I can see myself in a new car this coming year.
When I say “new car,” I don’t–not even for a second–mean a new car from a dealer. I mean a used car. But for a moment let’s ignore my Dave Ramsey fanaticism to take another look at vision by answering an important question.
Where do you see yourself this year?
I see the Jones family planning for, searching for, and saving up to buy a used car that meets our growing family’s needs this year. I can picture it in my mind’s eye.
We’ve had some amazing journeys in our current vehicle, a Toyota Sequoia, like this one where Robby enjoys the wind and the passing scenery. But it’s time to replace our aging truck.
That’s one example of a vision. It’s practical not philosophical, not academic or theoretical.
If we don’t understand the practical meaning of vision, then we certainly won’t be able to see it’s more abstract application.
A lot of people talk about vision and mission and values and goals and strategy…and a whole host of other things. People talk about what they are going to do and when–they talk about the steps to get there. It is extremely difficult to see what’s what through the haze of opinion and ideology, so here are some observations to give clarity to what vision is and what it isn’t.
1. Vision looks both directions.
We must look forward and backward. We must turn around from time to time, to look at where we’ve come, how far we’ve come, and what we’ve overcome to get here. Sometimes vision looks into the past. It’s a critical element that is often overlooked.
But vision also focuses on the future (that’s probably the definition you are used to). If the vision you’ve been focusing on for the last year is not any clearer, then perhaps you aren’t making any progress toward it. That’s why taking stock of your situation, taking a moment to look at where you are and what you’ve done is important.
2. Vision is not something you do.
“A vision” is something you see. Doesn’t that make sense? You can see yourself doing something, but fundamentally, it’s still about seeing. If you can’t paint a mental picture, if you can’t describe your vision like a photographer would frame a photo, then it’s something else. It’s not a vision.
I see myself crossing the finish line of my first 25K race this coming year. That’s a vision. My training schedule, my weekly running goals, the GPS watch I use, the track I run on–even a motivational phrase to keep me going–all of that is something else, not vision.
3. Vision sometimes sees the unseen.
I’ve never been to the Raleigh Executive Airport in Louisburg, NC, but I am planning a cross-country flight there. I don’t know what the runway looks like. I don’t know where I will park the airplane. But I can still imagine myself in an airplane, at the end of my airborne journey, at that airport.
(That’s twice that I’ve used “destination” as an analogy for explaining vision. It’s one that I like and have used before and plan to use again.)
4. Vision is just one part of the picture.
Destination–the very mention of the word suggests a journey, and similarly, “finish line” suggests a race. The finish line is just one part of the race–the destination is just one part of the journey. But it is the part of the race that motivates much of what comes before it, both before and during the race, just as the vision motivates what it takes to achieve it.
5. Vision is the focal point.
It’s the center of the picture, the part that is sharply in focus. Around the edges, things start to get fuzzy. That’s just life, a fundmental limitation in our sight and our cameras and our lenses.
6. Vision is not always amazing.
I started out by saying that I can see myself buying a car this year. That’s not an amazing vision. But it is a vision. Trivial vision should not be overlooked–you won’t cast an amazing vision until you demonstrate proficiency in the mundane.
7. Uncertainty will always accompany vision.
I can say this with certainty. We will never perfectly predict the path. We should continue to expect the unexpected.
Vision is simply about seeing. It’s the foundation of the scientific method and a critical element of leadership. Don’t wander around in the dark or the haze that uncertainty brings, because ”where there is no vision, the people perish.”
Do you agree? Did I paint a picture of what vision is, or would you call it something different?
Life is a journey. And these are observations from ours.
You’ve just read observations, a monthly column that illustrates in my personal life and leadership the technical concepts found in ATOMs. Some people may not want the technical content that appears elsewhere on this website–if you only want to follow these more personal updates, I set up a special subscription for that option here: by Email or RSS.