Positive thinking can do wonders for your attitude. But it’s not enough to get you where you want to go. Instead of thinking positively about being great, imagine what great looks like.
Visualize a picture of the end-result. Create a picture in your mind of the future you desire. Close your eyes and see it happening right now.
If you’re concerned about giving a speech, it helps to imagine giving the speech successfully. But the real power is in visualizing the end result— see yourself getting a standing ovation at the end of your speech, or if you’re an athlete, see yourself standing on the podium receiving the gold medal.
The power is in picturing the end result. The process for achieving it, the path, will not necessarily be clear.
My first experience with the power of picture took place in a fifth grade classroom. My first job was teaching reading to children with learning disabilities. Most children learn to read the same way they learn to walk and talk. They get a little support from an adult, but they pick it up naturally. When it doesn’t come naturally, it’s really hard for them to learn.
By the time they are 10 years old, they are discouraged by years of failure, watching other children pass them by. One day it occurred to me that the children were so discouraged they probably couldn’t even imagine they could enjoy reading a book.
I had been reading about how mental imagery made a huge difference in the 1976 Olympics. The USSR had stunned the world by walking away with most of the gold medals. The Soviets had discovered that when competitive skiers supplemented their practice through visualization, not only were they better prepared to ski in a variety of conditions, but their motivation and self-confidence also increased.
So I tried an experiment with the children. Every day we spent ten minutes in a relaxed guided meditation. We began imagining going into the library, finding a cozy spot and curling up with a great picture book. By the end of the year, they were imagining going into the library reading long books with no pictures. I didn’t change anything else about the way I was teaching. I just added the relaxed visualization. That year the children’s progress increased, we had more fun in the classroom, and they started reading library books on their own.
Was this a real scientific experiment? No. But it made me aware of the power of creating a mental picture of what you desire, and it sparked my interest in vision.
How to harness the power of picture.
Over the years, studying vision and helping leaders in a variety of settings I learned that the real power comes when you focus on what you desire. Proactively focus on what you want, not reactively on your problems. While you might remove a specific problem, you are likely to discover another problem awaits, and you will move from one crisis to another. Instead of focusing on problems, picture the results you desire.
For example, if you want to lose weight, obviously you need to eat less. However, if you frequently think about the chocolate you can’t eat, it’s difficult to maintain motivation over the long term. Instead, picture what you’ll look like in your new jeans whenever your thoughts turn to chocolate.
Eight tips for creating a picture of your desired future:
- Be proactive, not reactive. Move toward what you want rather than away from what you do not want.
- Be creative and playful. Give yourself permission to explore, to dream.
- Do not let your fears and concerns limit your thinking.
- Visualize the end result, not the process for getting there. See yourself standing on the podium receiving the gold medal.
- Focus on what really matters to you. Ask, What do I want to do? not What should do?
- See it actually happening. Close your eyes and imagine what it looks like.
- Put yourself in the picture. Imagine what you are doing and what the quality of your relationships look like.
- Don’t waste your time imagining someone changing. The only one you can change is yourself.
Don’t stop here.
In our book Full Steam Ahead: Unleash the Power of Vision, Ken Blanchard and I say “Vision is knowing who you are, where you’re going, and what will guide your journey.”
Knowing where you’re going means having a picture of your destination in your mind. A picture is not the same as a vision, but it IS one of the three critical elements of a compelling vision, and it has a tremendous power. To create a compelling vision, remember the other two elements: Knowing who you are means being clear on your purpose, and what guides your journey are your values. Know what you stand for and live your values consistently.