Leadership and ManagementWhere (Situation and Vision)

What is a vision statement and why are they important?

 where are you going? dream, vision

Where are you going? How do you create your vision statement and follow your dream?

What is a vision statement? A vision statement is the capturing of a dream. This is important as dreams can be powerful things if we choose to make them a reality.

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”

T E Lawrence

William Wilberforce had a dream of a world where people were not treated like possessions and his work ended the slave trade in the British Empire. Henry Ford had an impassioned idea of a motorcar that would be affordable for the average family and he designed the Model T Ford. Edmund Hillary dreamed of climbing the highest mountain on earth and he and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first men to stand on top of Everest.  Tim Berners-Lee dreamed of a way of freely sharing information and knowledge to people all around the world, he went on to invent the World Wide Web.

From dream to destination

When a vision stops being a daydream and instead becomes a destination it becomes a powerful thing; something tangible that we can work towards.  This idea of destination and vision is the next part of the ‘Where?’ in our questions.

“Begin with the end in mind”

Steven Covey

A true vision or dream stirs the heart; whether it stems from desire for a particular future or from dissatisfaction with the present it should be evocative and engaging.  The vision paints the picture of a better future, it brings to life the dream of a new reality and creates a language that describes an alternative paradigm.

Our vision may be able to be expressed in various ways and may not even be completely clear at this stage.  Because of this breadth it becomes the framework, the bigger picture that contains all we are and all we are passionate about.

Developing clarity of vision

Don’t worry if you do not feel you have a clearly defined vision immediately; the degree of clarity varies between people and is also likely to change over time.  We do not all have a Damascus road experience or a Dr Martin Luther King speech to draw upon.  Our vision is much more likely to be something that develops with time, like a slowly developing Polaroid picture.

There is also a different clarity that comes with distance.  When we look out over a landscape the foreground is in sharper detail than the middle distance.  Often we can only make out the outline or silhouette of things in the far distance.  In the same way, we should expect to have more detail about the next steps we are taking than the end goal.  Even a visionary like Bill Gates could not imagine all the shapes and sizes of computers that are used in our homes.  So you too don’t need to have all the detail to be successful.

A great example of a vision statement

One of the best examples of a vision statement or talk is that given by President John F Kennedy, in his speech announcing the intention for the US to put a man on the moon. It is a vision that that is audacious but achievable, inspiring, achievable and measurable.

The visionary road

Working towards the dream is like being on a journey. If our destination is the top of a mountain then as long as we can see it – even just in outline in the distance – we can set off.  We can concentrate on getting closer first and then, as we progress, we can develop the detail we need to get to the top.

This is why, whatever our journey, it is good to continue to ask and answer The Right Questions at regular intervals. As we go through this process and record the answers we can see the vision statement develop and the dream being refined over time.

Think about your dreams. What is your better tomorrow? Now have a go at writing your vision statement.

How do you write a vision statement?

Here are some exercises to help you create your personal vision statement.

My Perfect Day Exercise

Write a description of your perfect day. This should be a day that includes an element of ‘work’ however that is defined, to capture your ideal vocation (not just vacation!)

Be as specific as possible. Think about:

  • What do you see when you wake up?
  • How do you feel?
  • Who is in there with you at each stage of the day?
  • Where are you and what are you doing at each stage of the day?

Eulogy Exercise

A eulogy is a speech that someone gives at a funeral. What would someone say at your funeral? Who would give the speech?

It can seem a bit morbid but writing your own eulogy can be a very powerful exercise. It helps to focus on the idea of legacy – what is the impact you have had on the world and the lives of others?

After you have done that, can you work out what you would have written on your grave stone?

If you want some ideas and to see how powerful a good eulogy can be then read this one of Steve Jobs written by his sister:

A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs – New York Times

“Where there is no vision, the people perish”

Proverbs (KJV)

What is the difference between a vision and mission statement?

A vision statement generally captures the long term dream, something that might take a life time (or more to achieve). It is often written in evocative language using metaphors and picture language that engages the heart and emotions.

A mission statement is more a definition of success. It is generally more pithy that a vision statement and likely to be framed in the slightly shorter term. You can find out more by reading ‘What is a mission statement and why do I need one?’

Which visionaries have inspired you? Do leave a comment and share who and why…

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