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Vision by itself is just dreaming

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Vision by itself is just dreaming

Scott Miker

Having a vision for the future is important.  It is important in business to have a vision for a product, initiative or company and it is important for us to have a future state that we are working for.

But vision by itself is meaningless.  Many people want things in life.  They want to have more or be more or do more but they aren’t doing the things they need to do in order to reach that level. 

There are even advocates out there that will tell you that the key to get anything you want in life is vision.  They urge you to create a vision statement or clearly define the future “you”.  They tell you that a company that has a vision is successful and one that doesn’t is unsuccessful. 

But the vision part is really only a small part of it.  You can’t just have an idea of the future if you aren’t willing to work hard to get to that vision.

The great systems-thinking author, Peter Senge, says, “vision without system thinking ends up painting lovely pictures of the future with no deep understanding of the forces that must be mastered to move from here to there.”

We can’t just expect vision to figure out the systems at play and then adjust the systems to drive us towards success.  We have to master the systems, as Senge suggests. 

But how do we do that?  How can we take a vision or goal and then understand the complex systems impacting the goal enough to then be able to take actionable steps to change these complex systems?

The key is to understand the systems and habits approach to improvement.  The reality is that changing complex systems requires a specific mindset and is the opposite of the approach many people take.

Instead of brute force it is about finding leverage points.  Instead of a flurry of activity it is a slow, sustained push.  Instead of quick results it focuses on small, easy steps and a slow response. 

But being able to connect systems thinking with vision is incredibly powerful.  It unlocks an ability to put in place goals and then reach them.  Once this is unlocked life changes.  Instead of feeling as though you are restricted and can’t do what you want, it frees you up to see that improvement is possible. 

But it doesn’t do it in a way where you automatically get anything you want.  It just helps you understand what is needed to get what you want.  It says that if you want a million dollars there are things you can do to move you towards that goal.  It may be difficult and require great sacrifice, but it can be done. 

And once you see the path forward, you can then better understand if it is really worth it to keep that vision.  Is a million dollars still worth it if it takes 30 years of hard work and extremely frugal spending?  Is it worth it if you have to take great risk and ask those around you to invest in your risky idea?

But these are the questions that don’t get asked when you have vision without a systematic mindset.  You miss all of the hard work that will need to be put in.  It skips the sacrifice and focuses on how nice it will be to have whatever you want.  It ignores risk in an effort to make it seem certain. 

It emphasizes the final arrival instead of the journey.  But the journey is what is truly important.  The journey is how you improve.  The journey is the path you take, the sacrifices you make and the hard work you put forth in order to reach the destination.