Is Your Vision Getting Blurry?

by Keith Savage · 31 comments

Post image for Is Your Vision Getting Blurry?

Is your vision getting blurry?

I’m not talking about your eyesight, I’m talking about your vision. You know, that secret path leading to the promised land, your ultimate goal. Goals beckon to us across time and space. They fill us with determination and optimism and purpose. Each one is like a great big X on an old treasure map. But I’m talking about vision here, the metaphorical series of twists, turns, and switchbacks leading to that X.

Yesterday, I was legally blind.

Nevermind the X, I woke up without the merest shred of a map. I questioned the entire Traveling Savage project, and all it took was a couple of rough days in the office and accidentally using bodywash to shampoo my hair. What was I actually going to do in Salta? What would I write about? Was I actually going to leave my job with these questions unanswered? What was I thinking leaving Sarah for a month at a time? And on and on.

Point being, vision is a temperamental and tenuous thing, like a dandelion gone to seed buffeted by spring winds. It is vulnerable to the slightest setback (i.e., head full of bodywash) and barest breath of doubt from the lizard brain. Without vision, we are off the map in no-man’s land. Our goals recede into nothingness and we unerringly return to the routine, trodden path.

Dandelion in the sun

But a vision gets stronger with age, and it’s possible to find the way back to it. Perhaps it’s easier if you know you simply can’t stay where you are now. That’s where I am. If you’re anything like me, you’ve got future travels perpetually in your mind’s eye. You’ve been planning to trade in your briefcase for a backpack for months now, toiling away and stockpiling cash like a squirrel gathering walnuts in the fall. You stoically weather each day in your current position, the politics you used to accept now grate and scar you. But you persevere, led onward by your vision.

So how did I let my vision get blurry so quickly? This venture of mine has so many moving parts and I’ve never been the most meticulous of note takers, but we can say negligence and move on. The most important (and admittedly simple) thing I should have done was write down my goal in detail. I need to see the X before I can follow the path to it. Instead, I let the purpose of Traveling Savage simmer in my head, and over time it evolved to become multiple somewhat-conflicting goals. Not good.

Once I’d captured the goal, the next thing I should have done was create vision milestones along the way to reaching the goal. When I cooked up Traveling Savage, I was staring many long months in the face. Any vision will falter at some point in such a long time period. Milestones are like little way stations where I can replenish my confidence and keep optimism and momentum at peak levels. They also make a great reality check. As much as it sucks, I need to be honest with myself about the feasibility of my goals as I progress toward them, especially when major life and financial changes hang in the balance.

These two tactics alone would have provided an effective riposte to any doubt creeping into my thoughts – I could just go back and read my goal and milestones. The best defense of vision, however, comes when I talk it out with a supporter. I cover so much more ground when I have someone I can talk to and use as a sounding board. Sarah is a huge supporter of Traveling Savage (obviously) and she really helped me cut through my doubts. It’s like technical support for a vision.

I’ll be the first person to admit this is pretty basic stuff, and I think I avoided it because it felt too much like “work.” You might be wondering how my vision cleared up. Well, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself by trying to know exactly what I’d write about and what places I’d need to go. Talking through it with Sarah, I came back to my original muse: culture through the people. I was beginning to over plan at the expense of slow travel. Now, I aim to Couchsurf in Salta, meet the locals, expats, and transplants, and let life take the lead. I’m confident I’ll have plenty of insights to share along the way.

Is your vision blurry? Have you got things crisp and clear now? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Original photo by Irargerich and gari.baldi via Flickr under Creative Commons

Dustin Main | Skinny BackpackerNo Gravatar August 28, 2010 at 5:17 AM

My ‘vision’ is definitely blurry at the moment. I think I’m traveling without any goals and it’s making me more of a wanderer than a traveler. Traveling, looking for inspiration and something to focus on.

So if you find something, let me know ๐Ÿ™‚

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 29, 2010 at 2:18 PM

Nothing wrong with being a wanderer. In fact, goals can be a good way to prevent you from living in the present because you’re always looking toward a future end state.

Hopefully I’ll find a lot of “somethings” as I travel that I can share here.

Chris NobleNo Gravatar August 26, 2010 at 6:52 AM

What a lovely, poignant post. Thank you

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 26, 2010 at 8:09 AM

Hi Chris, nice to see you. Thanks for reading!

Raam DevNo Gravatar August 14, 2010 at 2:22 AM

Hey Keith,

Thanks for referring me to this post and making me feel not alone! I think you’re so right about needing milestones to help us mark our progress as we go — to have short destinations to aim for. I think that’s exactly what I’m missing right now.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 14, 2010 at 9:02 AM

Perhaps it’s always been true, but it seems to be difficult to focus on completing long-term goals in this day and age considering all of the external stimuli that are a core part of our everyday lives. There needs to be a conscious effort to clear space, to find mental room to maneuver. Good luck Raam!

Lauren QuinnNo Gravatar August 11, 2010 at 9:24 PM

Makes sense that your vision would blur right before you take your big trip/leap. It’s totally the fear talking: “Too much to risk! Stay in the comfortable confines of the familiar! You’ll only fail anyway!”

Glad you pulled through, cause I’d be seriously bummed if the fear won out and you canned the trip. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 13, 2010 at 2:10 PM

Hey Lauren, you’re absolutely right about that. The fear gets louder the closer you get to your goal. And you know why? Because the fear itself is afraid.

GrayNo Gravatar August 9, 2010 at 10:41 AM

Self-doubt is probably my greatest Achilles Heel. It’s so easy to get sidetracked from our goals by a little self-doubt. And yes, all the details can be so overwhelming at times. I can totally relate to this piece, Keith.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 10, 2010 at 3:34 PM

You’re right, the details can bury you if you aren’t careful.

Nick LabordeNo Gravatar August 8, 2010 at 8:39 AM

My vision has been blurry many times and not just because I drank to much. I’m an extreme right brainer, so I’m always envisioning many different things. Combine that with a short attention span … I get a lot of blurred vision.

For me, the problems starts when it gets down to the details. Hmm, maybe I should hire an assistant to delegate that stuff to.

I usually snap out of it by asking the question, Why? Based on how compelling the answer is, I either jump in the trenches or move on to my next great vision.

Having an objective person to bounce stuff off of is also extremely helpful.

By the way, Nice Godin Reference.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 8, 2010 at 12:53 PM

I have a similar problem. Ideas come to me easily, but the execution of them is much more difficult. Execution is the difficult work, but also the means by which to turn thought into reality. Too many people, my past self included, balk at that first, big obstacle.

Thanks for stopping by, Nick.

JennaNo Gravatar August 7, 2010 at 10:20 AM

I think this is a post so many can relate to. First, it’s great that you have a vision! So many times I went through life doing whatever came next and whatever felt good without a sense of true long-term goals. Now I try to stay on my path with the reality that it’s not all in my control, especially now that I have a child and another one on the way. However, I’m proud that I fulfilled one vision, which was to arrange my job so that I wouldn’t have to work too much (such a joy). Now I’m working step by step on the next one, which is moving abroad (I’m setting milestones, as you mentioned).
Good luck with your journey and the next chapters that will unfold. ๐Ÿ™‚

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 8, 2010 at 12:51 PM

I’m also grateful to have a vision, though it took me about three years to find it. Honestly, I think figuring out what you want to do is the hardest part. Congratulations on progressing toward your goals!

AndiNo Gravatar August 6, 2010 at 11:00 PM

Sounds like you figured out the way to stay on the path, that’s great! Of course your vision will get blurry, that’s life, but as long as you have ways to get back on the path you’ll be fine. Don’t doubt yourself–what you’re doing is going to change your life in so many beautiful ways!!!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 8, 2010 at 12:44 PM

Hey Andi, I appreciate the words of support and completely agree. Cheers!

EarlNo Gravatar August 6, 2010 at 10:57 PM

I think that one’s vision also becomes clearer as soon as one takes the first step towards their overall goal. For example, wondering about what you’re going to do in Salta is reasonable given the fact that you have yet to start out on your trip. But as soon as you arrive, you’ll suddenly find that things fall into place, new ideas will enter your head and a more clearer set of goals will emerge. It’s hard to have a vision when you don’t know where the path you’re about to take is going to lead!

Sometimes we just need to jump onto a different path without having an overall vision in order to free us from the constraints that our current situation places on our lives…

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 7, 2010 at 10:20 PM

Hey Earl, I definitely agree that vision becomes more concrete once you take the first step. Everything suddenly becomes real. For me, the first step was creating Traveling Savage. This blog has really kept me focused on my goal. But as the time draws nearer toward making the big switch, the lizard brain writhes and pushes back. I fear this is just the start of a series of battles. Ultimately, I know I’ll win the war. Let’s just hope there aren’t too many casualties along the way.

Christy WoodrowNo Gravatar August 6, 2010 at 7:14 PM

I’m so glad I stumbled upon this post since I have been feeling quite the same way for the past few days. It’s nice to know I’m not alone ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thank you for writing this post and I look forward to reading more of your blogs!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 7, 2010 at 10:15 PM

Hey Christy, glad you found me, too! You know, it occurs to me that we back up our computers and all of our data but rarely do we think to “back up” our visions with safety nets like the ones I describe above.

Hope to see you around here again.

EricaNo Gravatar August 6, 2010 at 6:36 PM

I was extremely blurry in the beginning.. especially when the what ifs come creeping in.

The best way that we deal with reaching our goals is definitely through milestones – smaller goals, dates, etc. that you reach and look forward to. Sure, you can see the X at the end but the milestones are ultimately what get you there.

Don’t get lost! We are all here for you!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 7, 2010 at 10:13 PM

Thanks Erica, I’m back above water now. As you well know, this is foreign and dangerous territory. But exciting, too.

Caz MakepeaceNo Gravatar August 6, 2010 at 4:20 PM

Very insightful post once again Keith. It’s amazing how things can blur your vision. It happens almost every day for me, but I’m learning how to re-focus very quickly. We published our vision/mission on a page on our blog. When you write your vision down it sends that metaphysical message out to the Universe that you are serious and now I find when I get off track, little things will happen that give me a boost and center my focus again. For example, the other day, I was questioning what I was doing and I was filled with self-doubt and then I received two emails from people saying how much they enjoyed my blog. When you are living your passion as well it makes it easier to get back on track and not quit on your dreams.
I’m glad you have your focus back Keith and I’m looking forward to reading your posts from Salta.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 7, 2010 at 10:10 PM

Thanks Caz! Not only does writing your goal down send a message to the universe, it sends a message to your brain that says “this is for real and you can do it.” I think we all need a little pick-me-up once in awhile; it’s good to identify strategies to obtain these pick-me-ups before you get too far along your path.

MattNo Gravatar August 6, 2010 at 4:07 PM

Keith, you have such a great clarity to your writing and I appreciate it. You so eloquently cut through to some very key issues. I am glad that you reclaimed your muse and are back on the wagon, so to speak. My vision has become quite blurry lately and it’s brought me down, but I am sure a weekend pondering next steps will bring my vision back to 20/20.

Can’t wait to read about Salta!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar August 7, 2010 at 10:07 PM

Hey Matt, I find that my vision is most susceptible to destruction when, for one reason or another, I start looking at all the little and big things that need doing. In other words, I get overwhelmed. You idea to take the weekend and get back on track is exactly right. The best thing to do is slow down approach the mini meltdown calmly.

Can’t wait to write about Salta!

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