#5 — The Importance of Vision

A vision is a mental picture of the result you want to achieve---a picture so clear and strong it will help make that result real. A vision is not a vague wish or dream or hope. It’s a picture of the real results of real efforts. It comes from the future and informs and energizes the present. Visioning is the most powerful tool I’ve witnessed in over twenty years of helping organizations and individuals get the results they want.

The practice of using visions is mainstream. Some companies use visions to communicate their values and goals. Professional sports teams use visioning exercises to improve performance (there are studies showing that basketball players who practice free throws only by “envisioning” the ball going through the hoop improve their shooting percentage almost as much as those who actually throw the ball). The director of a play might “envision” a perfect production before rehearsals begin.

Here’s why a vision is so powerful:

A vision inspires action. A powerful vision pulls in ideas, people and other resources. It creates the energy and will to make change happen. It inspires individuals and organizations to commit, to persist and to give their best.

A vision is a practical guide for creating plans, setting goals and objectives, making decisions, and coordinating and evaluating the work on any project, large or small.

A vision helps keep organizations and groups focused and together, especially with complex projects and in stressful times.

Not every picture is a vision. Your vision should:

Be clear—so sharp and so detailed that you can see, smell and taste the smallest details.

Be positive.Acknowledge the difficulties, but don’t try to motivate yourself or others with a vision of bad things that might happen if you don’t succeed. A vision based on fear may help fuel immediate action, but it can also limit your results to damage control rather than getting to positive change.

Be big enough. Create a bigger picture of the effects of your work than just solving the problem at hand. A vision that’s too small may not provide enough inspiration, or generate enough energy, to get you past the tough spots. It might even close your mind to what you could achieve.

Include changes in attitudes. The challenge you see in front of you is only the part of the problem you can see—the rest of the challenge is deeper and often involves personal attitudes that may be strongly held. Remember the ”iceberg” in Coach’s Corner #3.

Include a clear picture of your personal role, not just that of your organization, if you’re in one. This isn’t about ego. It’s about you taking full responsibility for helping achieve the results you want.

Come from the heart, not the head. Don’t try to think your way to a vision. To create a vision that’s exciting and compelling, you’ve got to give yourself the freedom to dream—to use your imagination to see and feel what does not yet exist. A vision is not the same as goals or objectives; those come from the head. A vision comes from the heart.

Learning how to create and communicate a vision is useful whether you’re starting a project on your own or you’re joining a group already organized around a project. Later, I’ll show you how to communicate your vision to a group or team, pulling in volunteers and resources. I’ll also explain how to use a vision to guide your planning process, to get institutions and bureaucracies to listen to you, and to shape your communications---from speeches to brochures.

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