Vision, belief, and action: The keys to leadership

Elaine Penn blog article Vision, belief, and action

It was 1952 and Florence Chadwick was attempting to swim the 26 mile trek from Catalina Island to the California shore. As she began, she felt determined and strong. Everything was going as planned. Fifteen hours later, however, a storm rolled in, and so did her stress. She became confused and disoriented. Believing she could not make it, and unable to see the shoreline for the fog, she surrendered to the rescue boat flanking her side. She was only a mile from reaching her destination.

Like Florence, there are times we believe we are defined by our circumstances and appearances. But the truth is, circumstances do not limit what we can achieve. Throughout history, students have greatly improved grade point averages in a short amount of time; leaders have transformed waning organizations into thriving enterprises; Cinderella sports teams have achieved the impossible and won national championships; climbers have conquered Mt. Everest without sight or limb; and, people of all ages and backgrounds have become financial successes during economic hard times. In fact, more millionaires were made during the depression than any other time in history.

It all starts with being clear about you want. What is the compelling vision that drives you each day? Whether your vision is to become a more inspiring leader, a stronger communicator, build a positive and successful team, or embark on a quest to be the finest student, healthiest person, or service-oriented individual you can be, the first step is to know your vision.

Once you have a vision, you must give it your focused attention. What you focus on are the seeds you continue to plant in your life. You must believe that those seeds are going to sprout. Even in the midst of an impending drought, you must know water can be found. Focus on the vision instead of the obstacles in your way. Werner Erhard said, “you can live your life one of two ways: out of circumstances or out of a vision.”

Finally, you have to be willing to take action to accomplish your vision. Research the steps needed to reach your goal, and be willing to improvise, start over, try again, or reverse direction. But never stop the process. Your vision will remain only a vision unless you actively start a plan. Along the way, if you stumble on some of the steps you have planned, learn from them, move on, and keep climbing to your ultimate destination.

Credit // Author: Elaine Penn

Elaine Penn incorporates the power of storytelling to move students emotionally and intellectually. She uses her abilities as a coach and teacher to take students on an inspirational journey that changes how they think, feel, and act. Sharing pivotal lessons about leadership, diversity, and the effects of positivity, she helps students transform the culture of their organizations and campus. Learn more at