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Center for Enlightened Leadership

Musing and Manifesting

Christa Metzger
Christa Metzger

A complex concept such as “vision” makes me dig through my books and journals for inspiration. Words like visualization, imagination, visioning, dreaming, and creativity caught my attention. Enjoying my search, I suddenly began to wonder if I shouldn’t be exploring more of the leadership aspects of vision—as a desired intent, a mental image of what an organization wants to become, useful for strategic planning and related to mission and values. Then I smiled at myself, surprised that I hadn’t immediately focused on that aspect of “vision” after the many hours I’d spent as a school administrator writing action plans and expounding on the vision and mission of our school district.

In the hope that my random related musings might be of value to you, personally and professionally, let me share some of them with you and then conclude with a real-life personal example.


In Buddhist psychology, visualization is an important tool to bring about transformation. What we visualize repeatedly changes our body and our consciousness. What we think repeatedly shapes our world.

In Hinduism, vision is always an object, implying the existence of a subject, the “seer.” Thus the vision implies the seer and the value of the vision is the same as that of the seer, limited by the seer’s consciousness. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer illustrates this caution: “We take the limits of our own vision for the limits of the world.”

I was enthralled by a quote from James Allen, the 19th-century British philosopher, author of As a Man Thinketh: “The vision that you glorify in your mind, the ideal that you enthrone in your heart—this you will build your life by, and this you will become.”

I found scientific research that discovered that the brain lights up in much the same way whether we actually see an object or simply visualize the same object. In other words, the brain doesn’t distinguish between real and imagined experience.

Eckhart Tolle (author of The Power of Now) writes about how we learn to live with chaos, the obstacles to our vision (such as accidents, divorces, traumas, setbacks, and transitions of life), everyday interruptions, uncertainties and unexpected events, broken dreams, and all the many and varied challenges we face in our lives. No simple answer, of course, but it involves first an acceptance of challenges in the present and a recognition that our anxieties about them are mental constructs. Along this same line, I have always felt sadness for Ebenezer Scrooge, who didn’t have any vision of how his life was affecting others until the dark phantom of the future showed him the circumstances of his death and his forgotten grave.

And I thought about visions held by us at various stages in our lives—how a child vaguely envisions an ideal future; how in early adulthood we pursue a vision of financial security and work to build a career, a family, and friends; how, in middle age, illusions are shed and a search for enduring values begins; and how, in later years, our interest in spiritual questions increases as we ask about the meaning of life and ponder the certainty of our own death.

You manifest your vision by dreaming it, imagining it, visualizing it—with all your mind and heart. Joe Montana, Hall of Fame quarterback, stated, “Winners imagine their dreams first. They want it with all their heart and expect it to come true.”

Because of the likelihood that our visions will become reality, we must examine the values on which they are based. I thought about some and wished that they had not been manifested in this world: Hitler, for example; or the vision of Boko Haram, the Islamist group in Nigeria that recently enslaved schoolgirls; or that of the Pakistani Taliban, who are slaughtering health-care workers because they administer polio vaccines.


Here is an example of how I achieved a vision: namely, to learn Spanish as my third language (English is my second).

When I became superintendent of a primarily Spanish-speaking school district in Arizona, I decided it was time to get serious about learning Spanish. I had taken one year of introductory Spanish in college—enough to learn some basic vocabulary, recognize sounds, and discover the similarities to my native German language. Yes, knowing one foreign language does indeed help in learning another!

On my first day as superintendent, at the opening general staff meeting, I boldly announced that I would buy lunch for anyone who would go with me, on the condition that we would speak only Spanish. The first two to take me up on my offer were a gardener and a custodian, both residents of the local community. It was an unforgettable lunch—I understood hardly anything, but they seemed delighted! It was the first of many such times with Spanish-speaking staff, students, and community members—and not just lunches. Once the word got out about my desire, I received lots of enthusiastic assistance.

I took other steps to further improve my Spanish:

  • I listened only to Spanish radio stations while driving in my car, and sometimes to Spanish TV at home.
  • I bought and studied tapes with accompanying books. At that time, there weren’t any of today’s super (and expensive!) learn-a-language programs available.
  • A Spanish (301 verbs) book was always in my briefcase and even next to me on the seat in the car. I loved conjugating verbs—out loud when possible. I briefly glanced at the infinitive form of the verb and recited the rest from memory. If you do this while driving, it’s best to have a passenger call out the infinitives!

As I improved, I read Spanish books, including several by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Colombian novelist who died in April of this year.

The most helpful part was to spend some time in a Spanish-speaking country—in my case, Mexico. We started a student exchange program with Ures, a town in the state of Sonora. This program benefited both communities in many ways and was carried on for over a decade. I also did some traveling and vacationing in Mexico and practiced diligently with friends and locals.

Finally, I took summer classes to learn Spanish while living with a family in Mexico, which was immensely helpful.

The greatest obstacle I had to overcome was my fear that I would embarrass myself by not pronouncing the words just right, and that my grammar wouldn’t be perfect—though I amazed everyone by how well I used the tenses of regular and irregular verbs.

This example illustrates that if you believe your vision strongly enough, and if it’s really important to you, you can and will make it a reality. It’s like planning for a trip to a desired place. That’s the “action plan” part of it. But it’s our strong desire, our intent, our dreams, and our imagination and thoughts that will direct our outcomes and our responses. We “manifest” the vision we hold and thus create our experiences.

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