Visioneering 101

I’ve always been interested in what makes people successful. What leads some people to achieve while others fail? I knew it couldn’t only be about raw intelligence or access to resources (though those things certainly do help). Being in the right place at the right time also seemed to be a factor, though not a consistent one. So about six years ago while co-facilitating a leadership course in Thailand, my colleague introduced a video in class called The Power of Vision. This training video from the early 90’s is narrated by futurist Joel Barker, and illustrates the importance of vision in the success of individuals, organizations and nations. It’s really a compelling presentation, as it examines the role of vision, from the rise of ancient Greece, to a group of students from an underfunded school in Harlem who, against the odds, all go on to college.

No vision is too big
No vision is too great

I saw the video many times, and each time thought, “I understand how important vision is, but how can I reconcile something so lofty and distant with the practical demands of current reality?” While it’s great to think big and new, it’s equally important to have discipline in the details of day-to-day life. So I began to work out a map that would help me take abstract ideals and be able to start to realize them through daily action.

What I came up with is Visioneering; a step-by-step process of turning dreams into action. It’s not at all complicated, nor does it require any kind of specialized knowledge. I’ve taught it to hundreds of managers over the last 5 years, and it always gets rave reviews. Here’s how it works:

  1. Start by identifying the 10 things that matter most to you (I’ll include a reference list for you below) These are your values. Take as much time as you need (a day, a week) to get clear about them.
  2. Of these 10, narrow them down to 5 – the ideals you aspire to and by which you define your quality of life. Sound heavy? Most people never write them down so it may seem a bit overwhelming at first, but by doing so you can start to clarify your core values.
  3. Now of these 5, put them in order of priority. The first one should be something you can’t live without in your future.
  4. Now define each of these values in terms of what they mean to you and/or an example of each in your life.
  5. Next we’re going to take these abstract ideals and create an image of them. This is your dream; a picture of your ideals. On the back of the worksheet, I ask participants to draw their perfect day, which incorporates all 5 values. Everything you’ve done so far has to do with the values that make you who you are in your ideal future.
  6. From who you are, we move on to what you do. The next step is on identifying behaviors that demonstrate each of these 5 values. If one was love, how would you manifest it in your life? The more specific you can be, the better. Values are conceptual, so the point here is to make them actionable in daily life.
  7. Our final section goes from what you do to what you have. This is about rewards and achievements. The way we map this is through articulating goals. Goals must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound). If your goals don’t meet these criteria the first time, keep at them, or they will remain wishful thinking.
  8. From tactical to practical: with a goal for each behavior that demonstrates each value, now you can list a couple of action steps for each goal. If vision represents a time horizon of 5-10 years, and goals are short-to mid-term milestones by which we track our progress, then action steps are the immediate: the work of today, tomorrow and the weeks to come.
  9. Last is Renewal. It’s important to re-evaluate and recommit to your ideals, while creating practical near term objectives. As we grow, our values change and so will our vision. As long as you’re pursuing a meaningful, self-owned vision and you’re happy, then it doesn’t matter how often you change it.
The Visioneering playsheet is visual and simpler than trying to explain it (above). Visioneering is a very different approach to creating change, as it helps you to stand in your ideal future and work backward to today. It’s not about what you want to be, do and have now or even next week, it applies to your long-term future. It is a strategic way of looking at and planning for a purposeful, self-owned life.

If you’d like to try it for yourself, you can download my Visioneering playsheet here. The Values Reference list is available here. Please feel free to share your results and have fun!