I was recently working with a client who wanted to transition into a new area of self-employment—he’s 30 years old, talented, smart, skilled, and full of enthusiasm. When I asked him to paint me a picture of what his business would look like when he is 50, he floundered with some vague notions borrowed from others he aspired to. He had a vision… sort of… but he needed it to be much more clearly defined.

Why? Because with a very clearly defined vision there is then the capacity to break it down into discrete stages and steps. A clear vision will guide the processes and decisions that shape and define the business, where it goes and how you get there.

Once my client could paint a very clear picture of what his business would look like in 20 years time we had something solid to work from. He could also tell me what the core values are that would drive the business to that place. These core values fed into the core focus of the business—the service he would actually provide. Knowing what your core focus is not only directs what you do, but just as importantly let’s you know what you shouldn’t be doing. This led to a discussion about essentialism, but that’s a topic for another time.

We took the 20 year vision and broke it down into 5 year blocks and talked about what could be achieved within each 5 year block—once again defining the vision for each of those stages. Then the next 5 years was broken down into yearly targets and again a defining vision for each of those 5 years was sketched out. The next 12 months was also broken down into very clear targets and strategies. Finally we talked about the next 4 weeks and got out the diary and started to form a strategy of what was going to happen on a weekly and daily basis to reach the vision of a months time. Next month we will again revise the 20, 5, 1 year visions and have a fine-grained understanding of what will actually happen that month.

Now all this defining of vision didn’t happen overnight—it took a few months of deliberation. But the time spent clarifying what he was aiming for was very valuable. Some initial ideas fell away and his core values brought other things into the picture. This wasn’t going to be a flash-in-the-pan side hustle, this was his main event.

My client has a grand vision, and given 20 years, or 7,300 carefully planned days of incremental steps, he’s likely to make it. But he has to have a crystal clear vision for it to be effectively broken down into discrete daily steps. That’s not to say the vision won’t change, that it won’t evolve—it most certainly will—but when it does those changes will be just as clear as the original vision.