In Pursuit of Awesome: The Difference Between a Vision and a Goal

I got an amazing response to my In Pursuit of Awesome post, here and on Geek Feminism. It’s inspired me to write a series of posts where I explore some of the tips I wrote about and related topics in more depth.

girl in water

Credit: donald tetto / http://photos.tetto.org/

I don’t have a bucket list. Nor do I have a 5-year plan. I just keep asking myself the question – “am I being challenged?”. When I look at what I do, I ask – “is this the path I take in order to change the world?”

Some people might find a lot of value in a 5-year plan, or a bucket list. I know people who are planners like that. I admire them, but I can’t do it. It’s not that I have anything against them, per se. It’s just not something I do.

Lately, I’ve been giving one of my mentees some tough love. Something I’ve been talking about is the difference between a vision and a goal.

A vision is a snapshot taken of your future. What can you tell me about future-you? Where have you lived, who have you loved, what have you done? What’s your job title, socioeconomic status, what tax bracket, how many kids?

A goal is a concrete, single thing. Like – I want to get a promotion to the role X in the next 12 months. Or, I want to buy a house/condo in the next 24 months. I want to live in country Y for at least one year, and I want to leave by 20ZZ.

My mentee has a very clear vision for what she wants her life to look like in 10 years. What’s lacking is execution of the steps needed to achieve the goals that are part of making that vision reality.

So I’m calling her on it. When she talks about her vision, I ask – if that’s what you want, why aren’t you working on the thing that will make that happen?

The reason is interesting. This vision is so important to her, she’s so attached to it, that the goals take on an additional importance. If she fails to meet them, she might destroy her vision. It becomes safer not to try.

If you’re someone who needs or has a vision, I’m not saying to ditch it, but think of it as a compass. The goals are your map. You can take a wrong turn (fail) and still make it to your intended destination.

But, get moving. The surest way never to get there… is never to leave home at all.



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