What’s the Difference Between a Vision and a Goal?

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If you’re anything like me, you recognize at least a few keys things you need to do in order to accomplish your goals. Well, what should you do when those few key things are hardly motivating? Or when they seem enormous and intimidating? Or when it’s all well and good in your head, but in practical application and action your body just kind of stalls? Let me give you some examples:

  1. At Intermediate Korean level, EXTENSIVE READING is a huge key to helping me advance.
  2. My Reading, Writing, and Listening all stand around Intermediate level, but SPEAKING is really what is stalling.
  3. DAILY DIARY WRITING would be a great way to practice grammar I study.

But they all seem so boring… right now…

True, last year, I had some energy built up under me. I was flying through the grammar lesson, cramming more and more Korean practice – Reading/Writing/Listening (still not much Speaking) – into a day. But now, the energy has kind of phased out.

3 Reasons we Lose Energy

1. A redirected passion.

For me, the growth of this website was a burning passion for a while that motivated me to daily post relevant content. But growth on this site has temporarily plateaued and I’ve recently invested a great deal of effort into the growth of another site.

2. A break from what’s normal (a “New Normal”).

Since November, my wife (our Korean teacher) took a break from teaching Korean to have our second child. I also took a break at that time because my role (and personal study) was less necessary than helping her get ready for delivery and caring for her afterward. Now, we have a “NEW normal” that includes her not teaching and my not studying. Momentum is hard to build alone.

3. A lack (or loss) of Vision.

Here’s a great quote I read recently from Visioneering by Andy Stanley:

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Vision is a big part of the reason you completed college or graduate school. A lack of vision is the reason many never finish. Think of all the seemingly wasted hours of study and class time. Even then you knew that much of what you were memorizing for tests was a waste of time and effort. But you did it. Why? Because of what could be. A degree. and beyond a degree, a career. For four (or in my case, five!) long years you endured science labs, European history, research papers, and lectures. And you hung in there through it all – motivated by the thought of graduation and the rewards it would bring.

That is the power of Vision.

Initially, when I had that first strong kick of energy to study Korean, I also had a strong Vision of what could be. I was going to get a job in a Korean company – and NOT speak English.

That Vision is still there, kind of in the background, but it’s more like a Goal now than a Vision. The reason I created that Vision in the first place was to have a way to get OUT of teaching always English, all the time. I’ve recently been given an opportunity to get out of English on a regular basis by teaching what I’m truly passionate about: computers. And now that the reason for that Vision is no longer so pressing, the Vision has been downgraded into a kind of Goal.

What’s the Difference Between a Vision and a Goal?

  • Goal: the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or desired result.
  • Vision: the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom.

Put another way:

  • Goal: a destination you want to reach. It has an end result. It is born on paper and dies when accomplished.
  • Vision: a life you want to live. Its end result is actually its starting point. It is born in your mind’s eye and dies when you die.

In other words, Goals are good, but Visions are Great. And the two are actually interwoven.

  • Visions are huge things that can only be measured by the accomplishment of Goals.
  • Goals are the stepping stones you need to take you toward your Vision.
  • Without Goals, you won’t make progress toward your Vision.
  • Without Vision, your Goals either won’t make sense, won’t motivate you enough to accomplish them, or will dry up after a time.
  • Vision is the WHY.
  • Goals are the HOW.

4 Drives that (Re)igniting Vision Produces

Vision weaves four things into the fabric of our DAILY experience. –Andy Stanley

1. Passion

A clear, focused vision actually allows us to experience ahead of time the emotions associated with our anticipated future.

My next Goal is passing TOPIK Level 4. When I think about that as a Goal alone, as an end in and of itself, the steps required to get me there seem long and dreary. But if I think beyond TOPIK 4, if I look at this as a step toward my Vision, then I get to mentally experience the exhilaration of passing TOPIK 4 early. And that energy spurns me on toward doing the mundane tasks required to get me there.

2. Motivation

The mundane begins to matter. The details, chores, and routines of life become a worthwhile means to a planned-for end.

Once the Vision is clear, the tasks become less burdensome and more joyous. I focus less on the hard work of vocabulary acquisition and more on the accumulation of a robust vocabulary. I focus less on the difficult-to-learn grammar rules and more on the ability to reproduce those grammar rules at will – on paper and in person. I focus less on the difficult-to-understand Korean conversations and computer text that surrounds me and more on what I can learn and accomplish by focusing on those things.

Suddenly, all the small and “stupid” things become exciting and adventurous things.

3. Direction

[Vision] serves as a road map… [It] simplifies decision making. Anything that moves us toward the realization of our vision gets a green light. Everything else is approached with caution.

Let’s say someone gives me an opportunity to teach more English. While this would be a good way to make more money, I’m not currently struggling financially, so I would approach this opportunity with caution. Not because I’m afraid of being “illegal” (I have the proper VISA for that kind of work), but because it would take away more time that could be used to further my Vision.

If my Vision is to NOT speak English at a career job, then any (extra) opportunity that FORCES me to speak ONLY English would be a detriment to my Vision. (Obviously, I’m not saying you should give up your day job – but perhaps you should pass up some of those side jobs and opportunities.)

4. Purpose

A vision gives you a reason to get up in the morning. If you don’t show up, something important won’t be accomplished. Suddenly, you matter…a lot! Without you, what could be – what should be – won’t be.

I am the key element in my Vision. If I don’t work hard, my Vision doesn’t get accomplished. If I don’t do the mundane tasks, I’ll stay stuck in the same Korean level for the foreseeable future.

I’m the VIP. I’m the President of this Company (of My Vision). I’m the Boss. I’m the Leader. I’m the Chief Worker. I’m the first to show up in the morning and the last to leave.

If I don’t manage my time well, then WE (My Vision Company) is going nowhere.


Ask yourself this: If you worked as hard at your Vision as at your day job, would you be promoted or fired? Do you manage your time and energy well?