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I often wonder about the relative importance of having a clear and compelling vision versus having a killer strategy in achieving organisational or personal success.
In a debate, one could argue that vision without strategy is delusion and another could counter that strategy without vision is uninspiring. And they’d both be right. As the old proverb states “a vision without a plan is just a dream. A plan without vision is drudgery. But a vision with a plan can change the world.”
So it’s not as much about which one is more important as it is about mastering one (vision) before attempting the other (strategy). Your vision is the ‘why’ you do anything, and understanding your why is the most important thing in achieving anything in life. If your ‘why’ (vision) is strong enough, the ‘how’ (strategy) will come. But instead of balancing vision and strategy, we tend to sway more towards one than the other and end up being either the ‘realistic’ guy or the ‘delusional’ guy.
The realistic guy
This guy is strategy focused and begins with the ‘how.’ When he should be brainstorming and thinking big picture, realistic guy is already making mental calculations about the feasibility of an idea. And if he can’t immediately see a way to make it happen he discards the idea as unrealistic. He doesn’t allow himself to be honest about what he really wants. As a result, his vision is compromised from the outset.
We all know people that fit this profile. Realists are the ones that gave up on their true passion long ago because they couldn’t see a clear path from their current state to where they ultimately wanted to be. They became cynical because they allowed personal failures and the failures of others to break their spirit.
The delusional guy
This guys is a big picture thinker. Unlike the realistic guy, he knows exactly what he wants and doesn’t compromise his desires. However, the delusional guy focuses exclusively on the ‘why’ (vision). So when he should move to the second phase of planning and strategizing, he’s still dreaming of the future.
We all know people that fit this profile also. They talk passionately and excitedly about what they want to achieve, and at first you get excited too. But as time goes by you realise they are not making any real progress towards their vision. They lack the follow-through needed to be truly successful.
Balancing vision and strategy
Don’t restrict yourself to being realistic; if anything set out to be completely unrealistic. Be honest with yourself about what kind of life you want and have the courage to move in that direction or you will be filled with regret over life half-lived. I love the lesson Jim Carey took away from his father not pursuing his dreams, choosing a secure job, only to experience failure in the ‘safe’ career – “you could fail at what you don’t love, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
Also, don’t be so consumed by your vision that you don’t take action because as Martin Luther King Jr. said “take the first step in faith, you don’t need to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Your vision waits for you at the top of that staircase but you’re not going to get there just by looking at the final step.
Sometimes when we talk about our ultimate dream we’re met with polite nods, but we get the feeling that the listener thinks we’re delusional. But if we’re not aligning our actions to our vision on a daily basis WE ARE! While its important to protect your vision and not let someone who has given up on their dreams talk you out of pursuing yours, you need to have enough self awareness to know whether you are actually making real progress towards your goals. Pablo Picasso captured it best when he said “inspiration does exist but it must find you working.”
To identifying and conquering your personal Mount Everest!
With so much love,