The 4 Phases of Fulfilling Your Vision

It’s the fourth week of the new year. We are now 24 days from the excitement of setting new goals for 2011. Reality has set in. Are you ready to give up on them yet?

It’s a common misconception that the trajectory of first stating one’s vision–for the year or for the decade–to its ultimate fulfillment travels in a straight line. People are actually surprised when the dream they believe in so deeply is not embraced by the marketplace. But that’s not the way vision works.

There are four specific phases of development all vision passes through. Understanding each is critical to success.

PHASE ONE: Inception

All vision begins with a dream, and dreams are exciting. Maybe, at first, you don’t share your goals with a single soul, but they still burn inside of you. Then safely, tentatively you begin to talk about them and, in the talking, begin to believe they can actually happen.

“Can we do that?” you wonder. “Really?”

“I think so,” you tell yourself and go for it.

You’re off on a grand adventure, fired by the enthusiasm of new ideas and empowered by big goals. The top’s down in the convertible, the sun’s high in the sky, the wind’s in your hair, and you’re free.

PHASE TWO: Refinement

Then reality hits. Think Thelma and Louise. The marketplace doesn’t love your ideas as much as you do. Most are apathetic, and some are even hostile.

Like gold that’s refined by fire, true vision goes through a period of testing. The initial excitement of goal-setting wears off, and the realization begins to sink in that they’re going to be much, much harder to accomplish than you ever thought. This is where you realize how very easy words are to say and how very hard actions are to do.

And this is where most goals go to die: in The Dip. The Dip is that gap between the excitement of starting something new and the reality of mastering it, where the effort you are exerting over time has not produced the results  you were expecting (or desperately needing).

You must, however, embrace the fire of this phase. Don’t rush it or resent it. Learn from it. Grow in it. Starting anything is the easy part. Finishing is hard. Succeeding is hard. Mastery is hard. That’s why so few do.

PHASE THREE: Expansion

With refined vision and a sharpened focus, it’s time to master the marketplace. Things begin to take off. Not the beginner’s luck you had a first and the loyal support from family and friends, but real acceptance by real customers. One success builds on another that builds on another that builds on another, and soon you can barely remember the fires of refinement.

“The market wants to see you persist. It demands a signal from you that you’re serious, powerful, accepted, safe,” counsels Seth Godin in his book entitled simply, The Dip. “The bulk of the market, any market, is made up of those folks in the middle of the bell curve, the ones who want to buy something proven and valued.

PHASE FOUR: Fulfillment

Reaching this phase is glorious. Like standing on the summit of a tall mountain, the view is exhilarating. Take a deep breath and enjoy the cool, fresh air. Thank the other climbers who made it possible for you to get there: family, friends, and co-workers.

Now climb another mountain.