See it to achieve it: How to use visualization to succeed at work

If you are serious about bowling, you probably don’t want me on your team. Haven’t bowled in two decades and even then, didn’t score much higher than the typical highway speed limit. But in the name of team building, I went to an upscale bowling alley with a great group of co-workers in town for our company’s annual Key Leadership Summit. Started out with a couple of gutter balls, but then I paused and actively imagined myself doing better. By the second game, I hit two spares and broke a three-digit score for the first time in my life. While I’m not going to be recruited by the Professional Bowlers Association anytime soon, this quick shift made me think about the power of visualization.

Bottom-line, visualization is about “seeing it” – playing a circumstance out in your mind’s eye to achieve a desired outcome. Think it sounds too “new age” for the workplace? A growing number of corporate leaders use executive coaches, for whom visualization is a common coaching tool. According to TrackMaven CEO Allen Gannett, 39% of CEOs in an informal survey he conducted used an executive coach in the last 12 months, a proportion that increased dramatically as their companies scaled. Visualization is also widely used in competitive environments worldwide. Many professional athletes use sports psychologists to visualize success before games and recently departed boxing icon Muhammad Ali talked frequently about seeing himself win a fight before he stepped into the ring. Feeling inspired to try visualization at work? Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Focus on a clear goal. Let’s say you have a job in sales. There is a difference between having a generic goal of “landing new business” and a specific, well-defined objective of “securing $12 million worth of new annual, recurring revenue from two major industry players.” Brainstorm the attributes that you do, and conversely do not, desire to gain clarity on your objective. I use sales as an example, but it could be anything – aim to launch a new ERP system on deadline with minimal delivery disruptions, have all employees adopt a different payroll system within a 30 day period, etc.
  2. Paint a picture. See yourself achieving this goal in detail. What does it look like and feel like to be in the place you desire? Over 65% of the population are visual learners, so creating a visual reinforcement of yourself achieving the goal can be a great daily reminder. For example, you might search for multiple images online that represent your successful achievement. Going back to that $12 million sales goal, it could be represented by pictures of bags of money, the logos of sales targets, a picture of the resort in Tahiti you plan to visit after getting a major commission check and more pated into a PowerPoint presentation which you review weekly for inspiration. Or focus on one picture that says it all – a photo of an industry award that you’d like to win – and use it as your smart phone or laptop screen saver. Actor Jim Carrey, a big believer in visualization, wrote himself a $10 million check while he was a struggling actor to keep himself focused on the incredible success he rightly believed laid ahead. Whatever you choose, keep that visual in your line of sight or in a place where you check it regularly to reinforce your intention.
  3. Word up. Some people, like me, thrive on words. So I often visualize by writing about a circumstance or desired end-state in my journal. Two years ago, I decided to look for a corporate job that let me combine my expertise in communications along with my certification in executive coaching. Some people thought I was bonkers after having my own PR firm for 13 years. But I knew that my passion had shifted to internal/corporate communications and culture, which was best done working within an organization. I started writing about what was desired in terms of job responsibilities, the opportunity to create new initiatives, the people I worked with, compensation and even the daily commute (which you have to consider in a traffic-clogged place like Atlanta).  It felt real, clear and I kept that positive vision alive by honing it frequently in my journal. Sometime in early September 2014, my journal visualization focused on receiving two great job offers on my birthday at the end of the month. Sure enough that is exactly what happened, and it sure beat a slice of cake!
  4. Consider audio reinforcement. I have coached individuals who are motivated by audio and find that hearing a song or spoken word activates that feeling of success they seek. Does rocking out to “Eye of the Tiger” from the 1980’s or Justin Timberlake’s upbeat “Can’t Stop this Feeling” make you feel invincible when driving into work? Or does listening to a podcast from Oprah Winfrey , Tony Robbins, Les Brown or Warren Buffett inspired you to reach for maximum success? Listen to whatever floats your boat right before a big presentation or important meeting, thinking about the outcome you most desire. This tactic can get you pumped up and into the best mindset of achievement at the right time.
  5. Acknowledge victories. Visualizing success and then achieving exactly what you desire is an amazing accomplishment. Celebrate those milestone and let your gratitude act as rocket-fuel for future victories.

How have you used visualization at work? What was the outcome?

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