To visualize is to see what is not there, what is not real — a dream . To visualize is, in fact, to make visual lies . Visual lies, however, have a way of coming true.
Every great athlete uses detailed, clear, vivid visualizations. I didn’t know it at the time but I learned valuable lessons about leadership success growing up playing golf and working with a sports psychologist. Everything he taught me about golf performance applies to anything in life such as:
- The more clearly defined your visions are, the better. When I visualized my playing the final hole of a golf tournament tied for the lead, I wanted to smell the grass, hear the birds, feel my feet walking between shots. I didn’t just picture two or three good shots, I pictured the entire experience. The sound of the velcro on my glove, the sweat on my forehead, the celebration after the final putt dropped, even my reaction to my opponent making an unexpected putt. I practiced how I would react to unexpected situations…and when they happened, they weren’t unexpected.
- The subconscious mind doesn’t understand the word “don’t.” When I say “don’t hit it left,” my mind only hears “hit it left.” When I think “don’t talk too fast,” take a guess at what happens.
- Every statement must be a positive statement. The counter to point #2 is to state everything in a positive manner. “Don’t hit it left” becomes “there is plenty of room right.” A good caddie will never use the word “don’t” to his player nor will a good coach. So don’t use it on yourself. Oh, the irony of that sentence.
- A smile really does lift the spirits and enhance visualizations. A curious thing happened one day as I was practicing with my sports psychologist. I smiled at something as I was visualizing a putt. The visualization was clearer and I instantly felt better. I began to use this every time I visualized a shot and it made a huge difference in my performance.
I have used these techniques (from part one and remembering these points here) to overcome numerous obstacles in leadership.
To deliver tough feedback, I rehearsed by visualizing exactly how the meeting would start, the look on the other person’s face, the cold of the conference room chair, the manner in which I would sit, the sound of the clock ticking. I saw myself say what I needed to say word-for-word and see his reaction. I saw myself remaining calm as he processed things and then I visualized various responses and how I would react. If he reacted in anger or defensiveness, I would picture myself reacting calmly and reminding him that the intention of the feedback is to help him. If he just shook his head in agreement or admitted fault, I picture myself thanking him for accepting the feedback and ask how I could help him. I saw each scenario play out in my mind. And I always pictured the same desired ending, with a smile, encouragement, and a handshake.
Most days now on my way home I spend the last minute or two picturing how I want my arrival to go. I believe that the arrival home is one of the most important parts of the day. I used to drag in the door, exhausted from the day’s work, and I wanted everyone to know how drained I was (it’s that self-importance thing creepy up again). Now, I picture a happy arrival. I say in a loud voice “Hello, I’m home,” and move quickly to put my things up and greet my wife and daughter with kisses. In order for this to look anything like this picture I just painted, I must rehearse it first.
Leaders, it is your job to see things as they should be first and then put those visions into action. (Click to Tweet)
And no, Peter McWilliams and I are not related.
How has positive visualization helped you as a leader? If it hasn’t, what are some ways your can immediately put it to use?