“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes time. Vision with action can change the world. A true leader must first see an idea as opportunity; then choose to act upon it.”
Joel Barker (American Businessman, Consultant, Author)
My final exam topic that I’m giving my composition students this semester is CHANGE. I’ve included several quotations about change from which they must choose one and make their thesis statement responsive to the quotation. I didn’t include the above quotation, but it would have been a good one to include. Basically what Mr. Barker is saying to us is if we want to instigate change in our lives, we have to have vision, which means we have to see what the final product of that change is going to look like. If we don’t have that vision, if we don’t know what it looks like in the end product, we’ll never know if we’ve achieved it or not. But even if we have that vision of exactly what the change will look like, and we never take any action to reach the goal, then we really haven’t set a goal, we’re just dreaming. Because a goal has to have steps to act out in order to reach it. I can say, “I will lose 10 pounds by New Year’s Day.” That’s a reasonable goal. But I can sit around saying it or affirming it all day long, 24/7, but if all I do is think about it, without knowing what steps I’ll actually need to take to achieve, I won’t achieve it. You have to plan the work AND work the plan to get anywhere.
Likewise, if we don’t have any vision, so we have no idea what the outcome looks like, yet we’re busy, busy, busy doing random things, we still won’t achieve our goal, or even if we make some progress, we won’t know if we’ve achieved anything without that vision. That’s why when I teach goal-setting, I teach students to make the goal measureable. How do you know you’ve reached the goal if your goal is something as vague as saying, “I’m going to eat healthier”? You don’t. But if you say something very concrete and measureable such as, “I’m going to keep my daily caloric intake below 2,000 calories,” then you know what that looks like. Your vision is a page in your food diary that totals your daily calorie consumption with a total at the end of the day that is less than 2, 000. Did you make your goal? “Yes, I did. I ate 1875 calories today.” Or you could say, “No. I didn’t make it today. I ended up with 2800 calories today. I’ll try again to make the goal tomorrow.”
So, to truly effect change in our lives, we have to have that vision, knowing what the outcome looks like, and we also must take action in specific steps to reach that outcome. And if we do that, as Mr. Barker says, “Vision with action can change the world.” Or it can change us, and then collectively, we can change the world. Sometimes the best I can hope for is to make changes in myself and let the world take care of itself. Or as Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” But you can’t be any kind of change at all without vision AND action.
Thursday, the three giants of the automotive industry met for a second time with our Congress and presented a proposal upon which they hope to get a lot of government money. Billions of dollars. They came before Congress already, and Congress sent them home to develop a plan for success. After all, if the government is going to give them that much money, we deserve to know what their vision is and we also deserve to know what their plan is for achieving their goals. They weren’t ready to tell Congress those specifics before. I don’t know the outcome of the Thursday meeting yet because I haven’t had time to read about it yet. But I would hope that Congress would deny them the money they seek if they don’t have some very specific goals with some very achievable deadlines. And personally, I don’t think that economizing by laying off thousands of automotive workers is a good goal. That doesn’t help the economy. That hurts it. But that’s just my opinion.
Taking this discussion back to losing weight or being healthier or eating healthier, whatever the goal happens to be, we need to realize that just saying that our goal is to eat healthier is no more appropriate as a goal than the automotive giants saying their goal is to not have to declare bankruptcy or go out of business altogether. My question to them is how are you going to avoid it? What is your plan? Six months from now, where will your company be? Where will your workers be? What will you have truly accomplished toward building and selling an automobile that consumers will buy? And to those who want to be healthier or weigh less or exercise more, we need to know what healthier looks like, what weighing less looks like, what exercising more looks like. We need to know where we will be a week from now, a month from now, and a year from now. We have to set measureable goals. That is, we do if we want to succeed in changing anything. Just like the automotive industry, we need to get real and put our vision and our actions together to accomplish something. Otherwise, we’re just spinning our wheels!