We all have those songs that pop into our heads for no apparent reason. Maybe they’re random and maybe they are a window into our souls—who is to say? The two that seem to show up in my head most often are David Soul’s “Don’t Give Up On Us” and Diana Ross’s theme from the 1975 film Mahogany, “Do You Know Where You’re Going To?” I know I’m taking a chance of losing a huge amount of street credibility by admitting to the fact that my musical tastes seemed to have stopped developing sometime in the 1980s, but take one look at my iPod library and that would become glaringly obvious anyway.

At The Center for Health Design, we are on a continual quest to understand how we can do what we do more effectively and efficiently so we can better serve the industry and accomplish our mission. For that reason, we created a few staff-run internal groups this past year to help us continue to identify areas for improvement.

One of the charges that came out of that process was to create a destination statement for The Center. Something that could express why we do what we do and where we want to go in the next three to five years in a way that is clear, inspirational, and helps people see not only where the organization is going but makes them want to hop on the bus and go there, too. Creating this statement was much easier said than done.

During that process, the lyrics of the song sung by Diana Ross took on an entirely new meaning as it tauntingly probed—“Do you know where you’re going to? Do you like the things that life is showing you? Where are you going to? Do you know?”

For many organizations, The Center included, this economy has fundamentally changed how we do business. On the positive side, it forced us to evaluate how we accomplish our work in a way that has helped to reduce a lot of waste. We are leaner and more efficient, and have been forced to be smarter about how we do what we do and also why we do it. On the negative side, we all are doing more with less, and that means many of us find our days are filled with the execution of our to-do lists. We start our day and try to cross out as many things as possible, hopefully spending the most amount of time on the most important tasks on the list. Often, though, it’s not the most important things we really focus on, but what arbitrarily seems the most critical at the moment.

Given the pace of most days, it feels almost decadent to take a few hours out of each one to think about things rather than focus on doing things. During the process of writing a destination statement, I found myself not just thinking about the future of The Center and our place in the industry, but also thinking back to our past—trying to understand where we started and why we even came into existence in the first place.

In the same way we as individuals can’t leave our past behind to create an entirely disconnected new future, an organization has a collective past as well, and not understanding the genesis of what sparked the need for an organization’s birth to begin with is like building a new patient tower without making sure you’ll have patients to fill it. It’s not just important to know where you are going but why it’s so important to get to that destination.

Getting the right answer is a factor of many things, not the least of which is asking the right question. The same holds true for ending up where you want to be in life. Unexpected journeys and setting off on adventures is also important. In my 20s I used to take off on a Friday with my convertible top down to see where the weekend would take me. California is full of amazing little towns, and I always ended up somewhere unexpected but very cool. Yet when it comes to the end game, when getting somewhere is really important, knowing where you want to end up is critical to actually getting there.

Maybe now is the time to take some time to create your own personal destination statement, whether it’s for your personal life or your organization. Reflect on what brought you into this industry in the first place. Find that passion that led you to take a chance on something new and use it to frame what you want your world to look like in three to five years. Hopefully, you find that you are exactly on track to get there; but in the case that you realize where you are headed and where you want to be are not congruent, it’s a great time to adjust your sails and change course. HCD


Debra J. Levin is president and CEO of The Center for Health Design in Concord, California. Follow Debra Levin on Twitter @CHD_DebraLevin and linkedin.com/in/DebraLevin.