The NLP Pattern of the Month:
Moving From Vision to Action

by Robert Dilts.

The typical path of change in intelligent organizations involves moving from the level of vision to that of action. Meta, macro and micro leadership ability is required to stimulate and manage the various processes that make up the pathway between vision and action.

Meta leadership provides inspiration and motivation by forming the vision into a mission and creating community within a system. Macro leadership creates the strategy for manifesting the vision and mission by defining the values, culture and path for reaching the desired state. Micro leadership supplies the structure to make the culture and path concrete through specific tasks and relationships.

Different Types of Processes and Leadership Ability are Involved in the Movement From Vision to Action

The following exercise provides a way to combine both systemic thinking and strategic thinking in order to create a vision and then define a path leading from that vision to the actions that will concretely embody it.

Exercise: Vision Into Action

What I see way off is too nebulous to describe. But it looks big and glittering
— Walt Disney (1941)

Part I. Creating a Vision

  1. Put yourself in a relaxed and open state in which you can feel fully yourself.

  2. With your eyes closed, create a space for ‘Vision’ in your mind’s eye. Imagine a vast inner ‘landscape’. Notice where the horizon of your inner landscape is.
    Also notice the ‘point of convergence’ or ‘vanishing point’ related to your focus with respect to the inner landscape. Note how far from the tip of your nose this vanishing point appears to be. Is it one meter? 10 meters? A kilometer?
    Extend the point of convergence until it is farther away. If you need to, you can lower your horizon. Find a vanishing point that represents the rest of your life. Then, extend your focus far beyond that point. As you do, lengthen your spine and lift your head slightly.
    Imagine a sunrise breaking over the horizon. Feel what it is like to experience the dawning of a new day. Let the feeling of hope and belief in the future emerge.
    From this state ask yourself the question, "What is my vision?" Let the images and words of your answer form out of your feeling and the light coming from the sunrise.

  3. Bring your attention and focus back to the point representing the rest of your life, maintaining the awareness of the sunrise and the feeling associated with your vision. Consider what needs to be done in that time frame in order to move towards the vision. Ask yourself the questions, "What is my mission with respect to that vision?" "What is my role and identity with respect to the larger system associated with that vision?" "What is a symbol or metaphor for that role and mission?"

  4. Focus your attention on your body and the feelings and emotions associated with your sense of vision and mission – especially those that draw you toward them. Feel the sense of motivation, inspiration and excitement that you have about the future. Imagine that you could give your heart a ‘voice’ so that these feelings could be put into words. Ask yourself, "What values are expressed and represented by my vision and mission?" "What beliefs are associated with my vision and mission?"

  5. Shift your attention to your spine and chest. Lengthen your spine and open your chest so you can breathe more fully and freely. Feel a sense of physical energy and strength in your body. Ask yourself the question, "What capabilities do I have, or need to develop, in order to support my beliefs and values and reach my mission with respect to my vision?"

  6. Bring your focal point near to you, finding what feels like a close but comfortable distance. Allow your awareness to go into your belly and the muscles and bones of your body. Ask yourself the question, "What is my next step toward achieving my mission?" "What internal state will most help me to reach that step?" Form a plan for taking that next step.

  7. Imagine that you are physically moving forward and associating into that point in the future and the context it represents. Ask yourself the question, "When and where will I complete this next step?"

Part II. Defining Your Path
Complete the answers in the spaces beneath each of the following questions in order to define the connecting links between the various levels of processes that you have been exploring. These links will form the path between your vision and the actions necessary to manifest that vision.

  1. "What is your vision with respect to the larger system or community in which you are operating?"

    My/Our vision is to

  2. "What is your identity or role with respect to your vision and the system or community to which you belong?"
    "Who are you or do you want to be in relation to the manifestation of your vision?" (Try using a metaphor or symbol to answer this question.)

    In relation to that vision, I am/we are

    "What is your mission with respect to that system and vision?"

    My/Our mission is to

  3. "What beliefs and values are expressed by or encompassed by your vision and mission?"
    "What values are embodied by your role identity and larger vision?"

    I am/We are committed to this vision and mission because I/we value
    "Why do you have this particular vision and mission? What beliefs provide the motivation for your thoughts and activity?"

    I/We believe

  4. "What capabilities are needed to manifest your vision and achieve your mission, given the beliefs and values that you have expressed?"
    "How will you accomplish your mission? What capabilities and cognitive processes are needed or presupposed in order to accomplish your vision within the guidelines of your beliefs and values?"

    To accomplish my/our vision and mission I/we will use my/our capabilities to

  5. "What is the specific behavior associated with manifesting your vision and achieving your mission that will both use your capabilities and fit with your beliefs and values?
    "What is your plan for achieving your vision and mission? What, specifically, will you do to accomplish your mission? What specific actions are associated with your vision?"

    My/Our plan is to

  6. "What is the environment in which you will manifest your vision and reach your desired state?" "When and where do you want to enact the behaviors and actions associated with your vision and mission? What will be the external context surrounding the desired goal and activities?"

    This plan will be implemented in the context of

An Example of a Path From Vision to Action
I have used this process many times in order to create and organize paths for manifesting my own visions. The following, for instance, is an example of how I answered these questions while preparing for this work on leadership.

My vision is to promote the worldwide diffusion of more effective and ecological tools and skills for leadership.
In relation to that vision, I am like a spring and a reservoir for special knowledge and experiences.
My mission is to develop, integrate and present practical skills that will help people of all types to be better leaders.
I am committed to this vision and mission because I value growth, the achievement of our highest expression and the fundamental integrity of life.
I believe in the value of the future and that people can truly grow and change their lives through the acquisition of new skills. I also believe that the skills of leadership are essential in order to fulfill our destiny on this planet.
To accomplish my vision and mission I will use my capabilities to identify, structure, and articulate the key principles and skills of leadership that I have modeled from effective leaders throughout the world.
My plan is to create leadership seminars, manuals, books and other tools that can be disseminated to individuals, organizations and social systems worldwide.
This plan will be implemented in the context of a global network of people who are committed to promoting the progress of all humanity.

Creating an Image of Your Vision
When you have finished defining your path from vision to action, create a picture of your overall vision. This will help you to consolidate your sense of your vision and mission, remember it, and communicate that vision to others. Below is an example of my picture for my own vision.

Also see the Article of the Month or the Archives if you are interested in checking out NLP in more depth.

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