Have you ever seen an athlete going through their pregame or pre-run visualizations?
Olympic Gold Medalist, Shawn White, is a huge fan of these type of visualizations (or as some call it, “visioning”). When interviewed about the topic on Impact Theory’s webcast, Shawn shared that he identifies what he’ll accomplish and then sees himself doing it successfully.
It's not something casual or laid back though. He really gets into his process with questions like, “What’s it going to look like? How will it feel? What am I going to be wearing?” He also talks about the importance of placing himself in the future, after he’s already won. “Who will I be with? How will we be celebrating?”
Shawn also shares his strategy of attaching something fun to a difficult goal. For example, he won’t just focus on winning a series of tournaments, but imagines how many cars he’ll win in the process (since cars are often part of the prize and something that increases the fun-quotient for him).
For us mere mortals, we might add a fun element like going to our favorite restaurant or playing a round of golf after successfully accomplishing an important step connected to a challenging project.
Now, if you’re familiar with our Thriving approach to visioning and visualization, you’ll quickly recognize the similarities between Shawn White’s process and our own. Why? Because these are well-tested techniques that athletes, psychologists and executive coaches like ourselves have been refining and innovating upon for ages.
Have we put our own unique Thriving spin on these steps and added our own secret sauce? Absolutely! We feel that are added touches make the process even more powerful. But visioning and visualization have also been verified by brain scientists and some of the most successful people walking around on the planet.
From our standpoint, the Thriving visualization process, which we outline in detail in our book Thriving in Business and Life, allows a person to shift from pushing towards a goal to being literally pulled by a compelling vision. The steps are simple for accomplish such a vision are simple, the process is relatively easy, and results over time can be truly remarkable.
And here’s an added bonus: success becomes easier to achieve, when we make it fun and remove the unnecessary stress that often accompanies striving for something. So, here are our favorite four keys to creating successful visions—ones that you can visualize over and over again on your way to their fulfillment:
1. Know What You Really Want
The first vital step is to know what you really want. We are often much more familiar with what we don’t want.
Think about the ideal outcome. Regardless of how gnarly the situation and/or relationships might be, generate a new story in your mind about the situation by daring to contemplate a truly wonderful change or possibility occurring. And remember what Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.”
2. Use Your Imagination
“What if” is a powerful way to engage your imagination.
Some people refer to this as “wonder-storming.” By allowing ourselves to feel the sense of awe and wonder that we more naturally did when we were kids, we can charge up our visualizations with additional energy (we call it the internal believe-ability factor).
Remember the unconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between something that’s regularly and deeply imagined and something that has actually happened. If you’re imagining successfully accomplishing a goal or having an awesome meeting or sales call, your unconscious mind will start filtering reality to find all of the ways it can to help you make that happen.
That may be one of the reasons Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. And, on a completely practical level his statement total sense because we must employ imagination to apply knowledge.
3. Develop detail.
Remember what Shawn White said. He imagines those future moments in great detail. The more real it seems, the more our mind and body will begin to conform to the vision. And remember be detailed about the feeling too. It’s not enough just to say, “It’ll feel great.” That’s too vague.
Something more like this would be appropriate for winning a gold medal, “I’m totally stoked, and I can feel the excitement running through my whole body. I’m pumping my fists as I jump in the air in celebration.”
So what’s the genuine deep-down feeling you can imagine about closing a deal, having a fantastic date with your spouse or partner, or resolving a challenging conflict?
4. Make the future present
A Thriving vision—the process we recommend—is not aspirational, it is celebratory.
In other words, you are not hoping to achieve something in the future . . . you are experiencing the success of that accomplishment now, right here in the present moment.
We call it back-casting, rather than forecasting. You’re projecting yourself into the future and then looking back on a future goal that’s already been accomplished.
That may seem like a mind-bender, but your unconscious mind loves to play in that realm. And the more you practice at it, the better you’ll become at not only being able to visualize the future, but to also allow that vision to pull you toward the accomplishment of your goal by keeping a careful lookout for just the right moments, the right opportunities, and the missteps to avoid.
When you utilize our Thriving visioning techniques, you’ll literally be creating the future-present in your imagination. Shawn White and other top performing athletes use this type of visualization to perform at superhuman levels.
A PGA champion golfer does not imagine their ball heading towards a certain spot on the fairway; they imagine it already sitting there and then their body cooperates in implementing the physiological mechanics to get it there.
Your Thriving Challenge for the week:
Pick some situation in your working life and decide what outcome you want.
Then apply the remaining four steps: use your imagination
develop as much detail as possible,
and then make the future present by imagining
you have already achieved your goal.
All that leaves is to take action, one simple step at a time
and discover how enjoyable it is to put vision first.
Will Wilkinson and Christopher Harding