Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.
Without a vision statement, it becomes easy for your business, your blog, or your organization to veer off course.
Karen is a case in point. She began her freelance writing career by writing in the evenings and weekends. Her goal was to penetrate the health and fitness market. Ultimately, she wanted to write about the impact of yoga on wellness.
At first, Karen took any health-related writing gig she could get. Soon, she was writing about cardiac bypass surgery and its after-effects, which led to several assignments on depression and mental health issues in cardiac patients. Not long after, Karen was tapped to write a column for a mental health publication. Her work snowballed when several mental health professionals contacted Karen to get help writing academic papers about serious mental health disorders.
How had she’d gotten off track from her original yoga goal? Karen took a pause and studied the path she had taken. Her first general health assignments led to increasingly specialized topics: cardiac bypass surgery to depression in cardiac patients and then serious mental health disorders.
She could have steered a different course by making a few tweaks … if she’d had a clear vision statement to keep front and center as she accepted assignments.
A mission statement describes what you wake up each day to do. It deals with the present. (Here's a longer explanation and how-tos.) In contrast, a vision statement describes what your world will look like if a problem was solved or when you achieve a goal. It addresses the future. A vision statement outlines change, as in the long-term impact when you conquer a particular problem or achieve a particular goal.
Let’s use Karen as an example.
Your vision statement articulates the change you want to see as the result of your work.
A vision statement is focused. Without a vision statement, you run the risk that Karen faced: it becomes easy to drift off course. You start down the path of a career or business or cause, and opportunities come up. A vision statement allows you to weigh the value of those opportunities. But without a vision statement, you can lose focus of the goals and priorities you set for yourself. With her vision squarely in her sight, Karen could have accepted the cardiac and mental health assignments and then pitched related yoga ideas to those editors or clients. She could use her vision statement to leverage opportunities and open the door to her ultimate goal.
A vision statement inspires. Slogging through can be hard when you face challenges. A vision statement inspires you — and your board, staff, volunteers, and stakeholders — because it gives purpose to what you do. In one short phrase, you describe the future you are ultimately working towards. Your vision statement is a rallying cry when times are hard and affirmation when you reach benchmarks along the way.
Here are some examples of short vision statements:
What does the end look like for a specific group of people? Imagine all your work is finished and has had its complete impact. Your future focus can be a time element (someday, one day) or it can describe the change.
Here are some examples of future-focused vision statements:
At first, the idea of writing a statement that casts a vision for a big-picture goal, ground down to specifics, appears to be counterintuitive. But your vision’s specificity will not be in the “how.” Rather, use your vision statement to describe the big-picture quality and quantity — or both.
By quality, I mean the particular characteristics you want to see in people or a situation. By quantity, I mean the specific amounts or measures you envision. Quantities can specify numbers or niche.
Here are some examples of vision statements that focus on specific qualities or quantities:
Let’s test Karen’s vision statement against our criteria. “My full-time freelancing will position me as a leading content provider for the yoga market.”
Check, check, check. Karen’s ready to stay on course and move into future-filled work. What about you?
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