I came across this Japanese proverb a while ago and it has become one of my favourites:
“Vision Without Action is a Daydream, Action Without Vision is a Nightmare.”
It’s one of my favourites because it combines something I find essential in climate action: the Why to everything we do. If I’m clear on my Why, I can and will work out my How. If I operate just from a How-perspective I will quickly run out of steam.
And, unfortunately, I see a lot of climate action located in the latter.
Action without vision
Yes, I’ve said it: climate action without a vision is a nightmare. I’m fully aware that this statement might sound contradictory because climate action seemingly has the purpose in the name – the climate. But that’s not purposeful enough. Solving the climate crisis is not a vision, sorry. The reason is that that’s not a personal vision. That’s not something that would get anyone out of bed in the morning unless we describe it in personal and more practical terms.
As a coach in the climate space, I often come across the vision to finally solve the climate crisis. My follow-up question is always ‘what crisis specifically? What is your crisis?’ I know what I think and feel about the climate crisis but I don’t know anyone else’s perception of it.
And it’s here that the magic of a vision begins.
Just to give you an example from my life: my vision is to leave a better world for my children. And for me, this better world involves secure food production. Feeding ourselves and others is something that makes my heart pound and where I begin getting chatty. Sustainable agriculture, permaculture, short food delivery chains, a connection with the food producers – those are all aspects I think about often, talk about, write about. It is something I’m really passionate about. When I hear about animal torture or monocultures I get emotional. It’s very close to my heart not to contribute to those practices. And I see it as my life’s purpose to teach myself and my kids how to take care of our food production so we don’t have to contribute to something we don’t like in order to survive.
Maybe this quick example gives you a glimpse of what a vision can look like and how it can show up in our lives (and trust me that it took a lot of editing to get it into one paragraph because there is so much I could say). Ultimately, a vision is something we are very passionate about.
And with that vision, we can take action. Once it’s clear where to go, we can start walking.
Vision without action
I get it that the ‘walking your talk’ part might seem even harder than the development of a vision. We all have dreams and things we want to achieve in our lives. But doing it is both scary and really hard work. It takes guts to take the first step. And that first step might only seem like a tiny, tiny baby step towards your life’s purpose anyway. And there is no change after it either. It’s all very frustrating. And yet, a good vision will keep you going.
I didn’t consciously decide on my vision when I began to take action. I was unaware of why I wanted to get my veggies from local producers and why I stopped eating supermarket meat. There was simply something inside me that longed for something greater, something more. Those first beginnings are now more than eight years ago. By chance, I stumbled into a group of people who worked with local farmers and were offering locally grown vegetables. Today, I’m seeking them out myself. I know where to look to get what I want. And I’m learning to grow my own vegetables and how to slaughter my own meat.
But I needed that first step, that first unconscious introduction to a world that I didn’t know was the one I wanted.
That’s the tricky bit with visions. It might not be something we consciously decide but because our vision is something we are so passionate about, it can seek us rather than the other way around. Sometimes, the action comes before the formulation of a vision.
And even if you decide to change your life and you define a vision for yourself, you will see that it’s something you thought about for a while anyway. Your vision has been there all along. And it might just be something to put into words – and into action.
Knowing the why
‘What is your crisis?’ is a question I don’t ask my clients lightly. I ask it because I want them to know the exact why of what they are doing. With a clear vision, the action part becomes meaningful and overall sustainable in the long run.
Knowing your vision can act as a check on your actions. I sometimes find myself doubting the work I do for one reason or another. However, whenever I need my motivation checked, I turn to my vision. It remains something that guides me in my life.
And it’s not just me. Visions are inspirational. I greatly enjoy meeting other people who have a similar or the same vision as me. I love talking about my vision when I meet people who can’t picture anything in relation to climate change and climate action. When I begin talking about food production, I have their attention. And it’s a crisis that others can feel I’m passionate about.
Knowing your Why is the beginning and end of all action. Without a clear vision, there will be no long-lasting action. And without action in sync with your vision, you will begin to feel like a fraud. Knowing yourself, trusting your instinct, and acting according to what you hold dear are the ways to fulfilment – and a baby-solution to the climate crisis.
If you enjoyed this article, you might be interested in my course “Develop personal respond-ability in times of climate change“. It’s now available on Udemy.