Consider this statement: Instead of setting a goal, create a vision.
If you are determined to power through and to realize your dreams, the most important element (and this must be absolutely right) is the dream or vision you start out with. Trying to work with a vision that is vague and unformed is like traveling without a map. You have a pretty poor chance of actually arriving. Sadly, most of us have no idea when we are starting out, just how to formulate our intentions (see the average success rate of New Year resolutions,) so very often we are blocked from success right from the start.
Notice that I am not using the word ‘goal’ and that is for a specific reason. If you are setting out to identify and set goals, you are starting out on the wrong track already. ‘Goals’ are not the same as ‘visions’, they signal a different intent and it is that difference we are going to examine here.
Distinguishing Between a Vision and a Goal
So – what are the differences between a vision and a goal?
In essence, a goal is usually a target that is quantifiable. You can easily write it down, it is simple in intent and often it is measurable. For example, ‘I want to lose 2 kilos over the next 3 weeks’. ‘I am going to walk 6 miles every week.’ Goals are often the stepping-stones to your vision.
You either reach your target or you don’t. If you don’t you often are seen as having ‘FAILED’.
However, if we re-examine our target (weight-loss/fitness) and look at it as a ‘vision’ rather than as a ‘goal’ the scene is quite different. We would now be looking at an idea of being ‘in shape’. You may see yourself looking toned and feeling energized. You may imagine yourself running along a beach in the sunshine, presenting a picture of health and well-being.
If you are walking, you see yourself striding out, up hills and down dales with no effort. You envisage the pleasure of a drink in a pub before going home.
Or you may prefer a vision that includes a picture of yourself in a few years’ time, standing in the penthouse of an office tower, gazing out over a city. You are fit, dressed well and very sophisticated. You work out in an expensive gym. You hold a position of tremendous influence with power over many lives.
You see? You can visualize anything you want. It is your call and they are your dreams.
Visions are abstract concepts and in contrast to goals, they allow you to imagine – in a more complex mode – what it is that you want and crucially, what emotions lie behind your desire.
So why do we tend to have better success with ‘vision’ setting rather than with ‘goal’ setting?
Firstly, goals, by their nature, are set in concrete. They have no room for flexibility, and they only have one of two possible outcomes, i.e. 1. you reach your goal, or 2. you don’t. You have one path to travel and that is that. There is no place for expansion or alteration, no room for development.
On the other hand, a vision has plenty of room for flexibility. If things don’t go as you have planned, you are able to change the whole dynamic. You can reconsider the steps you were going to take, or you can bend the ones you already have. This allows you to take into account your current situation. You can alter your plans to fit time-tables, lifestyle and available free time. Anything is possible.
Secondly, visions have a better chance of being fulfilled because they contain emotional content. Both visualization of a scene and real-life experience of that same scene, stimulate a similar chemical reaction in your brain. This means that when you imagine your vision you will experience the same physical and mental gratification you would expect to feel when your vision becomes a reality.
The capacity to trigger these reactions at will, as long as the vision is strong enough, can be an important source of the motivation we need to push through to success.
So – now that you understand the difference between visions and goals, why not get out there and start creating YOUR vision right away?