On any given day, I hear beautiful words floating through my mind. The sentences flow, the ideas articulate clearly. The words run through me. Until I sit down to write them. Then, what comes through my fingers as they move across the keyboard is something different. Sometimes, it’s completely different.
I close my eyes and see images and swirls of colors. I pick up markers, pencils, or a paintbrush and try to create on paper what I see in my mind’s eye. What emerges is completely different.
Before I get up on the trampoline or take off from the flying trapeze platform, I close my eyes and visualize myself doing the trick, executing in good form, with straight legs and pointed toes. When I finish, my review of the video confirms what I felt in mid-air: I wasn’t even close to the vision.
The First Challenge of Vision
Projects. A big conversation. Vacations. A dinner party. Plans for your day. For matters both big and small, we create vision. In almost every instance where we create vision, especially in creative work, we run up against the biggest challenge of vision:
Making it like we see it in our mind.
Typically, our vision creates a gap between where we are now and where we envision we could be. The bigger the vision, the bigger the gap. And the bigger the gap, the more risk we bear of falling into the deep hole of doubt about our progress and whether it’s worth the effort to continue.
Make It Like You See It is the Work of a Lifetime
The other day a friend reminded me that “making it like we see it” is the work of a lifetime. Artists spend years perfecting their craft to draw or write what they see or hear.
Sometimes it can be the work of several lifetimes.
Martin Luther King had a vision of a world where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Over 50 years after he shared that vision, we’ve seen progress, but the vision is still not fully realized.
The difficulty of bringing vision into form doesn’t give us license to hold back from trying.
As the ancient sages wrote in Ethics of the Fathers 2:16:
It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it.
Having a vision sets the foundation. Making it like we see it is our task. This is the work.
The Second Challenge of Vision
As I considered this I had a new insight about this challenge of “making it like we see it.”
Maybe the work of a lifetime is not to make it as we see it in our minds.
Maybe the real work of a lifetime is acceptance.
Accepting life as it is presented to us. Allowing it to emerge and evolve.
The vision of how it could be, or what is possible, can be a heavy weight.
The Zen masters say that desire breeds suffering. When vision becomes another point of attachment, when we cling too tightly to what we envision, we resist what is. This resistance creates our suffering.
The work of a lifetime is acceptance of how things are in this moment, and the reality of what is.
The Third Challenge of Vision
Some people hear “acceptance” and take that to mean “giving in” or not bothering to have a vision.
To be clear, this is not what we mean by acceptance.
Acceptance is the recognition that the work is long, that it may take lifetimes, and that the world responds in ways we cannot predict.
This can present as a tension with our vision, and that’s the third challenge.
Our task — and it’s a big one — is to hold the space of tension between the vision we see for what is possible and acceptance of the reality of where we are right now.
Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live. There is no other reality than present reality, so that, even if one were to live for endless ages, to live for the future would be to miss the point everlastingly. — Alan Watts, The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety
How to Resolve these Challenges
This idea of holding the tension between reality and vision is where we turn back to the mechanics of literal vision that we discussed in Part 1.
If you’ve been following along, now you know, that wasn’t just a filler piece.
Nor is it simply a convenient metaphor, although the temptation to jump on the “2020 vision” train is strong. There is a relationship — you can call it the psychosomatic connection, energetic connection, or mind/body connection — between what happens in our bodies and how we show up in life. (More on this another time — its a series in its own right.)
If you have good vision, your eyes accommodate both what is far away and what’s close. You do this without thinking about it much, until a day when you suddenly realize that you can’t adapt your focus as well.
That’s when you seek professional help (an opthamologist or optomotrist) and tools (glasses, contact lenses) to help you adapt your focus.
In the same way, if you’re having trouble accommodating the reality of the present and your vision of the future, or if you find it difficult to get a clear vision for the future, these are signs that you may want to enlist the help of a coach who can help you bring your vision into focus and give you tools to adapt between the present and the future.
If this is you, you’ve landed in the right place. Helping my clients develop and clarify their vision is one of my favorite parts of what I do.
If you’d like to learn more about this, complete this application to schedule a Get CLEAR call.