Jimmy is giving a presentation to senior management on Thursday about his ideas for a new marketing campaign. He is feeling pretty comfortable about it, even though he got sick before his last presentation and spent half an hour in the bathroom with severe stomach issues due to the anxiety he had about speaking in front of others and nearly missed the meeting.
Visualization is the art of projecting your success into the future. You are imagining yourself achieving your goals and overcoming any difficulties along the way. Athletes use this mental technique to conquer obstacles, see themselves using perfect form, and simulate their performances.
Top executives use visualization to understand what challenges lie ahead and how to overcome them. They may also use the technique to consider how to achieve their KPI or goals for growing their company’s bottom line.
A 1980s study conducted by Dr. Biasiotto at the University of Chicago had three groups of students shoot free throws. The first group practiced for an hour every day for a month, the second only visualized making free throws, and the third group did nothing. After 30 days, the improvement in the first two groups was virtually the same (24% improvement for those that practiced, and 23% for the students that only visualized). The third group showed no improvement. Can you imagine what results they would have achieved if they had done both practice and visualization!?
In her Tedx Talk, Fitness Instructor Ashanti Johnson explained how she visualized a parking lot full of cars belonging to the customers of her soon-to-be-launched fitness program. With hard work and through a mountain of adversity, she was able to build a business that helped her clients shed a combined 20,000 pounds and filled the fitness center’s parking lot with customers, just as she had imagined.
Learning to use our mind as an ally can be one of the greatest gifts we learn through sport.Doug Jowdy, Ph.D
If you don’t have much experience with visualization, start with imagining the outcome of your efforts as Ashanti did. See the audience clapping for you as you wrap up your presentation, or crossing the finish line first while a stadium full of spectators cheer you on.
As you develop your skills, start to envision yourself in the activity. If you were Jimmy, maybe you are effortlessly answering questions, or smoothly moving from point to point in your presentation. Imagine yourself saying the words or overcoming the issue. Whatever it is that you want to achieve, act as if you are there in the moment.
Then a funny thing will happen… You will confuse your brain, and it will believe you have already achieved what you have visualized. This will not only sharpen your skills and progress, as it did for the basketball players but also quiet hypercritical thoughts that can sabotage your progress.
Here is an easy exercise that I do every night as I continue my entrepreneurial journey and you can do it, too. Before you go to sleep, imagine yourself achieving your goals. Be in the place, see the surroundings, conjure up the feelings, the smells, and even the taste.
If you are doing a sport for example, you may taste your salty sweat and feel the hugs of your teammates after winning the game. I often place myself on the balcony of a high-rise apartment, taking in the view of Yokohama Bay and sipping a peaty whisky as I reflect on what it took to get there.
If you are performance-focused, see yourself working through the event in as much detail as possible. I imagine changing the slides in a presentation and what I would say. But not just that, I see the room, the people in the room, and the expressions on their faces. I envision myself perceiving a troubled face in the audience and asking them if they have a question, then answering to their satisfaction, and the concern turning to a smile. This is a good exercise to do in the morning or when you are faced with a dilemma as well.
Jimmy learned these visualizing techniques. Instead of being nervous during his presentation on Thursday, he perfected his performance through dozens of imaginary presentations (and several rehearsals as well). He is feeling confident, ready to answer any question, and smoothly gliding through the material with the confidence of someone who has been in the situation hundreds of times before and crushed it every time.
Visualization can help you to have more success too. Start broad and continue to work on the image until you see yourself effortlessly achieving your goals. Soon, you will be doing the same in real life, too.