When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

You are what you see - Matt McWilliams
Your success as a leader is limited only by what you can picture in your mind.
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I recently wrote an article for a magazine entitled You Are What You Hear. The premise of the article is that you become what you hear and say about yourself.

You are, even more so, what you see. The evidence, particularly over the past fifty years of psychology, shows that you will act only how you see yourself acting, you will achieve only what you see yourself achieving, and you will become only what you see yourself becoming.

When asked what he considered the greatest psychological discovery of the 21st century, American psychologist William James answered,

“The greatest discovery of our generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. As you think, so shall you be.”

You are what you see. You become what you think about. You usually achieve only what you see yourself achieving. This is why setting goals in the present tense is most effective (“I own a 45-foot boat” instead of “I will own a 45-foot boat”).

Your success as a leader is limited only by what you can picture in your mind. (Click to Tweet)

Your income is limited only by how much money you think you can make. Positively visualizing your goals as achieved (in the present tense) is one way to get yourself thinking bigger and living successfully.

I’ve found two ways to practice positive visualization. The first is what I call “Feeling As If,” that I developed in part from my sports psychologist in college. The second is “Hourly Maintenance Reinforcements.”

To “Feel As If” follow these steps 3-4 times per week for approximately 20 minutes each time:

  1. Relax. Take 10 30-second cleansing breaths or more if necessary. Lie down on the floor, sit Indian style, stand on your head. Whatever relaxes you.
  2. Picture whatever you want in vivid detail. See everything in the present tense as though you are experiencing it right now, not in the 3rd person, future tense. See everything as you want it.
  3. Start with the end in mind, then work up to that. Determine in advance what you want to see in the end, whatever outcome you want. Then work from the beginning to that. It is important to see the process along the way.
  4. Close the same way every time. Make it a ritual. End with a positive statement that declares that what I have seen is true. In their book, Dare to Win, Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield suggest ending a visualization session with a statement such as “And so it is. Thank you God.” I have my own words and suggest you choose your own as well.
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“Hourly Maintenance Reinforcements” reinforce what you experienced in detail with your “Feel As If” sessions. Schedule hourly reminders on your calendar to remind you of one particular positive thought or vision or goal. The four steps are:

  1. Stand up or walk if you prefer.
  2. Smile. Laugh. Open your chest wide.
  3. Stick your finger in your chest. You are talking about yourself. This simple act also causes a physical sensation and hammers in the words.
  4. If possible, declare it out loud and meditate on it for 15 seconds. If you can’t say it aloud, do whatever you can to focus on that trait and imagine yourself displaying that trait.

The whole maintenance process should only take 30 seconds.

Regularly practice positive visualization, in depth at least 3-4 times per week and in short bursts throughout each day. You will be well on your way to achieving whatever goals you set.

Which techniques have helped you visualize positive results as a leader?

Check back tomorrow for a follow up to this post. I will share some specifics about how I have used these as a leader and how you can too. Subscribe to my RSS feed or get posts via email so you don’t miss a post.

6 thoughts on “Leaders, You Are What You See, Part One

  1. Jon Stolpe says:

    Writing out my “to-do” list has helped tremendously in achieving my goals. When I can process what needs to get done and prioritize this list, it’s much easier to visualize success.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Definitely Jon. People feel differently about “to-do” lists, goal lists, etc. but the fact remains that writing out anything…goals, to-dos, budgets, etc. makes it at least 2X more likely that you will stick to them.

  2. Carol Dublin says:

    I like this – good points. In Charles Duhigg’s book “The Power of Habit”, he describes how Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps would visualize his entire winning race, and how that helped him win. Need to remember this more often.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      I will have to check out that book. Thanks for the heads up!

      I forget it about…oh, every 15 minutes. I need to make it a reminder that goes off on my phone until it is more of a habit.

  3. EmbraceEveryday says:

    Great article, Matt. I like the ideas of setting aside 3-4 times a week and setting up a reminder system on an hourly basis.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      Thanks! Both of them make a huge difference.

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