Instead of goals, set a vision!

Written By Anna Sullins


Cultivating Change

If there is a lesson to be learned from young George Vanderbilt, it’s that a vision worth having is a vision worth working for.

It’s the start of a new year and, as custom dictates, time to set a new vision for the days, weeks, and months ahead. You’ll notice I did not say “set goals” because, for some folks, goal-setting can be a scary proposition at best. We know instinctively that we will most likely let ourselves down by not reaching the goals we set…so we don’t even feign the attempt. Simply put, we don’t set goals because we want to avoid the guilt that results from failure.

But what if we approached it from another angle? What if, instead of goals, we set a new vision? By definition, vision is what you see. Wherever you set your vision is where you typically go. We look in the direction we walk, for example. We walk forward because we look forward. When driving a car in reverse, we look behind us because that is the direction we need to go.

Setting a vision for the upcoming year is no different. If you set a vision of where you want to be in a year, and continue to keep that vision in your line of sight, then it stands to reason your chances of getting there are in your favor.  In business, goal setting is a necessary measuring stick for performance.  Goals can also serve as an energizer. Studies have shown that higher goals – or in our case, a lofty vision – motivate greater effort while lower goals induce lesser effort. And by “studies,” I mean me. I have greater drive and motivation when I set my vision higher. Is that your experience, as well?

When George Vanderbilt first stood looking at the rolling hills of North Carolina over 100 years ago, he was a young man with a vision. But his vision was much more than the spectacular view before him. His vision was to build a home for himself, his family, and his friends, that would be a true oasis from the stresses of life. And for the next several years, he worked toward that goal, not losing sight of what he wanted to accomplish. While the journey was not without its setbacks, proof of his tenacity and perseverance still stands today and is enjoyed by a million visitors each year. 

If there is a lesson to be taken from George Vanderbilt, it’s that a vision worth having is a vision worth working for. Life without goals may be safe, yet unrewarding. Setting a vision puts us on a path of twists, turns, and bumps, but always forward movement. So set a vision for the year ahead, keep that vision in your line of sight, and don’t be surprised when you actually reach it.


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