The Vision Fallacy: Are You Chasing the Wrong Thing?

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Everything great starts with a clear vision…


That’s what we’re told from a young age. Define your endpoint. Make a concrete goal. Know where you’re going before you begin. See it, taste it, smell it, feel it, hear it. This is your vision. Without it, you end up going nowhere. You are doomed to the land of spinning wheels and stuck-ness. Don’t get distracted. Don’t give in. Do not, under any circumstances, waiver from your vision. Just keep your head down. Your job is to outwork, out-grit, out-think and outrun everyone else. Until that vision becomes your reality.

Indeed, this is often what’s necessary to achieve something big. But, there’s a problem. More times than not, that vision is built upon false assumptions. We believe that achieving our vision will make us happier, more fulfilled, confident and content. It will give us a greater sense of power, prestige, respect, authority and connection. And, it may. But, all too often, I does not.

Having sacrificed mightily and endured days, months or even years of fierce labor, and pushing away anything and everything but the vision, we get exactly what we want—we achieve our grand vision—only to find ourselves saying, “huh, I don’t feel like I thought I would.” Then, with alarming frequency, we spiral into the abyss of dismay once we realize how much of our lives we gave up in the name of achieving something that was, in the end, an illusion.

So many times, we end up locking in an endpoint, working fiercely to get there, sacrificing relationships, health, time and a healthy serving of soul in the name of making our visions our reality, only to realize, we don’t actually want what we worked so hard to get once we get it. It doesn’t make us feel the way we thought and hoped it would. It doesn’t solve the problem we wanted solved, or deliver the delight we yearned to experience. Or, even if it does, for some reason, it still leaves us feeling empty, maybe even a little burned-out and numb, instead of full and alive.

I call this “Vision Collapse Syndrome.” I’ve been hit by it (sadly, more times than I care to admit). And, nearly every person I’ve known who strives to make manifest a life of accomplishment, impact and meaning has endured this same phenomenon.

So, how do we avoid Vision Collapse Syndrome?


How do we substantially increase the likelihood that the thing we’re working so hard to attain is actually the thing we’ll truly want, if and when we get it?

Instead of starting with a well-defined vision, end with it. Begin, instead, with values and vectors. Values are, very simply, an expression of what is most important to you. An example might be “family, financial security, love, honesty, service to others.” This is a great starting point, but values become far more actionable when you add a verb or action phrase that allows each value to actually guide your behavior. So, you might expand this list to:

To be present and engaged in the lives of my partner and children, to earn enough to provide for the day-to-day needs of my family, to save for retirement and pay for the advanced education of my children, to act in a loving way when confronted with difficult situations, to be honest with myself and others with regard to big, critical decisions in life, and to serve families in need.”

This statement makes your values actionable, because it is both more granular and it provides context. It also gives you a much better starting place for the creation of any vision. It allows you to better define a vision that reflects what it truly important to you, making it more likely that attaining the vision will actually give you what you want.

Still, there’s one more step, actually a series of steps, we might want to fold into the visioning process. Instead of defining where we want to go up front, what if we let our vision “emerge” out of the data we get from a series of shorter, more discrete experiments that let us test the validity and importance of our vision along the way?

What if we gave ourselves room to learn more, pivot and adapt and remain open to better or different visions along the way? What if we let action and information guide the creation of a vision, rather than often-wrong leaps of faith and assumptions? What if we allowed a trajectory, a validated vector begin to form that told us, “yes, this is it,” BEFORE defining the specifics and committing vast amounts of time and energy to the quest?

The power of an “emergent” vision…


When we create an “emergent vision,” when we allow the endpoint to emerge from a deeper exploration of values and validated vectors, we’re not only far more likely to attain that vision, we are also way more likely to feel the way we thought we’d feel when that vision becomes our reality.

This, by the way, is equally applicable for founders and entrepreneurs, where it’s not just about investing personal time and effort, but also allocating substantial amounts of money, resources and social currency. Before solidifying a granular vision for a venture, product, service or initiative, it is critical to map out your organization’s actionable values, hold lightly onto the general qualities of a vision, and allow the details to emerge out of experiments, information and vectors.

In life, in business, in relationships, the same rule holds true…

Don’t rush the vision.

Spend time on self-discovery and experimentation.

Values and vectors, first.

Then, allow the detailed vision to emerge in a more organic and aligned way.

Something to think about as we all get a bit reflective this time of year, and begin thinking about what we want to create in the year to come.


Founders & entrepreneurs: you don’t have to do it alone! Growing a business, creating an “emergent vision” for everything from a product or service to an entire venture, then building it into something real, can be a brutally lonely process. Nobody does it alone. We all need people to guide us, to offer wisdom and advice, to hold us up, to journey along with us. That’s why I’ve created a powerful new Conscious Business Collective called The 108.

When you become one of the 108 founders invited into this new alliance, you no longer travel alone. You are a part of a fiercely committed group of visionaries, all working together to create game-changing ventures, while helping each other rise. We begin together on January 1, 2017. Will you be joining us? Learn more here, then get your application in now!

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5 responses

5 responses to “The Vision Fallacy: Are You Chasing the Wrong Thing?”

  1. Lisa Call says:

    Great philosophy – and it works well!

    Ive always taught this perspective as bringing the essence of agile software development to life.

    Thumbs up for scrum!

    Never write all requirements upfront.

  2. Interesting! a bit like working smarter to me… having the framework and a working vision first and then firming up as things fall into place. good!

  3. Mandie says:

    Very good advice. Organic visioning.

  4. Totally agree… I spent my early career laser focused on a goal. When I got there I felt totally different than I anticipated… I knew there was more and I needed to challenge myself beyond. So, I’m challenging myself… Some days it’s hard not to fall into the same goal and drive sequence… it’s a formula that will lead to some success and comfort, but not maximum impact because we miss so much along the way and our drive is fueled by fear instead of need and impact.

  5. Refreshing and succinct knowledge so, thank you for sharing your expertise! It is definitely a lonely road at times, everyone needs the ‘right people’ to journey with! (I’m gonna try Your sign posts)! Kind regards