It was early in the morning and while in the middle of my morning routines I looked at some Adirondack chairs I had purchased that were still raw wood. I bought them unfinished with the goal of having them stained to match all the other furniture in my great room. I thought about how I have to reach out again to contact the guy that was going to finish them for me, the same person who has stained everything else in that room. He’s really good and the stuff he does always looks amazing. I use him because as part of my plan for the house I had this vision of disparate pieces of furniture in my kitchen and great room all unified by the same color. In a flash I thought about how this was so typical of me and somewhat atypical of others. This idea of always having a plan, a vision. I thought about all the challenges inherent with the fact that I have a highly precise idea, a vision, of what I want in all aspects of my life.
I realized that I can see what I want months, years, and decades ahead. I literally visualize it, every aspect of it. I often tell people that I live in the future. I’m always thinking about what my next great step is to get to the goal. The goals are never small, they always take time and effort. I was surprised when I first learned that there are some people who can’t do this. They aren’t constantly thinking about the next step in the plan. Some people have an idea of what they want, a vague notion. Then there are those with no vision at all. Life is the hear and now. They literally can’t envision anything better that their current experience.
Pro’s and Con’s
There are real positives and real negatives to having a vision of what you want to achieve. Having a goal that’s so palpable you can actually see it in your mind’s eye is powerful. That vision can get you someplace you haven’t been before. It can get you something you have never had before. It helps you develop a plan, a goal and that process can be empowering for the things you have to do, but maybe don’t want to do.
Visionaries aren’t just well known people. They are you and me. For example having a vision in society can turn someone from an apolitical background into a political activist or civic volunteer. People who volunteer for The Literacy Council, The Council on Aging, or Habitat for Humanity have very specific visions for how they see their community.
It can also crush your dreams when you accept your vision is unrealizable. I have a dream house, I came close, but never quite made it. Other projects I gave up on I had a vision about. I’m still holding on to some outdoor speakers for a backyard home theater that I never completed. The project was so massive that just one element included thousands of dollars of investment into retaining walls to convert my old backyard into a layout that would allow for outdoor stadium seating. I fully intend to do it someday but the grand vision was too much to achieve. It’s not just things, it’s also personal development. I have a vision about achieving a certain level at work in a certain way. I often think of the culture I wish to foster when I am in that envisioned leadership position. Unfortunately if the environment doesn’t change, or if someone decides they don’t like me, then my vision out the door. These are about me but others have visions that are unachievable. A 50 year old with bad knees probably won’t be able to achieve her vision of completing several marathons no matter how many leg braces she invests in.
Visions can also be a challenge if you actually achieved your vision. The family that your not wired for, the case worker or doc who has to spend way more time on paperwork than seeing clients. At that point something akin to depression sets in. It’s a crisis of confidence in yourself and your world. All I ever wanted to do was this thing.. and now this thing is a disaster. If it was a long hard road to achieve this vision then what do you do? Start all over from scratch? There are real challenges with the mechanics of life if you do this. I call it the great reset button. Wanna move careers, well you will start at the bottom rung . How do you pay that mortgage at ¼ of your current seasoned pay? What about if you have kids and all those associated life demands and costs? It’s kinda hard to accept that the vision you had for your life sucks and now you want to go live on the beach and sell popcorn and you can’t.
Visions, if nothing is done with them are a great place to hide. I write, and am realizing my vision in a very basic way through my blog and stuttering book development efforts. I know of another writer, a script writer. He has every single little detail planned about his script, who will be in the movie, how well it will do. He has realized everything, except, you know, that it’s just a dream without real progress. I honestly don’t know if he’s ever actually put down the first word in the initial treatment. But boy is it a great place to be if you don’t really want to move forward. The vision in this case is less of a beacon that you can reach, but more of a fantasy land you can escape to, to avoid real life.
Is it better to not have a big vision?
One of the big questions comes from assessing the actual value of an inherently visionary personality that thinks in big and complex visions. One of the things I have always found interesting about pop culture is the way it celebrates a simple vision. How many times is there a character, usually female, who dreams of the little house and the white picket fence? One of the best musical numbers in Little Shop of Horrors is all about this idea of a basic domestic vision. I guess the media likes the simple vision because by its very nature it is simple. It resonates emotionally and is easy to communicate. I doubt a song about becoming a leading regional concern in the flower and plant product logistics market would be quite as catchy or resonate as well with Broadway audiences.
That’s pop culture but I see it again and again in my local community and via my human interactions. There is pride when people say things like “All I want is… “ and they have some small little life goal. “All I want is my own house” or “All I want is to do a good job and go home at five”. I wonder how much is enculturation and how much of it is fear of failure? It’s hard to get disappointed if you don’t care about anything but the basics in life.
A visionary personality can be destroyed, but can it be created?
I believe that you can lose your visions quite easily. Yes, some people are hardwired to be visionary in their thinking, but like most things in life they can be rewired with enough failure. We learn our limitations. There is an old saying that people are liberal in their youth but become conservative in their older years. This is because, in part, they fail again and again when trying to change society to achieve the ideal. It can’t be done, at least not within the span of a single individuals youth and possibly not within a generation, so they become practical in what can be done in their lifetime.
Is the opposite true? Can you be rewired to have big visions? There is this whole idea that you can teach people to have visions. It’s why vision boards exist. According to one article the vision board is really more about feelings, than it is about visualizing the things you want. OK, I get it, but when I read that article and others, I get the feeling that the people who have them are inherently high energy. That energy needs a focus, that focus becomes the vision and the vision board is one tool that can be used to clarify that focus. It’s the low energy folks who don’t have a vision to begin with that I wonder if they can be taught. My conclusion is if they are limited by their ideas, then yes, they can be taught to clarify their vision. If they are limited by their energy and desire, then no amount of motivational and visionary exercises will ever help them. Honestly, I can’t decide if i’m sad for them or jealous of them. If your greatest vision in life is getting to the next three day weekend or your semi-annual trip to the fifty year old Myrtle Beach hotel with the moldy smelling rooms, then you probably won’t ever be disappointed. If you dream home is a generic three bedroom two bathroom in a bland and affordable subdivision you will achieve it and will always be happy every day when you come home.
Should you have a vision or not?
The answer to the question of if you should have a vision or not is really somewhat environmental on a personal level. If having a vision but not being able to achieve it causes you frustration and emotional pain then it’s clearly much better to not have one. If having a vision and you are able to use it to achieve the things you want in life, if only partly, is personally empowering then yes you should reinforce your vision. You need to engage your passions and drive forward with realizing your ideas.
I can’t get rid of my ever growing ideas, aspirations, projects, plans and goals i.e. my visions. This aspect of my personality is one of my greatest assets and one of my biggest liabilities. They will continue to drive me forward, and they will also continue to keep me from being able to enjoy the little things. Things like sitting in my home and just doing nothing or being happy with my five year old computer because it does what I need versus the gaming and content creation rig I desperately want to put together. For me envisioning the things I wish to achieve is truly a mixed bag.
This whole reflection on the power and drawbacks of having visions got me thinking. If my vision is to have less goals, could I help myself realize that reality by putting up a blank board in my office and looking at it every day? At the very least it’d be an interesting conversation piece.
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