by Lex Gillette
These two things wrestle with one another constantly.
Sight absorbs the visual elements of this world.
Vision unveils a world that can exist.
Sight reveals boundaries in our path.
Vision sees beyond boundaries.
Sight shows you what you do not have.
Vision gives hope to weary eyes.
Sight is present.
Vision is future.
The distinction between the two has been a crucial part of my journey. One that started with the loss of my sight and the revelation of my vision.
I can remember those last days when I could still see. I would follow my mom out of the doctor’s office sobbing with uncertainty and the unsettled feelings that lay within. I couldn’t quite understand what the doctor’s diagnosis was, but the tone of his voice revealed that it wasn’t good news.
With each visit, I would be asked to read the letters on the vision chart, and each time, it became harder to see. Eventually, I couldn’t make out the letters anymore.
In the visits to follow, the doctor would shine a light in my eyes and ask that I let him know when the light was on or off. Eventually, it became a challenge to even do that. I felt it coming. I knew I would have to live my life without sight.
Are you going to lean toward what you can see now, or what you see for the future?
As challenging as it was, losing my sight turned out to be a big blessing. It forced me to cultivate a vision of hope. A vision that was fed by my mom’s tireless push to give me agency and make my own way in life.
I could no longer read printed books, but my mom found someone to teach me braille. I could no longer see to walk by myself unassisted. My mom found a specialist to help me use a mobility cane. You know, the white ones with the red tip?
These two new skills, these new ways of gaining sight, changed how I thought about the future, how I viewed the future to be, and what it meant to be blind.
Now, I understood that I could graduate from school. I had a way to do the work. I could walk down the hallways at school. I could get on and off the school bus unassisted. I could navigate the mall on my own. The absence of physical sight was replaced by a vision of hope.
I began to lean toward what I saw for the future, and I began to understand that vision had no limitations.
What You See and What You Want
I know it’s a challenge at times. Something looks pleasing to the eyes, or sounds too good to be true, and you want it. You want it right then and there. Just reaching out and grabbing it, you can satisfy that immediate need.
Ultimately, a vision is even more appealing. A realized vision is a culmination of hope, work, sweat, and commitment. People inherently know that the fruits of that labor are much sweeter than instant gratification. However, many never achieve these goals, because they can’t keep that fulfilled vision in their minds while they do the work.
How many times have you walked into your room and flipped on the light switch? Probably more than you can count. It’s easy. Eyesight reveals the switch, and you turn it on.
You’re benefiting from a vision cultivated by Thomas Edison. He refused to allow the sight of failure after heart-breaking failure to overpower his vision. He had hundreds of near misses. It took him thousands of attempts to get it right, but we now have light bulbs because of his unwavering commitment.
Sight shows us what is.
Vision shows us what can be.
I invite you to close your eyes; remove yourself from the images in front of you. Open your mind and envision yourself as you travel through a space of endless possibilities, and no boundaries. Where are you going?
The duel between sight and vision will endure. You will have to decide what you want. Just remember, it’s not always what you see now that matters most.
Lex Gillette is a professional keynote speaker, 4x Paralympic Medalist, and 4x Long Jump World Champion who is currently training to win gold at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games. He has been wowing audiences of all sizes with his athletic gift since 2004, and he has been inspiring audiences on the corporate stage since 2013. His ultimate goal is to teach others to look past their current reality and challenge them to see further than they ever thought possible.
Photo credits: Close up of Lex in goggles by Joe Kusumoto. Eyes closed on the starting blocks by Alex Ingram, Art is Being.