Why Vision Matters Now

I originally wrote the following article as part of What Matters Now, a free eBook that Seth Godin created and compiled a few years ago. However, I think it may be more relevant now than ever. What do you think? Leave me a comment at the end of this post.

Vision is the lifeblood of any organization. It is what keeps it moving forward. It provides meaning to the day-to-day challenges and setbacks that make up the rumble and tumble of real life.

Window Cleaner Using a Squeegee to Wash a Window - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/BrianAJackson, Image #19515449

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/BrianAJackson

In a down economy—particularly one that has lasted so long—things get very tactical. Most are just trying to survive. What worked yesterday does not necessarily work today. What works today may not necessarily work tomorrow. Decisions become pragmatic.

But after a while this wears on people. They don’t know why their efforts matter. They cannot connect their actions to a larger story. Their work becomes a matter of just going through the motions, living from weekend to weekend, paycheck to paycheck.

This is where great leadership makes all the difference. Leadership is more than influence. It is about reminding people of what it is we are trying to build—and why it matters. It is about painting a picture of a better future. It comes down to pointing the way and saying, “C’mon. We can do this!”

When times are tough, vision is the first casualty. Before conditions can improve, it is the first thing we must recover.

Question: How important do you think vision is as we move through the rest of this year? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Want to launch your own blog or upgrade to self-hosted WordPress? Watch my free, twenty-minute screencast. I show you exactly how to do it. You don’t need any technical knowledge. Click here to get started.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • Esthergal

    This blog post is so “right on.”  I work for a faith-based non-profit and during these trying economic times when decisions become pragmatic, you do start to wonder if what you are doing matters.  It takes strong determination to “stay the course” if you believe that’s what God has purposed you to do. 

  • http://www.matthewreedcoaching.com/ Matthew Reed

    vision is the compass, vision creates the field on which that we play (with our values as the boundaries), vision is our sherpa. We get ruined when we forget vision. Sadly, so few of us have a clearly defined vision. Clarity on this issues makes complicated decisions simple, and brings confidence when we make those decisions. 
    A life without vision = 70+ years of spinning your wheels.
    (can you tell that I am passionate about this?)

    • http://TillerFamily.org/ John Tiller

      What a great thing to be passionate about as a life coach and a dad!

    • Jim Martin

      Matthew, yes you are passionate about this!  Very good thoughts.  I especially like what you said regarding the need to have clarity on this issue in order to help decision making.  So right.

  • Patricia Gonzalez

    This is so very critical for life and ministry. I am immediately reminded of Proverbs 29:18
    “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

  • Patricia Gonzalez

    This is so critical to life and ministry. I immediately brings to mind Proverbs 29:18
    “Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

    • http://jeremystatton.com/ Jeremy Statton

      That is so true.

  • Andrea

    Gosh with where my life is now (recently divorced, having to change jobs, probably need to move etc…) Vision is all I have! I keep reminding myself that this is just a temporary setback and all that I need to do is refocus on what I really want to do with my life (run a yarn store and teach fiber arts) and things will come together!

    Awesome that this blog post hit my inbox the day after my divorce celebration party!!!

    Cheers, Andrea 

  • http://www.themakegoodchoicesproject.org/ Michael Hawkins

    I think vision is REALLY important!  It’s like the road map of life. 

    We need a map, or plan.  Without one we don’t even stay in the same place, we slip backwards.

    Gotta have vision!

  • Shamrocks4kids

    The fog is rather thick these days. Finding a way through it all takes vision, purpose, focus and the ability to find the light at end of temporary tunnels. I know far to many people personally and professionally who have been hit hard in this bad economy, over and over again. Creating a range of targeted goals around our vision, with a bullseye goal, lends itself to design of strategic efforts aimed to get us to our goals. I find many practical and purposeful opportunities to employ your advice. This is particularly important to me at this time, as i face a new career search. My employer just went out of business and owers me $10k in back salary. So I thank you for sharing and helping me keep a positive focus.

  • rabbimoffic

    Couldn’t agree more. As Proverbs says, When there is no vision, the people perish. What I find critical today is for a leader to provide the urgency to create a shared vision with the community. The leader does not just state the vision and expect others to follow. Rather, he/she provides the inspiration and urgency to create it together. 

  • Perry

    Mr. H.
    I agree vision matters and it is a primary role of leaders to keep an organization’s vision of their vision (alignment) clear and on target. That’s why i think its more effective to start with a picture than words as we cast our vision. Pictures give us fertile fields to harvest words from, but not necessarily vice versa.

    • Jim Martin

      Perry, I appreciate the point you are trying to stress.  I do think words can be used to verbally paint a picture that will spark the imagination.  Good storytellers take the opportunity to paint such a picture.

  • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

    The word “vision” always makes me think of 2 Cor. 4:18, a personal favorite: “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

  • http://twitter.com/liveabundantly8 Living in Christ

    Such truth! This reminds me of one of my favorite scriptures: Proverbs 29:18…”Where there is no vision, the people perish…”

    Thanks,
    Amy von Borstel

  • ReasonDisciple

    Vision is very important! I do that more than anything else. It’s the foundation of all things we do. As a follower of Jesus we are to be conformed to Him. That’s what Paul called Him the foundation. Plus He was the Truth. He was the vision everything we say and do must “become the gospel.” But in any other environment the vision is the the purpose behind passionate action. When that does out, the people will most definitely perish!  They have to keep speaking it and living it out. They have to write it that someone may read it and run with it.

  • http://www.get-onpoint.com/ Alicia Terry

    Thank you Michael for the post. I’ve consistently find it’s vision that helps me course correct when I’ve drifted. It is knowledge of who I serve, why I desire to serve them, and the mark I want to make with my life that centers and re-energizes me. Knowing what the ultimate prize is and keeping one’s eyes on it during trying times is what I believe leads to purpose and legacy fulfilled.

  • Jess Mitchell

    I totally agree!  Vision gives clarity!  It’s how I know what to do, why I’m doing it, and why its’ worth it to go over the hurdles and challenges of life.  Vision is the lifeblood of our days, weeks and months.  I find that when my vision gets small, or skewed, I find myself frustrated and purposeless, and start questioning what I’m doing.  And I always find that the answer is to re-focus. 

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    “Without a vision, the people parish” you got to have a vision for not only your year but your life! My vision is also goals that I working towards.

  • http://www.cherishwellbeing.co.nz/ Philippa

    The ‘why’ is crucial – the cornerstone  to build anything.  Why gives us the 
    ‘raison d’etre’ – it’s what energises us to engage in anything.  
    Motivation is inspired by ‘why’ because it adds meaning – people are the lifeblood of businesses, so it’s important they understand the heart of the business to add value to its success.
    My tip to help clarify choices is to reflect on why it’s important.  Whatever you do in life make sure you’re doing it because you want to, not because you have to.
     

    • Jim Martin

      Phillippa, I really like this sentence:  “Why gives us the ‘raison d’etre’ – it’s what energises us to engage in anything.”  Very true!  When the “why” is clear, it gives us energy to engage.  Also, when it is not clear, the lack of energy is so evident. 

  • Shamash

    Considering the increased relevance of your comment in 2012,
    have to wonder if this a comment on the people of America, and their current, impoverished spiritual condition as a group –
    or a comment on individual leadership? 

    As Zapata — himself an effective and inspiring leader — said,

    <>

  • http://twitter.com/lancecashion lance cashion

    I believe vision is key.  In 2009, I had no choice but to become a better leader and cast a vision for my team and my family.  It was the most humbling, challenging and rewarding experience I have ever had.  By the grace of God and my experience at Entreleadership (a tip of the hat, if I may), I prayed-up, prepared and dove headfirst into the trenches.  The rest is history.  Every year is has its own unique challenges.  But, a clear vision and noble purpose defines a leader.  ‘Why’ is the reason we love to follow great leaders through the good, the bad and the ugly. 

    • Jim Martin

      Lance, I like the way you express this – “…a clear vision and noble purpose defines a leader.”  Very, very true.

  • Kari Scare

    Vision is crucial. I have and still am focusing on vision at an individual level. In fact my post last Friday (www.struggletovictory.com) and then again tomorrow get at this idea of vision for individuals. Not sure where I am going with this, but this comment discussion will certainly help me sort that out. Just feel like people focus on a larger corporate sort of vision and forget about focusing their own individual vision… Does that makes any sense to anyone?

  • Daniel

    The mark of a good leader is casting the vision daily. In every conversation that is held elements of the vision need to be stated. In talking with staff, supporters or prospective supporters or investors they each need to know how they connect to and are part of the vision becoming a reality. I’m watching an organisation right now that has a leader who doesn’t communicate with staff or supporters and hasn’t really articulated the vision in 2 years. When I asked the chairman of the Board about helping the leader cast the vision, his response – we don’t know where we’re going yet! Easy to see why the balance sheet for the last 2 years has been majorily (is that a word!) in the red. Cast the vision. Help people see where they fit. Give encouragement and share the small achievements and the curve becomes positive. Our God is a visionary God. Reading the Bible shows from beginning to end the vision is clear. Shows how we connect. Offers encouragement along the way. And tells us where we are headed. The journey in getting there is fantastic! 

  • Jackie gillam

    Vision is everything.  It is what drives us and sets us apart.  It defines us and redefines us when times are tough or sluggish or boring.  We need to constantly remind ourselves what our goals are, how we see our business (in my case), how we see ourselves, or like to see ourselves.  Many people (though it just takes a few) would suggest you go with the flow , do was is in or do it their way.  This is the time you need to revisit your goals and ideals and stick with them.  If this person was so inclined they could open their own business and do it their way or what ever their unasked for comments relate to.  This is not to say there is at times a good suggestion that can be weighed and possibly adopted.
    Honestly, it is more important   to specialize than try and appeal to everyone.  The route to success is be true to your vision and like minded people will find you and support you.  If you are trying to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one.  Often people do not know what they like or think or need but in you they see something they can identify with.  They will underline your plans and goals. 

  • http://www.SevenPillarsOfSuccess.Net Louise Thaxton

    For several years I have had a business coach, Tim Enoch @ Building Champions, and one of their “core four” essentials is VISION. It was quite an assignment when I began writing my vision- my coach rejected my first effort ! He said “you can do better than that!” and he was right. I rewrote and made it so specific I wrote out specific conversations I would be having 5 years in the future! I read the vision to my team and they probably thought I was crazy – big, huge goals! One of those goals was to be asked to speak at an annual event for a very famous industry leader. Seemed impossible. When I received that invitation one year later, one of my team said “….that is in your vision !” I keep the vision in front of them – and it is powerful to witness the vision becoming reality.

    • Jim Martin

      Thank you Louise for sharing how your business coach helped you with the vision process.  Very helpful.

  • Ken Shaddox

    A great post. Thanks for reminding us all about the essential place of vision in every area of life.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kay.harms Kay Winton Harms

    I think you’re dead on. I see this principle play out even in my own ministry, where it’s just me, myself, and I sitting at the conference table. But if I don’t constantly keep the big picture, the long-term goals, and the dreamy dreams in mind, then I lose sight of what I’m doing. That’s when I find myself spending too much time on the urgent and very little time on the important. Of course when I’m leading a group, it’s even more to cast a vision and constantly confirm it.

    Another place I consistently see this principle played out is at my local WalMart, Target, grocery store, etc. I can always tell when management has weekly or daily meetings in which they cast and recast vision as opposed to when those dailies or weeklies are turned into nothing but reviews and q&a’s. It goes something like this. I’m in the store looking for marshmallows…something I always have a difficult time locating for the first time in any store. I’m having to step around boxes and peek around piles because the clerk is restocking the shelves where I’m hunting for merchandise. The clerk doesn’t look up or ask if he can help me. Instead I have to ask him. He huffs and puffs, begrudgingly puts down the  pudding cups he’s unpacking and looks around for the marshmallows, all the time making me feel like I’ve just interrupted brain surgery to ask him to remove a thorn from my finger. This is the employee who has lost sight of the vision. This is the store where the manager has forgotten to cast the vision. This is the employee who has lost sight of why he has a job…because I, the customer, am shopping for marshmallows!

    • Jim Martin

      Kay,

      I appreciate your example in the second paragraph.  In fact, as I read through your scenario, I began to wonder if we had not shopped in the same store!  It is all too familiar.

      You are right.  It is important to constantly keep our eyes on the vision or we lose sight of what we are doing.

  • Talia

    “Without vision the people perish” is how important God views vision and also the book of Amos says how can two go together if they do not agree?

  • http://www.thegeezergadgetguy.com/ Thad Puckett

    An excellent reminder that without vision the people perish.  

    I agree with your premise that at this time we are at an inflection point.  There are gloomers, birthers, preppers and truthers everywhere.

    But what we need most is visionaries.  People who can look ahead and paint a picture of a preferred future.  

    The economy is still not good; there are challenges at every turn.  But Americans won’t suddenly wake up one day devoid of an entrepreneurial  spirit, or a compassionate heart.  We will make good choices, and out of difficulty will come great opportunity.

    For some.

    Those are the ones with vision.

  • http://www.wrjoycejuiceplus.com/ Joyce Weaver

    In my morning quiet time, I often have the words jump out at me about leading others to greater fulfillment of their work that He made before the beginning for them to do. It’s where we are working in our Women’s Ministry, so He’s leading the gals right there with you!

  • Wmtwa

    Vision is a critical component to life whether in good times or challenging ones. It is important to be able to “see” options and establish the kind of hope that yields energy and focus. However, vision alone is not enough. Life also requires work..real, hard, diligent, and focused effort into the people and things that are a part of our circle of contacts. One without the other is depressing, frustrating, discouraging, and futile. Together anything can be accomplished.

  • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

    I think vision is the drives force to accomplishing our goals and dreams. If we want to see better results and be more productive then we need to be focusing on our personal vision. Great thoughts.  

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

       Dan,
      You are so right. I feel like vision is the fuel. When the vision is clear and explained with passion it’s like using rocket fuel.

      • http://danblackonleadership.com/ Dan Black

         Great point about passion. It’s an important aspect.

  • http://www.inhisseason.com/ Teresita Glasgow

    Your final words on this post are so true “When times are tough, vision is the first casualty. Before conditions can improve, it is the first thing we must recover.” I’m reading through the book~ Platform now and I know it will help with my vision! Thanks.

    • Jim Martin

      That sentence caught my attention as well, Teresita.  In fact, I made a note of this.  How true!

  • Steve Lerum

    Hi Michael. I used this    T.E. Lawrence quote on my business card in 1982…Says it all!  Thanks for all you do!

    Steve Lerum
    Pilot, B-777 International
    United Airlines

  • Correen

    I believe vision comes from God….and that’s all I got to keep going.  At this time in my life I am unemployed and struggling really bad.  I relocated and had to start all over again leaving with my parents & child.  God continues to give me visions and reminds me of his promises & provisions.  Si I think vision is very important.  We need something to keep us pushing and making it.  I always called my self a visionary due to my creative side so I will not change now!!! VISION keeps us encouraged to move forward!!

  • Rosehiptea

    Vision is wonderful, and those who have talent at communicating that vision, or implementing, delegating, creating action around a vision, are needed. 

  • FrancesVictoria

    Vision: Vision is crucial, not only to get where you’re going, but when leading to gain the momentum of those whose help you need to get there.
    It’s never to late to recalibrate your vision…if your vision has taken a hit and focus has been lost; then start by recasting a new and fresh vision to start digging yourself (company) out of the ditch, one step at a time. A vision well communicated builds passion that can sustain!

  • Pingback: this went thru my mind |

  • http://www.liveitforward.com/ Kent Julian

    What you see is what you get! 

    (And, what you don’t see is what you miss.)

    Timely words, Michael!

  • gary duke

    Many of us need to simplify rather than complicate our methods.  But isn’t it necessary to have a vision for each of our “roles” as Stephen Covey named them?

    My roles are Spiritual, Family, Work, Others, & Self.  I have a vision statement for each role (followed by a mission statement for each, and goals for each role).  Previously I have had problems balancing the roles in my life.  Frequently reviewing the VMG (vision-mission-goals) for each role has helped me maintain that balance, or at least at a better level than I was able to before. 

    I agree that vision is crucial to our plans.

  • Martha

    I think it’s huge!  As a personal life coach, I keep a closet door in my office covered with things I need to remember and that I want to be able to share with my clients.  One of my favorite is, “A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”   The author is unknown, but I know s/he is a leader with vision, and who has the insight to draw the purposes, the songs, out of the deep waters of a person’s heart. (Pro 20:5)

    • Ira Webbe

      that quote…wow! I think I’ve found my favorite quote ever. It’ll be hard to take this one down. thanks for sharing

  • Ira Webbe

    When it came to the topic of vision, my mentor pointed and explained to me Ecclesiastes 2:14, that states, “The wise man’s eyes are in his head; but the fool walketh in darkness….” Without vision the only thing that you have to lead you is your physical senses for what you see, feel and hear….physically. Once you are there you are prey to all the ideas that are around you and if one is sounding great at some time you can sell yourself to another idea – off YOUR purpose. And be there for a long time or until the same thing happens again.

    ‘Wisdom and understanding is to knowledge and skill what Vision is to mission and action plans’, he told me. When going through a tough season wisdom will tell you what you need to learn or what tool to use to continue building because there is more to Vision than physical progress! Growing in your soul is most important. After all if we are in business, it is to serve a need…what better way to continue building the Vision in tough times than by learning patience.

    Easier said than done.

  • http://twitter.com/fuelthemuse Debra Hilton

    Vision is critical.  The Bible says: “Without vision the people perish.”  In some modern translations ‘vision’ is updated to ‘leadership’.  Either way, it’s an intentional moving forward towards a specific goal or vision.  Without it, we tend to spin our wheels.  With it … the sky’s the limit.

  • Eileen Wallace

    Absolutely, absolutely- well said

  • Debra Rapert

    Vision is critical.  Vision is for the employees – not the Leaders.

  • Cfarrell

    Vision energizes me each day. When it is weak, I am weak…and apathetic. Must keep it and share it, ot listen to others that have similar vision.