See Your Actions in the Context of Your Vision for the Future

What three stonecutters can teach us about connecting present and future.

by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
Working for today, this year, or a lifetime is a matter of perspective.
by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
Working for today, this year, or a lifetime is a matter of perspective.

At 50,000 ft, you have a pretty clear vision of where you want to take your life.

You have an end in mind. You have the rough outline of how to get there—or at least the direction in which you need to head.

50,000 ft is a great level of thinking for long-range planning, but it’s not where we do the work that will produce the results that will shape our life.

For that work, we come down to the ground, past annual, quarterly, and weekly planning. We plan our day and we get to work.

From the ground, we have a completely different perspective. Things look different. Now we can see the details—and we have to deal with the details.

Peter Drucker, writing for Harvard Business Review, said:

A man came across three stonecutters and asked them what they were doing. The first replied, “I am making a living.” The second kept on hammering while he said, “I am doing the best job of stonecutting in the entire county.” The third looked up with a visionary gleam in his eye and said, “I am building a cathedral.”

First, I want to make it clear that none of these guys is wrong. They’re just operating differently.

The first stonecutter is focused on the day-to-day. He’s working. He’s got daily targets. He’s getting things done.

The second stonecutter is thinking a little longer-term. He’s focused on personal growth and getting better at what he does. He cuts better stones now than he did five years ago; in five years, he’ll look back at who he is today and smile.

The third stonecutter has the big picture in mind. He has a vision of the future reality he’s building. He’s working at ground level, like the other two, but he’s connected to the 50,000-ft level.

We need each of these mindsets to be productive. We need daily targets. We need to get better at what we do. We need a vision to work towards. They’re all important.

The difference is the resilience when the going gets tough.

At the ground level, we know what we’re doing, but it may feel like we’re spinning our wheels. We’re paying the bills, but it just doesn’t feel like we’re getting any closer to living the dream.

There’s a feeling of satisfaction in seeing yourself improve. You’re getting better at how you do you. You’re starting to satisfy your need for self-actualization and that will keep you afloat for a bit. But even continuous improvement isn’t enough forever.

When we’re connected with the vision we’ve created for our future, we know why we’re working. This is more than an intellectual what. Why is emotional. It’s easy to say no when there’s a deeper yes! burning inside of us.

You are the only one who can see the full continuity of your life’s story. Others see only glimpses. You have to deal with the consequences of your actions more than anyone else. You get to reap the benefits, too.

You know the bigger yes! you’re making space for. Everyone else only sees what you’re saying no to. They don’t have your 50,000-ft view for your life. You see how the moving pieces fit together.

Your friends and family can cheer you along. Those who have walked the path before you can point you in the right direction. But even they can’t take the steps for you.

Pick your destination. Chart the course to get there. Keep the end in mind and you’ll even enjoy the journey.

Question: Which stonecutter do you feel like today? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.