A compelling vision helps you make choices about where to focus your energy. Without vision, you are in danger of trying to be all things to all people, scattered or adrift. So stay focused on your vision, and don’t get distracted by unrelated opportunities.
In our book, Full Steam Ahead! Unleash the Power of Vision, Ken Blanchard and I explain:
“Vision is knowing who you are, where you’re going, and what will guide the journey.”
Who you are is your purpose. Where you’re going is your picture of the future. What will guide your journey are your values.
Vision is about being great
A noble purpose is inspiring and helps you stay committed when times are hard.
A compelling vision is not about beating the competition or expressed simply in numbers. It’s about being the best you can be. Being “number one” might be a goal, but where do you go from there? Your vision will continue to guide you by answering, “what’s next?” as each goal is achieved.
Vision is clear and specific. It’s not just “positive thinking.” It shows you a picture of what “being great” looks like for you.
3 Guidelines to Surface Your Vision
1. Relax and have fun.
To create a vision, you must first connect with what you care most deeply about. Suspend your internal judge and critic. Dig below the surface and see what arises. Be creative and playful. Give yourself permission to explore, to dream.
Do not let your fears and concerns limit your thinking. A vision can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. If you have any doubts about this, consider the story of Terry Fox.
You can use the logical part of your brain later to shape your vision, but first reach for your deepest dreams.
2. Be proactive, not reactive. Focus on what you desire, not what you want to get rid of.
There is more power in focusing on what you desire than on removing a problem. If you are are focused primarily on what you don’t want, you might remove a specific problem, but you are likely to move simply from one crisis to another – because you’re not focused on where you’re going.
If you you must focus on removing a problem, pair it with a proactive focus. For example, if you want to lose weight, you need to eat less. However, if you are frequently thinking about the chocolate you are not eating, it’s difficult to maintain motivation over the long term. Try also picturing what you’ll look like in your new jeans. Or if you’re quitting smoking, imagine yourself in your old age taking a hike or reading a book to your grandchildren.
3. Focus on the end result, not the process to get there.
The power of vision comes from creating an image of the end result. The process for achieving it, the path, will not necessarily be clear.
In the late 1970’s, the technique of “mental rehearsal’” became popular in sports training – where the athlete visualized his or her performance during the competition. Over the years, sports trainers discovered that the real power was in visualizing the end result— celebrating the victory or seeing yourself standing on the podium receiving the gold medal.
Imagine that the future is just as you wished it would be. What is actually happening? See vivid images that show what your purpose is, what your values are, and what you are doing.
Activities to Discover Your Vision
For most of us, vision does not appear like a bolt of lightning. It’s like mining for gold. We gather nuggets, and eventually they coalesce into a cohesive picture. If you would like to try some specific activities, see my post 3 Activities to Discover Your Vision.
A long with number one I like to pick images that represent what I am after. It goes with the fact that we as people are far more visual than most of us believe. Using usual images will help us reinforce what we are truly after.
Thanks for sharing that, Robert. Imagery is so helpful – it is a great way to access the creative, non-linear part of your brain. I often use guided imagery as a technique to help elicit images for teams. And there’s a link at the end of my post to 3 other activities you can do on your own that help elicit images. However, it’s important to follow these 3 guidelines when eliciting images or you may end up with the wrong images.
Right on target, Jesse, as usual. There is no substitute for clarity of vision with specific details. If we truly move toward what we think about, it is very important that we have 20/20 or better vision to see what lies ahead, plus what we want to put there. This also reinforces one very important type of learning for many people so you can add to the visual the auditory, kinesthetic, social, solitary, logical and verbal.
Thanks for raising the issue of modes of learning. Not everyone will see vivid images in their mind, especially if their primary mode of learning is auditory or kinesthetic. But what’s important is to relax, see what arises, and suspend judgement. Shaping it with language is an important later step. Much thanks for deepening the conversation, Gary!
Usualy it is difficult to think about vision and what makes it difficult is absence of those three points you just mentioned! We should have more fun doing not only vision but our everyday job as well.
Fun is a good thing! I think when you’re acting in service of your vision and see the significance of your work, you naturally have more fun.
I love all your blogs and read your book, Full Steam Ahead, but every time you write about vision I read and re-read it. Vision is exciting and it’s not hard for me to see where I want to be. I struggle with the white space. I think I have a clear vision in mind but when I try to figure out how I’m going to get there, all that white space is just white. I don’t know how I missed the 3 Activities to Discover your Vision, but I have it now. Thank you for sharing you wisdom with such clarity.
I’m so glad you found it helpful, Jane. Thanks for letting me know. I’d love to know more about what you mean by “white space.”
We are working on a Mission Statement revision, so this is timely. You might check out Simon Sinek’s TED talk (Google) on writing mission statements. He suggests we include the “why.” I realize that Mission Statements and Visions are different but they go together “like peas an’ carrots”.
I agree, Dave. Mission is not separate from vision. Mission explains who you are, your reason for being, not simply your products and services. This is one of the 3 elements of a compelling vision. (I use the term “purpose” instead of “mission” because there are so many misconceptions and differing opinions on what “mission” means.) You might appreciate my post How to Write a Mission Statement in 5 Steps.
I agree: There is indeed more power in focusing on what you desire than on removing a problem – even if for many of s it is easier to say what we don’t want. Like in the Solution-Focused approach – it would be useful to focus on solution building.
For me: Mission, like purpose, is about our “Raison d’etre” = who and what we are: here and now (present tense), the reason of our existence.
Vision is a desired state, that by definition is in the future (future tense). had it been at present time, one could call it: “A diagnosis”.
Nice distinction between present and future tense. Thanks for joining the conversation, Yoram.
Thanks, Jesse, this publication on Compelling Vision is been so helpful both at work and in my studies, wow. it actually addressed some of my fears with other employees as an assistant, manager.
Hi Grace, I’m so glad you found it helpful. Don’t hold yourself back. Vision can start anywhere!