The Difference Between a Dream and a Vision

Posted by Chuck Kocher
On December 8, 2014

DreamVsVisionIf you’re like me, you love stories about successful entrepreneurs who come up with great ideas that nobody else thought of. Those stories of success are inspiring for those of us who like to think a bit out of the box. We think fondly of people who dare to dream.

But the people we really admire (and want to emulate) are the visionaries. That’s because there is a big difference between a dream and a vision. I like the way Verne Harnish captures the distinction. He says, “A vision is a dream with a plan.”

Without a plan a dream remains just a dream. It may be a great idea, but unless you can come up with a way to turn it into reality, it doesn’t really help anyone. How many times have you heard someone claim that, “Somebody stole my idea” or “I thought of that years ago”? A quick look at that person’s bank account tells you how much an idea is worth without a plan.

So what’s the secret to turning dreams into visions? It’s really no big secret—it’s work! But here are a couple of ideas that will help with the work of turning your dreams into reality.

A Vision Summary: Visions need to be clear, focused, and specific. A vision summary isVisionSummary simply a one-page, at-a-glance summary of what your vision is. On this page you’ll want to capture the following key elements:

  • Your Core Values
  • Your Purpose
  • Your Brand Promises
  • Your Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG)

You’ll want to follow that with three columns that list: 1) Your strategic priorities, including your three-to-five year key thrusts and capabilities; 2) Your #1 priority for the year and the key initiatives necessary to achieve that priority; and 3) Your #1 priority for the quarter (and what you need to do to achieve that).

By the way, you can download this Vision Summary plan for free at

A One-Page Strategic Plan (OPSP): This is another simple one-page tool that hill help you flesh out your vision. It’s a framework that details your vision, uses common language to express that vision (instead of “insider-speak”), and provides you with a well-developed routine for keeping your vision current. Your OPSP will answer seven key questions:

  1. Should we/Shouldn’t we?
  2. Why?
  3. Where?
  4. What?
  5. How?
  6. What’s the Finish Line?
  7. Who?

You still have to do the work to fill out those forms (and to execute what you write down), but at least they get you moving in the right direction.

As you plan for the coming year, keep these two key exercises and tools in mind. And if you want some help using them with your team—give me a call at 1-719-339-9505. I’d love to help out!