Updated: Mar 13, 2020
We often teach children about goals, but do we ever actually teach them about vision? Let's think about that.
We certainly teach children how to identify a desired outcome, pursue the steps necessary to arrive at that said outcome, and then align their behaviors accordingly in order to attain the end result. Once this cycle is complete we encourage them to then move on to the next desirable thing. Rinse and repeat.
Enacting a vision, however, is a little different. A vision is not tied to immediate results and many times it is not drawn from a pretty landscape.
Vision, simply put, requires exercising the heart’s eye. It is about finding the potential in something, and intentionally aligning one's efforts to seek out that direction. Vision requires sifting through messiness, uneasiness, and even unfair circumstance and selecting to continue to propel forward without losing stock in the possibility that ignited the journey.
One can argue that vision is attained through the successful completion of a series of smaller goals. Yes, I agree that this is part of the equation. However, this series is aimless if one’s vision is blurred or foggy. And, many times, you need to see through or even wait out the fog in order to appreciate the crystalized possibility. In this way, vision requires intention, patience, and dare I say, forecasting.
So, why is it important to encourage vision in children?
Most truthfully, it is because it is the crux of what authentic leaders are made of—the ability to see through the weeds, sift through the shambles, and collate beauty. It is a skill that involves far more discipline, far more intentionality, and far more tenacity than mere goal setting.
Toddlers find vision is just about anything—a stack of hay, a pile of blocks, a container of plastic spoons. They are able to readily tune into their heart’s eye and envision the multifaceted opportunities in front of them. And yet, somewhere between toddlerhood and the early elementary years we take this away from children by restricting or redirecting their visual field.
I have no doubt that if I were privy to the childhood journals, artwork, sketchpads, and doodles of some of the most visionary minds (both today and in history) I would consistently discover that this one “thing”-- this “essence"-- this “vision”-- lies sheepishly in every stroke of the pen, in every blot of the brush, and every crumbled paper in the garbage can. And, thankfully for us, somewhere along the line someone, or a series of ‘someones’ and/or ‘somethings’, valued this quality enough to reinforce its unfolding: a parent, a teacher, a coach, or friend.
Recognizing vision in children is not difficult but it can be compounded by the other more "immediate" tasks of their schooling and development. If you happen to see any constellation of the qualities below in a youngster, please take time to notice, encourage, and reinforce. Just one minute, one question, one affirmation can make all the difference in the world. (And Hint: If you see these qualities in a colleague, spouse, mentor, friend, or peer-- feel free to do the same, too!)
Openness to ideas and to trying novel items and ways of problem-solving
An appreciation for beauty, regardless of how rough or imperfect
Assertiveness (sometimes perceived as argumentativeness)-being able to argue ferociously for a cause or idea
Mindful reflection and evaluation
Malleability and a growth mindset
The world needs more visionaries. The worlds need leaders who inspire for the long hall. If you see this quality in a child, nurture it; relish it; spend time deepening it. You never know where a beautiful mind is headed and what society is in store for if we give it permission to manifest.