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Your Vision: Entrapment or Liberation?

An off-the-wall blogger cracked me up the other day when he ventured: “Do you want to know how to keep from being shocked or surprised?  Just think about something that you would least expect to happen—and then expect it!”  Funny.  Of course, the thing we least expect to happen is not even remotely similar to the thing that actually happens! 

The truth is that we usually get what we expect to get in life.  We see what we expect to see.  And even if what we see is not what we expected to see, our brain goes to work to somehow alter the actual to conform to the prior expectation.  I’m not making much sense here, so let me slow down and explain.

If the deer hunter sees movement in the bushes a hundred yards away, for example, his first instincts tell him that it is a deer.  If he is an untrained novice, he is very likely to act on those instincts and pull the trigger, even before he knows exactly what he is seeing.  On too many tragic occasions, that movement turned out to be his hunting partner.  “Wysiwyg” (what you see is what you get), unfortunately, doesn’t hold true in the corn and wheat fields of rural America.  Another powerful example with which all of us are familiar involves strange noises.  Loud bumps in the middle of the night scare us out of our wits!  We jump out of bed, grab a weapon of some kind, and go investigate—very cautiously, I might add.  Why?  Why don’t we think it is some harmless animal running around or a tree branch blowing in the wind?   Because, we are predisposed to the emotion of fear as the initial reaction to anything we hear that is out of the ordinary. 

Thus, our expectations grow out of our inner vision, the idealistic images that motivate us and inform our tendencies to behave in certain ways.  This vision is hugely powerful.  It is responsible for almost every phenomenon in the range of human activity, from a silly altercation down at the corner tavern to setting off a world war.  The constraints of vision cut extremely gifted people down to something much, much smaller than their capabilities would suggest they could achieve.  By the same token, a personal vision elevates people of average abilities and talents to dizzying heights of success.  Success and failure, satisfaction and frustration, accomplishment and disappointment, war and peace, wealth and poverty—all of the outcomes of our lives are intrinsically tied to our vision. 

Some people are more successful than they think they should be.

Some are not nearly as successful as they could be.

Some surprise everybody on the enormity of their successes.

Some surprise everybody on their meager achievements in life.

I have heard it said that faith is the most important thing you could possess.  But, remember, faith can only act on the vision it is given!  If your vision is limited to having a decent job, an adequate house in which to live, and some reliable transportation, then all the faith in the world will not do any more for you than that.  It is not your faith that throttles vision; it is your vision that throttles faith!  Consequently, we would be much better off to work on enlarging our vision than drumming up our faith.

I was in an ice cream parlor a few weeks ago.  It was a landmark in this particular city, known for being a throwback to the 1950’s.  The ice cream was delicious.  Curious about the enterprise, I started up a conversation with the manager.  He pointed to a portrait of the founder high up on the wall and told me how he started working for that man many years before. 

“Tom always said,” he related to me with admiration in his voice, “never change a thing.  This is why people come here and if you keep it the same, you’ll never run out of customers.”

The vision that Tom had forever defined the location, the menu and the ambience of the little parlor.  It was a vision that said “We make good ice cream.  If anybody wants our ice cream, they have to come here to get it, and they have to eat it in our dining room just the way we want it.” 

Now let’s change scenarios.  I was in another town for an event a few weeks later.  A prominent lady remarked about the church building, “Isn’t this a beautiful location and a lovely church building?  It’s just ideal!”  She didn’t say it, but I could almost hear the outline of the rest of the conversation: “And if anybody wants our message, they have to come here to get it and they have to enjoy it in our sanctuary just the way we want it!”

Here’s the message I took away from this expression:  “This is our vision.  It’s a nice vision.  It’s a sweet vision.  It’s a vision that makes us happy.  We don’t really believe that people need anything more than this vision.  In fact, we are going to make sure that we keep this particular vision alive and well.  Do not try to goad us into anything more.  Don’t try to shame us into doing anything more.  This vision ought to be good enough for anybody.”

If a leader casts that kind of vision to his or her followers, then the ideal level of success will forever be stuck in their mindset.  It is a classic case of vision entrapment.  It’s a set of beliefs, a pre-programmed package of “this is what you are to do and how you are to do it.”  It is a code of behavior that provides a starting point but imposes an ending point as well.  If you try to expand, enlarge or stretch the standard issue vision, you are schooled that disaster awaits. 

Since these conversations, I have wondered some things.  What if the proprietor of the ice cream parlor had a bigger vision?  Would there be a Tom’s Ice Cream Parlor in nearly every town in America?  Would hundreds of people have been supplied with jobs rather than six or seven?  Would a benefactor been born who would have built civic buildings or contributed millions of dollars to worthy causes?  What if the little church would have said that their nice, sweet vision wasn’t enough?  What if they would have birthed a vision that would have reached out to neighboring communities, states, nations and the world?  What if they would have said that they were not content to keep stuffing reality into their vision, but rather expand their vision to embrace reality?

I wonder if any of us have a big enough vision.

Does your vision entrap you?

After you have “arrived,” do you still feel like you have miles to go?

Even though you have fulfilled someone else’s expectations, have you made full use of your capabilities?

Do you have a fire that won’t go out?

Do you want a vision that liberates you?

A liberating vision imposes no ceiling, assigns no limitations, and disdains contentment.  A liberating vision does not understand cutoff points.  It does not shut down inspiration, innovation and creativity because of someone’s arbitrary end point.  As long as there is fuel in the tank, as long as there is an open stretch of road ahead, as long as there are unachieved dreams, as long as the churning of ambition keeps your heart beating like crazy, then you have a liberating vision.

So what that it has never been done before?

So what that conventional wisdom says stop while you’re ahead?

So what that it will cost more than has ever been spent?

If the vision lives, you can get there.

Abraham had it.

Joseph had it.

Daniel had it.

Paul had it.

Peter had it.

Jesus lived it, died for it, and rose again for it.

Entrapped or liberated?  Which is it? 

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