Right now, it feels like the world has gone to hell in a hand basket. Taken a detour into crazy town. Is headed up sh*t creek without a paddle. Whatever idiom you choose, the point is that we are living in some hard times with the spread of COVID-19. Just about everyone I know has seen themselves or loved ones impacted by coronavirus or its harsh economic fallout. But during this difficult time, we are still allowed to have hope about our careers – heck, you should be actively looking for it. Something that can help is visualization.
“Visualization is super powerful,” noted Certified Leader Coach Carmen Acton. “It can unlock things within oneself that we’re not even aware exists. People can place themselves into the future and see what’s possible, giving the brain something to focus on and realize over time.”
Seeing it is more than just believing it. The act of visualization allows us to tap into a more creative, resourceful perspective. It gives our mind a place or concept on which to direct focus and then move forward. That is especially important today, when you might have been living under stay-at-home orders for what feels like an eternity or trying to figure out how to salvage or redirect your career.
As Acton explains, visualization can help people get unstuck in numerous ways. “People can literally slow themselves down and get unstuck from triggers, negative self-talk or self-limiting beliefs,” she said. “It helps us shift by seeing a better future or a different kind of outcome.“
Personally, I’m a big believer in visualization. Seeing the possibility of living a healthier life 28 years ago helped me lose 50 pounds and keep most of it off for good. I visualized a different path after the Great Recession killed my boutique PR firm in 2009; that practice was essential in helping me balance my current corporate career with a purpose-driven life. Like a mental Swiss Army knife, it is one of the tools I turn to most frequently for my well-being, especially when feeling stuck or overwhelmed. Here are some steps to get started:
1. Be open.
When looking inside, drop the need for self-judgement and remain open to what may lie ahead. Given how quickly our economy was shut down, nobody could have predicted how bad things have gotten. “If you examine your life journey, looking at the highs and lows, you will come to see what enabled the high points. Then projecting forward, it gives you insights to plan your path,” added Acton. “What’s in the past is in the past and there’s all sorts of possibilities for the future.”
2. Play out a current situation.
Perhaps in early 2020 you were being courted for several job opportunities, looking for a career move that would be the equivalent of a promotion. Flash forward to today when you are incredibly lucky to have a job at all. However, the pandemic is not our forever future. The economy, through government intervention, spit polish, a future vaccine and luck, will get strong again at some point. What does your career look like a year from now? How about three, five or ten years in the future? Determine how you feel about that current trajectory. Does it represent what you are really aspiring for? If it does not, build a different vision of how things could be that is aligned with your heart’s desire. “Tap into what your older, wiser self would advise you on what matters or what to do next,” suggested Acton.
3. Add resonance.
See what your new vision would look like over the same multi-year time scale. Go into as much detail as you need to make it feel as real as possible. Start thinking about a job situation that makes your heart sing. What are you doing each day? What is the work environment like? How are you making a positive difference? Describe those factors and more, bringing them to life. From that perspective, ask yourself what it will take to make that your reality. Be honest about changes you may need to make now and in the future.
4. Reinforce your desired vision.
There are numerous ways to reinforce a vision. One popular method is creating a Vision Board, which is a visual representation of the elements you would like to create, focus on and attract into your life. Think of this as a fun art project with a purpose. Determine your main themes – is it love, financial prosperity, career success or increased fitness? Select images online or go old school and flip through magazines, greeting cards and sentimental trinkets for inspiring photos and headlines. Make it three dimensional if you like. One year I had an actual light bulb attached to my board to represent the eureka moment of creative inspiration. No artistic ability is required to draw, paint or sculpt whatever will symbolize your vision; go crazy and repurpose that old “glued-on macaroni spray-painted gold technique” used so effectively in the second grade to decorate a candle holder for mom. There are no limits.
How do you find hope during hard times? What impact has visualization had on your career?