“Dreams are the touchstones of our characters,” Thoreau, a man who delighted in his imagination, once wrote. Your vision is your most important dream or mental picture. It can also be a set of dreams and long-term goals. A vision defines the optimal desired future state; it tells of what you would like to achieve over a longer time. Vision can be your personal “why” or the organization’s internal purpose of existence.
You might often see vision and mission portrayed together. These are not the same, although we can sometimes confuse the two. However, there’s a crucial difference: contrary to vision, your mission describes the status quo, what you are doing right now. It is in line with your current capabilities. Your mission defines the present state and job of your organization.
Take SpaceX for example; their mission is: “SpaceX designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft.” Where a mission describes the now, a vision instead forecasts the desired future. SpaceX believe humankind needs to be a multi-planetary species to survive many more generations to come. In accordance, their vision is “enabling people to live on other planets.” So by driving down the cost of launching rockets while working daily on their mission of building reusable rockets, they eventually enable the transport and settlement of many people on Mars and beyond – which is their, so far, unique dream of the future.
What a Vision Can Do for You
Describing what you currently do seems inherently advantageous. People want to know what you do. But why should you have a vision? Every individual or organization should have a vision for two reasons:
- First, a vision inspires you and gives you energy. It guides and eventually gives all of your efforts a purpose. Coming to terms with your “why” connects you with your core values and roots you. Your vision unlocks your deepest motivations. Making the connection between your deepest heartfelt values and your everyday work will make you unstoppable.
- Second, it provides guidance in a world of choices. It enables you to focus on what to do (and not do) for those achievements five, ten years or further in the future. When you are clear about your vision and goals, it is easier to say yes wholeheartedly or say no with an acceptable reason and no fear of rejection.
How to Find and Develop Your Very Own Vision
When searching for your vision, it is best to do so offsite somewhere you are inspired and not distracted. Rather than your office, think of someplace more inspiring like a small secluded cabin in the mountains or by the sea. A central question when building your vision will be, “What is my Why?” When you are thinking of this, what are dreams that you have just started work towards or that you should finally start? Simon Sinek addressed in his book Start with Why that every individual or company needs to know their why to get the remainder (the what and how) right and sorted out. That means if you know the Why, you will easily figure out the What and the How later. Zoom out and concentrate on the biggest, long-term version of your picture.
When formulating your vision, respect the following criteria:
- Unique: Make sure it is unique to you and fits your passion and values. That also involves imagining yourself in the role. Three years from now, what do you look like in that role? How do you see yourself?
- Simple: Write it directly and succinctly so that it is quick to grasp and can be easily repeated by any employee at any given time.
- Focused: Narrow in so it is not too broad.
- Bold: Is it brave and big enough? Stretch yourself rather than staying inside the status quo.
- Beneficial: A good vision has a reason and strives to benefit not only you but also others at the same time. For example, an organization should first serve its customers, but also benefit you or your association at the same time. Profit is a result of excellent service, not a goal in itself.
- Aligned: Your vision and way towards it should be aligned, but most importantly should not contradict each other, for authenticity reasons. For instance, a company that tries to change the world positively also needs to have processes and rules that are positive on the inside.
- Inspiring: Write your vision in an inspirational manner. Think of a sci-fi movie trailer that pulls millions into the cinema; your vision should have a similar magnetic pull to it.
- Engaging: Creating your vision is like building a house: you might not know how to build the house yourself, but you have ideas and images in your mind that you pass onto an architect who helps you create sketches and plans from which to construct and achieve the final product, together.
Overall, a good vision is something you hear once and then never forget. Respecting these criteria will help you achieve that goal.
Applying Your Vision in Practice
Having a visual reminder of your vision is important which is why vividness is key. It is best to have that visualization somewhere near, like your personal vision could be kept close to your bed and your professional vision somewhere at the entrance of your office, or high above your desk. This way you can regularly look up and refer to it.
Keeping it visible can help you stay on track by providing guidance when opportunities or distractions present themselves. Moreover, when you can consistently see your vision, you can always question if your current actions are contributing to that ultimate goal.
With each new day, ask yourself: if this were my last day to work on my ultimate goal, my vision, would I spend it this way?
Your personal vision guides you in your life when you set goals and need to make decisions every day. When creating your personal vision, reflect from different perspectives and think of what you desire to have, be, give and do. How could you contribute to this world, impact and help your inner circle, your community or even people on this planet? Thinking of this often reveals your real purpose in life.
Your personal vision for your life might be best visualized in a vision board.
An organizational vision is the centerpiece and foundation of all corporate strategy, primarily its goals. The vision functions as the “north star” – it points the everyday work of employees as a contribution toward the ultimate long-term accomplishment.
In companies or non-profit organizations, a vision usually expresses itself in a vision statement.