Friday, January 11, 2008

Vision vs. goals

Don’t you find it funny when armchair philosophers espouse some idea beginning with, “ There are two kinds of people in the world…”
Well, here goes… There are two kinds of people in the world – goals people and vision people. Some very successful people simply do not get into the whole goal-setting thing and for this type of person, the SMART methodology seems unnecessary or alien. There are a couple of problems with this goals-vision dichotomy. First, it can be tough to figure out which group you are in. Sometimes we think we are one way when that is just how we would like to be – how we think the “right” people think. Also, no one person fits wholly into either group. Each of us is a unique blend of goal-oriented and vision-seeking.
With that disclaimer in mind, you might find it useful to try both methods to see which one you get the most mileage out of. For years now, it has been considered good business practice to devote some time and energy to creating both vision (real vision – not just a vision statement) and goals.
Paraphrasing one of the vision gurus from the business re-engineering literature, Peter Senge, a vision is some idea of the future that you absolutely, literally cannot live without. Senge’s idea is that if you can create a vivid enough picture of a future that you can’t live without, then hold that vision up beside current reality, the tension or dissonance between the two will naturally and subconsciously drive you to do whatever it takes to bring current reality closer to the vision. The difficulty here is in holding the vision constant without allowing cognitive dissonance to erode the ideal.
Visions share some of the characteristics of a SMART goal, but are different in other ways.
  • Vision should be specific, or vivid. The more vivid you can make your vision the more you will be drawn toward it. What does the ideal future look/sound/smell/taste/feel like?
  • Vision is often more subjective, while goals should be objectively measurable. Visions do not have to be measurable as long as you can subjectively or qualitatively tell the difference between current reality and your vision of the ideal.
  • Vision can be farther from current reality than SMART goals and the nature of vision makes more distant realities attainable. Even if you cannot pre-plan a way to progress in a stepwise, orderly fashion toward a distant goal, so long as you can envision it, you can move yourself toward it.
  • Vision is usually open-ended instead of time-bound. In fact, you want to set your vision so far beyond your most distant reasonable SMART goals that you will never actually get there.
And that’s really the secret to vision – the closer you come to it, the less the cognitive tension driving you to improve. You want to lasso yourself to such a distant ideal that you will always have tension pulling you toward the ideal.
Don't forget the Call for Submissions for Carnival #5. The theme for this month is related to non-violent resolution of conflict.

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