Steen mug shot


“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?” – Epictetus

It’s coming. Every marketer will probably find a way to slip something about 2020 vision into their material for this year, 2020. It will get old after a few weeks, so I’ll jump on the bandwagon early. How is YOUR vision for 2020? 

As Epictetus wrote, it should be a vision of demanding the best of and for yourself. That’s easier said than done, or at least it is for me.

IMPACT, PRESENCE, FREEDOM, PERSIST, ADVENTURE — words that have guided me each of the past five years. It’s one of the most exciting parts of January arriving — choosing my word.

I hope I’ve made an impact through my words, that I’ve taught through my writing the importance of being present and of persisting, and that you have embraced the importance of freedom and adventure. Over the last five years of writing for the public, I’ve enjoyed the adventure of helping one son move across the country, watching my other son and daughter-in-law get married, traveling to Ireland, managing a political campaign and learning about living with a retired spouse. 

Words matter and help shape our path ... and our vision. VISION is my word for 2020 because ... 20/20.

With two vision issues, astigmatism and nearsightedness, I wear glasses in hopes of having 20/20 vision. Without my glasses, I have blurry vision and headaches, not ideal for any of us. My friend’s daughter recently had strabismus surgery to correct her vision problems. Other types of vision: farsightedness, emmetropia (ideal vision), and presbyopia (which has nothing to do with being Presbyterian), peripheral vision and tunnel vision. Let’s talk vision for the year ahead.

While we consider vision as a focus word for the year 2020, it’s a good time to remind you to have your physical vision checked. Infant SEE is a one-time free eye exam for infants; Medicaid, CHIP, Vision USA, Eye Care America, and Lions Club all provide free or reduced-cost eye exams.  Check with if you need help with glasses or want to donate to support their work in the United States and abroad. Vision matters.

My vision most days could use some help. I start a project, get distracted by how cute the dog is, throw the ball for him, then notice that there’s a lot of dog hair on the floor that should be vacuumed, realize that I should probably start dinner, and finally return to the computer where my project awaits me. Those are the moments I could use a dose of tunnel vision, but for the most part, tunnel vision is a dangerous way of seeing that can negatively impact our lives.

Do you have one way of looking at things? Does that prevent you from recognizing attributes of people around you or from enjoying moments that present themselves along the sidelines of your day? Tunnel vision is defined as defective sight in which objects cannot be properly seen if not close to the center of the field of view. 

When we limit our vision in life, we truly have defective sight. Whether it is the way you’ve lumped women with blonde hair into a particular category or the way you judge every kid who wears baggy pants, limiting our vision in life to a constricted view of people and situations is as dangerous as the physical tunnel vision that prevents us from seeing safely to drive. 

If you are too focused on your goal of success in the ideal job or the perfect relationship, you are keeping yourself from wonderful opportunities and people. Just as there is a strong correlation between stress and tunnel vision in our eyes, so there is in our lives. We need to take off the blinders and move away from the dark, narrow vision that keeps us in a prison of sorts. After all, how will we demand the best for ourselves in the dark?

Demanding the best of and for ourselves means opening up to our peripheral vision. Oh, the things we can see without even moving our heads! 

Peripheral vision is defined as side vision; what is seen on the side by the eye when looking straight ahead. I think this must be why mothers have been accused of “having eyes in the back of their head.” Peripheral vision in our eyes helps us to see what is coming from the left or right when we are driving down the street. Peripheral vision in our lives allows us to gather information, to expand our horizons. 

If you are selling a home and are focused narrowly on the number of bedrooms or bathrooms, you might want to allow your peripheral vision to show you the crown molding at the top of each wall or the beautiful trees in the backyard. Where tunnel vision keeps our focus on the job we want, peripheral vision expands our world to the possibilities in another department or even a different line of work.

One of the things I love most about taking photos is seeing items or people in a photograph that I missed with my naked eye. Setting the aperture on my camera to a wide setting, I get all the light; using a wide-angle lens, I get so much more of the scene in my photo. I want to not miss the scenes in life either.

Choosing vision as my focus for the year ahead, I already see that it’s going to mean being uncomfortable at times. Tunnel vision has its place, but if we are demanding the best for ourselves, it’s going to mean opening our eyes, removing the blinders, and allowing what lies in the periphery to become a valuable part of our sight. 

Wipe the spots off of your lenses and join me for a year of exciting sights!

Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others. 

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