to me that my great grandparents made the choice to sail the seas and come all the way to Southeast Asia.
How did they endure that long, treacherous and life-threatening journey? I remember my grandmother telling me stories of how her mother set sail with her on a junk boat when she was just 20 days old, and the journey to Singapore took at least five to six months. Conditions on the boat were obviously less than ideal, and they had to rough the stormy seas given how common monsoons are in this region. Some people died before they made it to the final destination and an epidemic could easily wipe everyone on the boat out. So why did they still decide to take the risk and go on this voyage of their lifetime?
Then it dawned on me. What drove them was the vision of what they wanted to create for their families and themselves - a life thriving with opportunities and riches, away from poverty and hunger.
In those days, people living in rural areas were poor and life was hard. As such, many brave men and women embarked on this daunting journey to seek new lands and provide their families with better lives. They took the risks despite the fears and dangers. They never gave up. Both my parents’ ancestors were migrants from Fujian province in China, and now empathising the extent of their bravery and determination makes me even prouder of my family roots. Because of the decisions they had made, they gave me the life, education and opportunities I have today. They might not live to see it, but the vision they had created this legacy for the family today.
It also made me understand that regardless of what our dreams and desires are, having that clarity of vision makes all the difference. Why? Because the vision will become a powerful force leading us in the right direction to go. And that direction prompts us to take the right actions. Just like my ancestors, a vision of a prosperous life gave them the courage and tenacity to survive the long rides to new beginnings.
To make it easier to grasp, here are 5 reasons why having a vision gets us what we want in our lives:
1) Gives clear intention
Intention is defined as “an aim that guides action”. When we have a vision, the intention becomes the driving force to get there. It’s like a game of archery – once we have the target board in front of us, we will have the aim of hitting bull’s eye. That will in turn, impact our actions (how we hold our bow and arrow). So if our vision in life is to do fulfilling work, then our aim of finding fulfilment will lead us to finding specific kinds of work that resonate with our inner values (action).
2) Sets goals
Our vision will help us set our goals. Using the previous example from (1), if our vision is to do fulfilling work, then naturally we will start selecting options based on the fulfilment we intend to create. Career wise, that becomes the kind of work we choose to do – that becomes a goal when deciding on our next career move.
3) Gives unshakeable determination
When we are clear about the picture we want to paint, we will find the right shades of colours regardless of the efforts required to mix and blend them. Similarly, if we have a clear vision, it gives us the tenacity and determination to keep seeking the best options that will bring us to our goals.
4) Not swayed by negative emotions
Getting to our vision may require us to embark on tasks that we are fearful of or don’t like to do. That’s when our negative emotions revisit and create resistance that stops us from moving forward (sounds familiar?). However, if we keep the vision consistently clear in our minds, we will realise that these self-limiting emotions are temporary. In fact, they are just another obstacle to overcome. For example, doing something new may create fear and uncertainty. But the fear transforms to a sense of accomplishment once we have it done. The presence of our vision keeps us firmly rooted in our purpose especially in times of challenges, and that greatly determines how we move forward.
5) Pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – sense of achievement and fulfilment
When we achieve the things we set out to do, we inevitably feel heightened senses of achievement and fulfilment, which is what most of us are seeking for at the end of the day. Having a vision gives us a sense of purpose to work towards.
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