“Workaholics are addicted to activity; super-achievers are committed to results. They work towards goals that contribute to their mission. In their mind’s eye, they see the end they want and the actions leading towards it” (Charles A Garfield, Peak Performer)
Stephen R Covey, profoundly influential through his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, is well-known for his thoughts on Habit Two: Begin with the End in Mind. He says: “All things are created twice. All things. Vision is the first creation. For a house, it’s called a blueprint. For a life, it’s called a mission. For a parent, it’s called a belief in the unseen potential of a child. For all, it’s the mental creation which always precedes the physical, or second, creation.”
A compelling vision drives behaviour and actions that are aligned to achieving results. The vision burns within, instilling focus and propelling goal awareness and targets so that energy can be applied appropriately. One such visionary is Don Schoendorfer, a mechanical engineer by profession. He was determined to create the world’s cheapest wheelchair. He squeezed in time to tinker on making his ideas reality in his garage both before and after his conventional workday. He knew that his chair would have to traverse mountains, swamps and deserts, so needed something cheap and durable. After rejecting many of his own ideas as being too expensive, he finally hit on it: the ubiquitous white plastic lawn chair. He bought many of these on sales for $3 a piece and scouted for the cheapest bike tyres and other necessary parts. In nine months, he made one hundred wheelchairs and his garage looked like a prosthetics rehabilitation centre.
Why did Don do this? Thirty years earlier in Morocco, he had witnessed a disabled woman dragging herself across a dusty road, almost like a snake, using her fingernails to pull herself along. Schoendorfer remembers the disdain of the street beggars who considered the disabled of a lower class to themselves. On that dusty road, Don decided to help. His vision drove him towards achievement. He established a non-profit organisation, Free Wheelchair Mission, which initially delivered more than sixty-three thousand of the lightweight wheelchairs at no charge to people desperate for mobility. Today, the chairs are made in China in two factories and can be delivered anywhere in the world for just $41.17. Many millions of these chairs have now been donated, helping the disabled in the direst circumstances. The vision that motivated Schoendorfer to help the disabled is explained in his own words: “For recipients, without question, it’s the most important day of their lives. It’s the day they get their dignity back”.
A compelling vision drives achievement. Vision takes a purpose and starts to transform behaviour into actions that realise goals. It cements repeatable processes that achieve desired results. Vision helps us see the possibilities of tomorrow within the realities of today and motivates us to do what needs to be done.