Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. —Japanese proverb
Whew. Nothing like tough love from Asia for a random Tuesday morning. Let’s break down these words of wisdom.
What’s the atmosphere of a daydream? Soft and cozy, with imaginings and ideas galore. Maybe a unicorn. You’re in your head and probably feeling like a space cadet. All is gauzy, all is bright.
In practical terms, the daydream state is thinking deeply about your goal. It’s probably a large ambition, but you haven’t taken any baby steps toward it. It’s a big picture grand scheme that’s future-oriented and idealistic. By the time you snap out, you wonder, “Where’d the time go? Well, it’s too late to start now. I’ll try again tomorrow…” Problem: you need to bust a move.
Meanwhile, nightmares are full of anguish. You’re threatened, persecuted, out-of-control. It’s a dark, fearful world, where external forces hound you. With frenetic movements, you act compulsively, impulsively. You’re searching for safety and stability, but since you’re guided by directionless nervous energy, it’s not working.
It’s similar to when you work without a framework. There’s no indication of how the pieces contribute to the whole. “What’s the point? It’s hopeless,” is the general sentiment. “I wasted so much time and energy.”
We want to live in the middle between these extremes—where we’re conscious. In that space we distinguish if we’re active visionaries, visionary actors, or neither.
When you’re awake, you can become aware and execute. Once you see clearly, you can choose, then move gracefully and effectively. Your attentiveness helps you self-correct on the course as needed.
In this waking life, you have things to do but you follow a path toward them. You aren’t standing still as they pass you by, nor are you running away out of fear.
Dreaminess means it’s time to act. Losing sight of our intentions is a sign to return to envisioning. Action and vision are companions. They complement, complete, and require each other.
But how do you keep both qualities in mind? When you feel yourself veering to either extreme ask yourself these questions.
Action questions to avoid daydreaming:
- How do I measure progress?
- What have I accomplished so far?
- What is going well?
- What are the hold ups? How to fix them? What is the reason for them?
- Am I going deep or staying wide and thin in my work?
- What is the smallest thing I can do to move forward?
- What’s the next right thing? Link
- What did I do today? What will I do tomorrow?
Vision questions to avoid nightmares:
- What do I want to achieve through this work? What’s my big idea?
- Where do I hope to be ______ from now?
- How do its pieces interlock? What are all the routes?
- What greater purpose does the project serve?
- What are its strengths? Or, how is it good?
- What are its weaknesses? Or, what does it lack?
- What are 100 ways the idea may succeed? And how about 100 ways it could fail?
- Are there external threats? And/or external opportunities to help me?
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