An ancient proverb states, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” It is a way of saying that everyone needs dreams and a goal in order to live life fully and satisfactorily. If we don’t have a specific goal in mind or we don’t know where we want to go, we may be likely to end up in places not of our choosing. Establishing goals, along with guidelines on how to achieve them, helps to keep us focused and energized and often makes our lives more interesting, useful, and successful.
The story of Florence Chadwick provides a clear illustration of the importance of keeping our goals in sight. She swam the Catalina Channel in southern California and established national and international records. Chadwick then attempted to break the record for swimming the English Channel. On the day set for the Channel swim, Chadwick encountered heavy seas. However, because she had trained in the Atlantic Ocean, she was in peak condition and prepared to do battle with the large waves. Along with the rough weather, Chadwick encountered chilling cold. That was a problem, but, again, her training made a big difference. She was accustomed to cold water and her trainers had greased her body to help provide insulation from the elements. In addition, Chadwick’s trainers, rowing alongside her, were able to sustain her with hot soup from a thermos and comforting words of encouragement as she fought the cold, rough sea.
Yet, with all the planning and superior training, the one thing Chadwick and her trainers had not anticipated was fog. As a fog bank descended, visibility closed to only a few feet, obscuring the horizon and distant shore. Chadwick started to flounder. With the loss of visibility, the ice-cold, heavy seas seemed to grow waves of towering proportions. Chadwick began to suffer cramps in her arms, legs, feet, and hands from the effects of the severe cold. Her muscles screamed in pain as she battled the huge waves. Finally, she asked her trainers to bring her on board and take her ashore.
Later, when she was warm and dry, newspaper reporters asked her if she knew that she’d been only a very short distance from the shore when she gave up her valiant effort for the record. She responded that even though her trainers told her the same thing, it simply hadn’t made a difference to her. “You see,” she said, “I lost sight of my goal. I’m not sure I ever had it firmly in mind.”
When we have no goal, or when our vision of the goal is obscured, we may lose our sense of purpose. Even when we’ve prepared ourselves well and have an aptitude for a given activity, poorly directed efforts can rob us of vital energy. We can spend a great deal of our time, money, and other resources running around in circles. Unless we create specific goals that match our purpose in life and unless we keep a clear vision of these goals, we may eventually falter and fail.
In his book How to Succeed, Brian Adams described how Henry Ford used the art of visualization to commence what became the second largest automobile company. Ford pictured in his mind’s eye the type of automobile he wanted to build at a price most people could afford. He created a mental blueprint of his dream car long before it was ever put to paper. Then he pictured great numbers of people buying and driving it. The idea of a low-priced car (below U. S. $500) was reasoned by his conscious mind as feasible. It was then accepted by his subconscious as an undertaking to be accomplished. It became only a matter of time before Ford’s vision became a reality.
Classic advice for golfers has been, “Keep your eye on the ball.” The professional knows it is virtually impossible to hit a golf ball if you’re not looking at it! If you want to be “on the ball,” it is important to decide how you want to make a difference in the world. Once you have your purpose clearly in mind, explore the various ways you can make it happen, and visualize the process you believe can work best. Set goals, do what it takes to accomplish them, and enjoy your process.