In both my ministry and my business writings I often emphasize the importance of vision. Without a vision of a preferred future for your business or your life you are merely drifting along hoping that somehow something good will happen. In workshops I use the illustration of my experiences when I owned a bass boat. As long as my big engine or trolling motor was running I never had a problem. The only problems I had in the boat is when I would be drifting along with the current because it seemed that I would always drift into a problem. More than once my boat got stuck in the fork of a submerged tree when I was drifting while fishing a river bank. With the engines running I was going somewhere on purpose. I had a direction in mind, and I was moving in that direction. The same is true in life and business. As long as you are moving forward with purpose and with a destination in mind you will encounter fewer problems than you will when you are content to drift.
Notice how I defined vision in the above paragraph. It is a preferred future for your business or life. It is a place that you can see in your mind’s eye that will be a better place than where you are right now. The question is do you have such a vision for your life or your business, and the follow-up question is what are you doing intentionally to help you get there?
You begin with a vision of a preferred future, but then you have to connect that to a plan that includes short-terms moves that will take you in that direction. Without such moves you will never achieve that vision. You have to know where you are currently and where you want to be in the future, and then you can begin to develop the actions that will help you achieve that. This is all that strategic planning is. It is a way to help you get from where you are to where you want to be.
The problem with such strategic planning is that it often gets cloudy the further out you go. You may know where you are now. You may know where you would like to be. You may even have some immediate short-term steps in mind to take. The problem is we are not sure what happens next, and this unknown factor is often what keeps people from even beginning the journey.
Chip and Dan Heath addressed this so well in their book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard. Their challenge is “When you’re at the beginning, don’t obsess about the middle, because the middle is going to look different once you get there. Just look for a strong beginning and a strong ending and get moving.” I cannot tell you how important this statement is. It is impossible to plan out all the steps on the way to a vision because you can’t possibly know all those steps. You’ve never travelled that way before. The key is to start moving. Identify the vision and the initial steps you need to take and begin the journey. Along the way you will identify next steps and take those until one day you’ll realize that you achieved the vision you had at the beginning.
One way to help take this journey is with the help of a coach who can guide you along the way. A coach can offer encouragement and challenge you with questions that will help you identify the steps along the way you need to take. I’ve been fortunate to have been able to coach a number of people who were on various journeys in their lives, and if you are interested in having me coach you I invite you to respond to this post with your contact information so we can discuss it. In the meantime I would certainly recommend the Heaths’ book to any small business owner and entrepreneur. It is filled with practical, helpful information you’ll use on your own journey towards your vision for a better life and a more effective business.