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Overcoming Vision Paralysis

If you’ve read my recent posts on vision, you’ve heard me say I think Vision is a subject that has gone out of vogue among leaders. I interact with a great number of leaders who seem burned out on or paralyzed by the concept of vision. I want to change that.

True story. A pastor told me, “I think the emphasis on vision seems so pointless. Vision seems like another business gimmick. We don’t need vision, we have the mandate of the Great Commission and that ought to be enough.” I hold an entirely different view.

Without a clear picture of the results you long to experience or clarity about the difference you want to make in others, all you are left with is duty and obligation.

Without a compelling picture of what the fruit of your labor will look like, you end up with a hamster wheel’s perspective on your effort—endless repetitive action. All you have is the duty or obligation to keep going.

However, working out of duty without clear vision leads to burnout.

So let’s move beyond my efforts to convince you that vision is important and take a few steps that can break the logjam of vision paralysis.

1st: Call it Whatever You Want

I get it, the word “vision” just doesn’t work for everyone. You heard the visceral reaction of my pastor friend to the term and how it gets used.

The point of vision is how it works not what it is called. So, blow up any paralysis in you or your organization by using a different term. Since vision is the picture of the impact we dream about there are lots of terms that you might be able to use. Our Dream. Our Longing. Our Preferred Future. Our Compelling Future. Our Calling. Pick one that works for you.

2nd: Paint a Picture

Vision is NOT a statement. It is a picture. (Click here for more.)

Let me illustrate by talking about my son and his business. My son owns a pool building company—a terrific business for the Phoenix area.

However, he is actually not in the hole-digging, concrete pouring, decorative tile laying business. Sure, building pools is the work his company does. But building beautiful pools is not vision.

In my words, the vision of his company is to create places where families and friends gather and laugh and play. They create inviting spaces where lifelong memories are made, where weary people can relax, and where people are refreshed. In fact, the motto of his business echoes this sentiment: “unlocking your backyard dreams.”

Leaders help people look beyond the tasks that consume their attention to focus on the thing big thing they are creating and the difference it will make for others. That is vision, no matter what you call it.

3rd: Embrace your Vision as the Ultimate “WHY?”

I submit that vision is the ultimate WHY. It brings alignment, it inspires action, and it articulates a reason for sacrifice. Simon Sinek might have made the best case ever for the importance of Why. His famous Ted Talk on how great leaders inspire action is worth re-watching if you haven’t recently. Click Here.

4th: Embrace your Fear

Vision is not easy. If you are in the pool business, negotiating with plumbers and excavators and city inspectors demands constant attention and can fool you into thinking that’s your job. If you are a ministry leader, sermon preparation and staff development and pastoral care can seem like the point of your job. But no matter what your job function is, the work you do is always for the sake of something bigger.

The hardest part of putting the deep longings of our heart into the explicit form of vision is that by defining it we are simultaneously naming what could be our biggest disappointment.

As long as we keep things vague and private we haven’t named the true benchmark of success that matters to us. The fear of failing at that dream makes it easy to just keep our head down and react to the demands of our day. It makes it easier to live in the gray zone of ambiguity without a scorecard that might showcase failure.

Overcoming vision paralysis, demands admitting to ourselves that putting our vision out there is inherently vulnerable. What if people I care about don’t agree with me? What if no one else shares my passion? What if I give it all I’ve got and I fail?

So, you get to choose. Do I do embrace my fear and feeling of vulnerability or do I retreat back to the safety zone of the hamster wheel.

No one ever said, vision was easy stuff. But it is the stuff of leadership. There are plenty of people who are burned out by flawed vision efforts and even vision language. Painting that picture of a preferred future requires deep thought and reflection. And, facing your own fears calls for courage.

My conviction is that God created you personally and linked you deliberately with others to do something that will make people’s lives better... to do something that will make a corner of our world better. Giving shape and substance to that calling is the role of vision.

If you are stuck, maybe I can help.

Email me

For More: See Previous Vision Posts

Photo courtesy of Jose Fontano on Unsplash


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