The best athletes do it. So do the best salespeople. Martial artists do it. I’ve even heard that the top surgeons do it, as do the patients who recover the quickest.
They visualize the outcome they want. The score. The close. The strike. Before they ever begin, they have seen everything play out in their mind. I will do X. What if Y happens? I respond with Z.
Visualization is one application of Dr. Stephen R. Covey’s second habit, Begin with the End in Mind. It not only helps you set the course for your life, it also helps you head in the right direction throughout the day.
Set aside a few minutes at the start of your day. Pick something that you’re working on changing. This could be something brand-new or something you struggle with.
Mentally walk through the situation. What do you handle well? What do you need to handle differently to get the results you want?
As you develop your vision of success, you are programming your subconscious. You are setting up little if-then rules that will take you in the right direction. Then, over the course of the day, your subconscious will start making automatic decisions that act on those rules.
Trying to lose weight? Visualize yourself walking past the grill in the cafeteria and heading straight to the salad bar, like it was the most natural thing in the world. Picture the ingredients you’re going to use—the fresh mushrooms, the kidney beans, the baby spinach. Taste the sweetness of the sliced red bell pepper as you take a bite, and the zest of the lemon juice you splashed on it instead of salad dressing.
You can compose that salad in your mind before it’s time for lunch. As you start to get hungry, that salad will start to sound pretty good. Then it’s just a matter of heading down the cafeteria and making it happen.
Trying to save money? A budget is just a vision for your money. You decide what you’re going to spend, pay off, and save before the month starts.
Trying to make a new habit? Visualize, ahead of time, the trigger for your new habit. What do you see? What do you feel? What time is it? See yourself immediately taking the next action in the habit loop. See past that decision point, to where you’re already heading the direction you want to go.
It’s hard to make good decisions in the moment. We’re not as good at winging it as we’d like to think we are. This is why we always come up with the perfect witty remark an hour later, or say things we regret.
Visualization lets you step back, and make decisions before the moment ever happens. It’s like having a time machine. Instead of saying, “I wish I could go back and do things differently”, ask yourself, “What do I need to do to get this right? What outcome am I going to create? How would the person I want to be respond in that situation?”
A funny thing happens when you start thinking through how the person you want to be would act. You start acting like that person. Pretty soon, it won’t be an act.
You don’t need to wait until the moment to make a decision. Decide what you will do to get the results you want. Put a plan together, and follow through.
See the situation ahead of time, do it, and become the person you’re trying to be.