By Debbie Muir – Great Traits
One of the most impactful skills that comes from the world of sport is visualization.
It is common knowledge that high-performance athletes visualize to increase the likelihood of succeeding in competition. In their mind’s eye, they imagine themselves performing the perfect race, the perfect dive, or playing the perfect game. Then, when they actually physically do it, their bodies have a sense of déjà vu—doing in real time what they have already imagined themselves doing in their mind. The better athletes are at creating compelling visions, the better they often are at making it happen the heat of competition.
Visualization isn’t just for athletes. We can all use it to help us be better.
As you start 2017, I challenge you to take some time to not just think about what goals you would like to achieve this year, but see yourself actually achieving them.
When I was coaching, I practiced this skill all the time. Every day in the car on my way to the pool, I would prepare myself by imagining how I wanted to show up for work that day. I’d visualize myself giving really great instructions and directions to my athletes. I’d see in my mind’s eye the swimmers responding and making the corrections I gave them. If I was feeling low energy or grumpy, I would use visualization to help reset my mood. I would imagine myself laughing and smiling and, at the same time, being very effective. Whenever I took the time to visualize my practices were much better. My team would finish the session feeling good about the training and ready to come back for more the next day. What I saw in my mind’s eye became the reality.
Today I still employ this technique. Many times a year I am in front of an audience presenting information. It is said that for most people, the fear of public speaking is greater than death. While it may not be that extreme for me, I am often very nervous before a presentation. When I am getting ready to present, I take a few minutes to visualize the outcome I want to have. I see myself relating to the audience in a meaningful way. I imagine they are enjoying what I have to say. I see them, nodding their heads in agreement and having “ah-ha” moments when they digest the information I am sharing. Incredibly, this is usually the response I get when I go out there and do my speech.
So here is my challenge: I want you to practice the skill of visualizing as you head into 2017.
Start by choosing a situation that you know you will find yourself in over the next while that might be causing you some stress. It could be an upcoming meeting that has you feeling apprehensive. It could be an extended road trip that makes you feel drained before you even start. It might be a one-on-one with your boss, or a new sales lead, or an old acquaintance that you are dreading.
Now, begin to imagine how you want to be in that particular situation. Do you want to feel more confident or relaxed? Imagine how that looks. How does your voice sound? How is your body language? How will others react to you as you are in this situation? Imagine the outcome you would like to see to start preparing yourself in advance. You can even take this a step further. As a situation unfolds and something negative happens, how will you respond? What kind of reaction will others see from you? Picture yourself taking in a deep breath, lowering your heart rate and remaining in control as the situation unfolds. You get the idea…
Start using the simple skill of visualization to help you achieve the outcomes you want in your life. Like anything, it takes time and practice to get really good at it. But you will be surprised at how effective this simple skill can be in your everyday life. What you see is literally what you get!
(Editor’s note: For a demonstration of how powerful the visualization can be, check out this link to Trait 7 of the Achiever Chat and Challenge series.)