Vision: Pushed or Pulled?

Vision is one of many topics in the international workspace that is slippery and grey. 

This article is not a critique of organizational vision as an abstract topic. This article is about the importance of having a vision as an international worker. This vision must incorporate both personal and professional realities, preferences, and dreams.

In this short article you will find:  guidelines and powerful questions to help you achieve greater clarity of your personal vision today. 

How important is vision?

Well, sit back in your chair and just close your eyes and remember the time when you worked with a supervisor with zero vision…and how was that for you? 

So can we all agree that vision is an essential ingredient – how is that?

As humanitarian and development workers, we all work with lots of constraints, guidelines, programmes already approved, security considerations, etc. In this environment, I invite you to think about vision as a potential personal resource – reminding you of how far you have come, and where you want to go professionally and personally.

Vision is always more than a self-reminder of your goals; it can allow you (and any staff that work with you if you are a manager) to get excited about the “real” work you do now and want to do in the future, and enable you to connect in a meaningful way with your colleagues

Two types of visions:

Pushed vision:  This is the vision that a person formulates based on circumstances - a person is pushed into deadlines, expectations and to-do lists or driven by a desire for money and status.  Energetically this might feel like a car stuck in heavy traffic looking for a free lane or an off ramp.

Pulled vision:  This is a vision that a person consciously formulates based on their true passions and deep self-knowing – a person is naturally pulled down a road by their compelling vision of their work and life.  Energetically this might feel like a waterfall running naturally down layers of rocks.

Who needs a vision?

One crazy thought in the international workspace is that the only person who needs a vision is the Executive Director/Director General/CEO! 

Let’s all remember: everyone is a manager, from top to bottom because we all manage tasks, professional… and personal ones.  There is the organizational vision – which is just that – organizational; and then there is each person’s vision that is a combination of personal and professional.  The interesting intersection is how each of us utilizes our personal experiences and professional opportunities to create a unique and powerful vision.


The alignment between your personal vision and that of the organization is no light matter – it is hugely important for you!  Your professional contribution must be a part of a larger vision you have for yourself or else the work you do can end up feeling more like a prison than an opportunity. With no fundamental affinity between your personal vision and your day-to-day work – work will feel life-draining.

The vision update:

One common thing that I see is international workers start out their professional journey with a vision.  Over time this vision morphs into a “pushed vision” simply because the environment is so intensive.  Slowly, the vision has nothing at all to do with you and the substantive part of your work (the “real” work) is not compelling to you.  It is simply a reflection of your circumstances and momentary requirements to survive – like a person trying to go deep sea diving with no air tank and having to come to the surface every minute for air.  That diver never gets to the good stuff!

Vision Tune Up:

If you feel like I wrote this article specifically for you and you would like to find out more about our three-session “vision tune up” package, write to us here