The Value of the Vision Thing – in Politics, Business and Life
A lot of people in business and government talk about vision. And no doubt about it, vision is a great thing to have. Yet, fortunate or not, it is our lot in life , both collectively and individually, that we see but through the glass darkly. And no one can deny that there is more that we fail to see than we are able to see. That’s not to say that our vision is failing, or that we fail at visioning. Only that our best efforts are restrained by all that time and space conceal.
Still, those who we recognize for their vision are, more often than not, satisfied to see what they see and begin with that, then fill in the blanks while adapting to changes as they unfold. Indeed, an artist faces a canvas, a blank sheet of music, or a problem to be solved, with only an inkling of an idea, and that’s enough to begin.
Everything worthwhile is started this way
Ask any artist, and that’s what they’ll say
They begin the work though they don’t yet see
Soon, the work tells the artist what exactly it wants to be.
I find writing to be a wonderful exercise of my vision. And even though my vision for this blog post was dim at best when I began writing (as was my vision for my blog, 2 years ago, when I first began working on it), I now see another metaphor coming into view.
This time, it’s fog. Because going through our lives is much like driving through a fog. You can’t see hardly anything, but you can know where you want to go, and if you’re patient and attentive, you can see the road directly ahead. And if you keep your eyes on the road and keep your destination firmly in mind, you can make progress. And on occasion, the fog clears for a moment or two, and you can see far ahead. In those brief moments of clarity, you’re able to better anticipate how to respond to the changes coming into view.
When people lack confidence in themselves, they look to their leaders to provide them with vision. Some of those leaders succeed. They are able to lay out before us the answers to those potent questions: What are we doing? Why are we doing it? Why does it matter?
Most so-called leaders don’t and won’t provide any vision, because the only thing they are watching out for is their own self interest. Self-interest is the antithesis of effective vision, because vision is about glimpsing the ideal as it effects the world around us, not just us. Vision is comprehensive and expansive, unless it’s tunnel vision, in which case it’s oblivious and expensive.
Visionaries are visionaries because they are in hot pursuit of their idea of the ideal. They look at what is, compare it to what might be, the current state and the desired state, and then strive mightily to reduce the differences. Or they look at the world coming into view, know it can be better, set their sights higher, and strive with relentless determination to move in that direction. If they possess wisdom as well as vision, they surround themselves with people who have a knack for planning and action, who seek to be a part of something greater than themselves, and who are willing to work together to bring about the positive changes that lead towards the light ahead.
It’s a bold and often courageous stance in life to seek the higher ground, to pursue the golden ring, to see the opportunity for a better world, a better life, and better chance for ourselves and those who follow and then take it. Where there is no vision, the people perish, because the lack of attention creates blindness to impending circumstance. But in the context of the ideal, of the better way, the better world, the challenges can be taken into account, and then taken care of in order to continue onward.
There is a dark side to the vision thing. I’ve seen it in the halls of government and in the lives of the governed. And I’ve witnessed it in too many businesses and organizations that start out towards a glorious conclusion but get lost along the way.
And here is how this sad turn of events happens. Turns out that if you only talk about the bright light on the hill, and point to it, and exclaim about it, but fail to address the darkness that’s closer in and take practical steps to dispel it, people become cynical, skeptical and full of disappointment. Then the idea of the ideal is obscured by the darkened minds and eyes that start believing in and telling stories about and investing in the fog instead of keeping their eyes on the prize of progress.
Want to improve your vision? Start by envisioning your idea of the ideal. If the world were perfect, according to you, what would it be like? How would it work? If work were perfect, if your business or department were ideal, what would that look like, how would that feel, what would be happening? Once you can describe your idea of the ideal, you begin taking practical steps, NEXT steps, that either reduce the difference between what could be and what is, or that move you and the world around you one step closer to that visionary ideal!
Your comments and feedback are most welcome!
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.