If you have ever attended a leadership conference, read a leadership book, or heard a lecture about leadership, you have most likely heard a good amount about this thing called “vision”. Vision is touted as one of the most important qualities of a leader. Vision is what drives an individual, what helps a person reach higher levels, and what inspires other people to join you on your goal of seeing your vision realized.
The frustrating thing about hearing about vision from lectures or books is that it is never defined as anything that actually helps someone obtain the ability to have vision. If you do not have vision, then most leadership presentations will not help you acquire vision.
Vision is often times nebulously defined as a future goal. Here are some definitions of vision given by some people who are admired in the field of leadership:
- “Vision is who you are, where you are going and what will guide your journey.” – Blanchard and Stoner (Side point: please use the Oxford comma! Since the authors did not use it, I did not use it when quoting them.)
- “A vision is defined as a clear, distinctive, and specific view of the future.” – Boundless.com (Side point: yeah, Oxford comma!)
- “Vision is defined as the ability to see the whole trip before leaving the dock.” – John C. Maxwell
To me, these definitions are non-distinct and not at all helpful; at least definitely not for a person who does not think they have this thing called “vision”. I was told that if a person does not have vision, then that person will not be successful. I remember hearing and reading about the importance of vision and concluding, “Well, I guess I just am not a man of vision because I do not understand exactly what they mean by it. I guess the role of visionary is up to someone else. I guess someone else will have to be successful and I will simply have to ride in that person’s wake.”
Think about the three definitions above. Let us say you are someone who is trying to capture vision. Do you think these definitions will help you understand what it takes to have vision? These definitions certainly did not help me. Someone who already has an understanding of vision may nod along with these quotes, but someone who does not seem to have a direct path toward the future will most likely not be helped by the above definitions.
Just to clarify, I learned a whole lot from leaders like John C. Maxwell. The many sources of leadership knowledge have given me many tools to help me become a better leader and team member. I do not wish to paint them in a bad light. I think people ought to read books on leadership and attend conferences; they help inspire people and let them know that they do not have to settle for commonness.
However, when it comes to showing a person who does not have a clear, detailed plan for the future, the many sources I learned from did not help me get a clear, detailed plan for the future. They simply stated that I must have one.
Knowing that I only had a very general idea as to what I would like to accomplish in the future, I was left wading in the surf of this vast sea called vision. I gave up on vision because it was presented as “you either have it, or you don’t.”
However, about a year ago I experienced this thing called vision and I now understand it enough to help someone who does not have vision to obtain it.
It all started when I went on vacation to Mexico.
I live in Massachusetts. I do not particularly enjoy living in MA. It is cold for a large portion of the year, the culture is not one I easily mesh with, and to top it all off, the Dallas Stars play about 1,800 miles away from my residence. But the largest difficulty is the cold. If MA had Texas weather, I would enjoy living here much more.
Since it is so cold in MA, my wife and I decided to vacation in Mexico during one of the coldest months. It was delightful. We loved it there. The resort, Vidanta’s, The Grand Bliss, was appropriately named and the grounds were immaculate. I had never experienced luxury like what was offered by Vidanta. Vidanta showed me what comfort, service, and bliss could be. Samantha and I explored the sprawling, beautiful grounds and many pools of the Nuevo Vallarta resort campus and just fell in love with the vision of Vidanta.
The weather of course was exactly for what we were looking. It was sunny and in the 80’s each day, and the days seemed to go by doubly slow. The hardest part of the stay was trying to block the sun with my book while trying to read and sunbathe at the same time. While I was sitting in the sun by the pool with my book in hand, I was thinking to myself, “Why cannot every day be like this?”.
Now, I realize that I was on vacation and if I actually lived there that I would have to actually work and not just sit by a pool or ocean. However, working and living when the sun is warm makes life infinitely more enjoyable to me than when the ground is covered with snow. As I told my wife, “It is not that I am miserable during the winters, it is that I have to try to be happy.” When it is warm, I do not have to try to be happy; my default is happy. Not so during the winter.
With the thought, “Why cannot every day be like this?”, I slowly started the path to understanding what vision is. I did not come to a fuller understanding of vision until I walked into the gym area at Vidanta, but that story is continued below.
Vision can be broken down to two questions and one ever adapting resolution.
The two questions open up the door of vision for people to walk through. With the definitions of vision quoted by the leaders above, I found myself standing at a closed door. I had no idea how to get to the other side of that door. But the two questions below give people the ability to open the door. Once you open the door, you can see farther than you ever had been able to before.
The ever adapting resolution is the journey on the other side of that door. This is where you not only see a vast new world, but step into it and make discoveries.
So without further ado, here is how someone who thinks they do not have vision can capture vision.
What could be better about this situation?
This is the first and most important step in vision. The only way to improve is to realize that improvement is needed. For me, I needed to realize that being in a cold environment is not the best for me or my family. I could either just trudge through the difficulties of my environment or I could look up and say, “I do not have to settle for this.”
I started to ask myself, “What could be better about my life?” I started asking this while I was basking in the sun by The Grand Bliss pool. I asked myself, “Why cannot every day of my life be like this? Why do I have to settle for Massachusetts?”.
With this question you find the negatives about your current situation. Recognizing that there are negatives is a very important realization. Being able to identify and label them allows you to ask the second question.
What is that “better”?
After realizing that something needs to change about the current situation, there needs to be a decision on what the situation needs to change to. One day Samantha and I went to the gym area at the resort and we walked past an empty studio room. I saw that empty room and said, “What is that doing empty? I know exactly what I could do with that.” I started to see that working in Mexico at a beautiful resort like Vidanta would be wonderful. Not only would I be in a warm climate, but I would have the opportunity to meet many new people on a daily basis and inspire happiness in the customers of Vidanta by giving them a fun and exciting workout.
I also thought of how I could help the communities of Vidanta resorts. My biggest passion in life is to share the life-giving message of Jesus Christ. If the message of Christ is introduced to a community, then it will benefit and improve the community. I want to start a Christian charity in the communities of Vidanta that seeks to teach people about the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. His love inspires people to help the weak and disheartened. His forgiveness frees people from guilt and shame and provides them with courage and eternal hope.
The charity I would like to start would be called, “I Care”. This would answer the questions, “Who cares about the people right outside the resort? Who cares about the single mom raising her kids with no support? Who cares about the women being used in sex trafficking? Who cares about the children who have no loving mentor to go to when they are faced with the pressures of life? Who cares about the families who do not have enough resources to provide food for themselves?”. Well, the answer to all those questions is, “I care.”
I think there are many people who go on vacation who care. I believe this charity would give these people a very active, corporeal, and effective way for them to show that they do care.
Ever Adapting Resolution:
I think this is how we can get to better.
Once I thought up the plan of being a trainer at Vidanta, I had to come up with a plan detailing how I could make that a possibility. This is the hardest part of vision. The reasons it is the hardest part is because, 1) it involves action and not just thought, and 2) it is going to change through time.
This part of vision is your ideas with boots and gloves on. This is where you go to work. For me, I had to give a purpose for the exercise program at Vidanta; I had to develop several different workout plans with different goals; I had to come up with slogans to advertise the exercise program and make it attractive; I had to detail the different future phases of the exercise program; I had to write up an attractive business plan that showed how such an exercise program could benefit Vidanta and its customers and how the exercise program could naturally flow into the overall vision of Vidanta.
Concerning “I Care”, I had to establish a people group to target, a method of getting charity to these people, a manner in which to present the charity to others, a measurement to make sure the charity is effective, and a plan for future phases of the charity.
That was the easy part of the third part of vision.
The harder part is finding the right people to talk to within Vidanta to get my idea presented and started. This is where I am now.
But as it is described, this third part is an ever adapting resolution. That means when one avenue fails at getting to “better”, there has to be an attempt at another avenue sought to get to “better”. Even when we get to what we thought was “better”, there still are tweaks and readjustments that will continually happen. Since there will be continual tweaks, that is why the third part of vision is an ever adapting resolution.
When I describe the definition of vision in person, when I get to this third part of vision, I take my hand and veer it back and forth like a curvy river to indicate that we are going to have to make turns and readjustments in order to find the ocean of success. One does not get to the ocean of success without first navigating through the roaring rapids of hard work.
Do not get me wrong, the ocean of success is no cakewalk either. There is a lot of open water and some pretty heavy storms. But success is not a finish line, success is a full blown story. Stories have introductions, backstories, conflicts, climaxes, and conclusions to go along with other aspects. Success is no different. But to start the story of success, there has to be at least one victory. There can be many more victories than one victory, but there has to be at least one.
So vision is asking, “What could be better about this situation?”, “What is that ‘better'”?, and then making an ever adapting resolution of, “I think this is how we can get to better.”
These three steps give people the ability to immediately open the door of vision and gives them a model to practice and master in every situation. These three steps can be applied in every situation.
By defining vision in this way, all people can have vision. From the janitor to the CEO, all people can accomplish this task. By making vision a couple questions and a resolution, all people can participate in building vision. By equipping all people of the organization to think with vision, the organization can flourish in ways well beyond the advertised vision of the organization.
Now of course each individual’s vision must be in line with the overall vision of an organization and superiority must be respected. But just think about the possibilities for improvement if an organization empowered each one of their members to actively think about these three steps. That organization would be constantly growing and improving and would never become out of date.
I have applied this definition of vision to many aspects of my life. I was able to improve my current job many times over by simply following the three steps of vision. I was able to make my social and home life much better as well. I am looking forward to many more years of adapting my life to make it better.
So there you have it. Do you want vision? Start by asking yourself two questions and then follow them up by making your first of many resolutions. I am excited for you. See you on the other side of that closed door.