Upon a recent Google search of articles on visualization studies I realized that there are more studies and articles out there than any one person could ever read. I even got specific, I searched for “study of free throw visualization” and over 95,000 articles were found.
Why am I telling you about the “googling” that I did? Because visualization has become somewhat of a buzz word in the business world today, with the success of “The Secret” and other best sellers, and even though many talk about it there are many of us who still don’t know “how to do it”.
In this article, I am going to explain 5 steps to visualize your desired result. Before we dig into the 5 steps, it is important to understand that this one activity is what can determine if you hit your goal or just come close. Visualization is used by professional athletes of every sport, Olympians, professional musicians, speakers, actors, and business people from every walk of life. I personally have used these steps in my own life and business to achieve goals that I never would have dreamed possible long ago.
One of the simplest studies that I found was on the ability to shoot basketball free throws. There were three groups in the experiment that lasted one month. One group took shots physically every single day for, the other group only visualized shooting baskets in their mind and making them everyday. The third group did a combination of both. They physically shot the ball during the day and during the night before going to bed, they visualized making perfect shots. The results of this study were amazing. The athletes that visualized making their free throws improved by 10%, while the athletes that physically practiced every day only improved by 7%. The group that did both increased their free-throw percentages by a whopping 32%.
So what does that tell us? Yes, you now hold the key to winning the pop-a-shot game at the carnival! Well, maybe a bit more than that. It says that visualization can actually be quantified, that it is more than fancy talk or someone claiming that they visualized a house and “magically” moved into it 5 years later. It tells us in very simple terms what we already know to be true, that our minds are extremely powerful and have limitless potential. So these 5 steps are how you can start to tap into more of that potential.
Step 1 – Slow down. Stop. Breathe.
Trying to visualize while you are multitasking or doing other activities will get you off on the wrong foot and if you miss step 1 you don’t even need to bother with the remaining steps. Another great ability of our mind is how fast it can think and process information. This speed can also hinder us if we don’t know how to harness it, it would be like the world’s fastest racehorse that can’t stay on the track.
I have found the best time to visualize is just before I go to bed each night. I go through my routine of teeth brushing and what not and then go to the same spot each night. I use a pillow to sit comfortably on the floor but you might want to use a chair. I will recommend that you not sit in the big comfy La-Z-Boy recliner or lay on the couch because you don’t want to get too comfortable. You want to sit up straight and stay alert. Most people will close their eyes but you can keep them open if you like.
All you are trying to do here is exactly what it says…slow down. You don’t need to achieve complete and absolute silence of the mind, so you need not spend 20 minutes in deep meditation. Usually 5-10 slow controlled breaths will slow you down enough to go to Step 2. Just pay attention to your breath moving in and out and count each breath.
Step 2 – 10,000 Foot View
As you have slowed yourself down, now we want to get a very general picture in your mind of your desired result. We are bringing the concept and vision to the front of our mind and we want to start simple.
Examples: When I am about to teach a workshop, my 10,000 foot view is of a great class with a lot of people saying they learned a lot and smiling. An Olympians 10,000 foot view might be seeing the Gold Medal or getting their hand raised in victory. A salesperson’s 10,000 foot view might be seeing themselves shake hands with their prospect to close the deal or a signed contract. Keep this step simple, we are going to get a lot of details and emotions in the next few steps.
Step 3 – Zoom Into the Beginning
Now I start from the beginning of the event and start playing out the event like a movie.
I will visualize the starting point of a workshop where I am in front of the group and all eyes are on me and play out the movie from there. Someone running a race would zoom in to the point just before the gun goes off. A salesperson might visualize the moment just before the client shows up or walks into the conference room. A student might visualize sitting at their desk just before the teacher passes out the exam they are about to take.
Wherever the starting point is just before the action starts is where you want to visualize yourself and then start playing the imaginary film. And as the movie starts to roll forward we move to step 4.
There is a certain percentage of the population that doesn’t consciously see these pictures that I am writing about here but do not worry, the pictures are still there. To compensate (or at least make them feel better), some will verbalize the pictures they are visualizing.
Step 4 – Details Details Details
In his book ‘Beneath the Surface’, Michael Phelps writes, “When I’m about to fall asleep, I visualize to the point that I know exactly what I want to do: dive, glide, stroke, flip, reach the wall, hit the split time to the hundredth, then swim back again for as many times as I need to finish the race”. To the HUNDREDTH!! Now, that is some exactness in a visual picture.
When my movie is playing out in the visualization of a workshop I not only see people nodding their heads and smiling but I “see” them “getting it”. You can do this one too, I see the proverbial “light bulb” above each students head lighting up. Maybe you can visualize your client loosening their tie as a sign that they are feeling comfortable, or you can see them day-dreaming about the benefits of using your product while you are in this imaginary meeting. Regardless, of what your result is you want to incorporate ALL of your senses. I would bet Michael Phelps can smell the water in his visualization. And you are using all of these senses while the movie plays. What is happening? and what are you experiencing as it happens? Keep the movie moving as slow or fast as you need it to. The workshop I teach on memory lasts 7 hours in total, and I will run through the majority of the class in about 5 minutes in my visualization of it.
Professional golfers will spend a moment before they take each shot and visualize how they want their swing to look and feel and then watch the flight and trajectory of the ball once they hit it all in their mind. You would want to imagine how the club would feel in your hand, how the sun feels on your back, how does the grass smell, what does the club sound like when you swing it, etc.
Step 5 – See it to the Finish with EMOTION
You’ve played the visualization movie out this far, now you get to see the final result. See the final result that you ultimately want to have happen with as much detail as you can muster and then FEEL it. Use feelings from past accomplishments if you need to stir the feeling but do whatever is necessary to create that feeling. Some people will pump their fist (actually) or raise their hands above their head like they are cheering while they are celebrating their victory or achievement (mentally).
This final step is where you are locking in the visualization to your subconscious mind. You are creating a memory for your mind so that when the actual event is taking place your mind will take the path of least resistance, it will try and find the event that most closely resembles what is happening and try to make the memory and reality match. This is where you are tapping into potential that you didn’t know you had. The emotion that you visualized is your anchor. And when adversity sets in, as it sometimes does, the projected emotion will keep you moving forward because you will believe that you can achieve that result.
A Word of Caution
If you find yourself thinking of something terrible that “could” go wrong while you are visualizing, don’t worry and don’t freak out, simply back up your movie to the best spot where you left off and then go forward to visualize yourself overcoming that obstacle. Consequently, thinking of a couple of things that could go wrong and visualizing how you are going to get through those are awesome details that your brain will be able to anchor to and make your result more achievable. This step of getting around obstacles can actually help your conscious mind believe the movie more. It would be similar to an actual film where nothing went wrong and there was no adversity, most of us would be bored with that movie, so you don’t need to make your visualization boring. Give yourself every obstacle you can think of in your picture and see yourself overcoming everyone of them with flying colors.
You are, without a doubt, an absolutely amazing creature with an astounding capacity to imagine anything. I am excited to read about your successes in your emails and blog posts. Everything is created at least twice, once in your mind and then in reality. Go create your desired result and….
VP of Sales