Brain Food: Words-Worth - Vision

Once, 'visions' were associated only with Old Testament prophets, religious mystics and the mad.

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

These days, everyone in management wants to be a 'visionary'. If you're adventurous, you might write down those intimations of a better world as a 'vision statement' - not to be confused with a 'mission statement'. The former expresses your values; a mission statement is about what you do. So while your vision might be 'to achieve world peace', your mission is more likely to be 'to supply heavy artillery to emerging countries'. It's a slippery word, as it means two contradictory things: something you see and something you can't. Both are present in the Latin visio, which means both 'the act of seeing' and 'an idea'. The word arrived in English in the 13th century, later being used scientifically for the sense of sight. The business 'vision' is an adaptation of a 19th-century political usage meaning 'statesmanlike foresight'. Vision in that sense can be inspiring, but you'll want to keep an eye on the here and now.

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