Science tells us that visualization is one of the most powerful keys of success. Yet visualization is a critical leadership skill more than half of all business owners, executives and managers lack. In an article for Medium, Evan Sinar, chief scientist and VP of global leadership company DDI says, “Over 50 percent of leaders we’ve assessed struggle to demonstrate this form of visionary leadership, a larger deficiency percentage than for any other leadership skill.”
Hustle without focus results in wasted time and energy. That’s why defining the finish line proves so important. In this article, get more effective at imagining and achieving business and life goals by learning what visualization is and how to master it.
Table of Contents
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What is Visualization?
Visualization is a multisensory thinking process in which someone mentally visualizes the future by focusing on an overarching target goal. While doing so, the person looks at where they’ve been, where they’re at, and where they want to go.
For business leaders, these thoughts then translate into an effectively communicated message that others can easily understand and get behind. For this reason, visualization affects strategy, business objectives, and goals.
Ultimately, the purpose of visualization is to set the direction for yourself and others. Visionaries provide themselves and their employees with a clear roadmap that leads to a shared and supported vision of the future.
How Visualization Works
Visualization involves a mental rehearsal of performing an action. Through the process of imagining an outcome in detail, the mind begins training itself toward successfully accomplishing this action. According to Scientific American, “Visualization and action are intimately connected . . . Thinking about our body doing something—raising an arm or walking forward—activates the motor cortex directly.”
Due to this deep connection between the brain and body, many high-performing professional athletes practice visualization. Famous proponents of visualization include Tiger Woods, Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Missy Franklin, and Billie Jean King. Olympic gold medalist Troy Dumais tells the Washington Post, “It’s like a painting. A painter doesn’t know the overall finished painting. They have an idea. If they can see it, form it, and make it happen, that imagery work is what makes it happen.”
Visualization Boosts Belief
Not dissimilar to professional athletes, leaders who visualize the future feel more secure about where they are going. In turn, this boost of confidence has a significant effect on goal achievement.
As reported by Forbes, a TD Bank survey found that “people who imagine their financial and business goals are more confident they will achieve them than people who don’t.” Additionally, the study also concluded visualization techniques such as creating a vision board led to 76 percent of company owners toward achieving their overarching vision.
Steps of Visualization
Step 1: Define What’s Important to You
Business owners and executives can harness the power of visualization by working on specific, detailed imagined outcomes. According to research, visualization is most effective when a person develops their imagery capabilities. While some people’s mental imagery abilities might be naturally better than others, it’s a skill anyone can improve upon with practice.
Work Through a 3-Step Imagery-Building Practice
In order to imagine a clear plan, leaders must first understand where they actually are versus where they want to go.
- First, build upon mental imagery by defining what’s important to you as a business owner. Start by listing three of the top objectives you have for your life. For example, this might look like: “I want more freedom, travel experiences, and time at home with my family.”
- Next, sit down and write out what you’d like your life to look like. Start by working backward and visualizing your professional and personal life 25 years from now. Keep stepping back in five-year increments until you get to the present day.
When working through imagery, think about a wide variety of factors such as:
- Family goals
- Personal goals
- Financial objectives
- Professional achievements
- Vacation and time off
- Volunteer work
- Community building
- Continued education
- Get a poster board and begin creating a vision board. Print or cut out photos that bring your vision to life. Finally, place the representation of the vision created in a visible place in your home.
Keep adding to it as needed, honing in on the imagery. The more detailed, the better. Being clear and specific is where the magic of visualization happens.
Step 2: Shift into a More Productive Daily Routine
Implementation of clear daily actions builds discipline. In doing so, it helps push leaders even closer toward achieving their overarching vision. Dr. Josh Axe, a doctor of chiropractic, a certified doctor of natural medicine, and a clinical nutritionist suggests shifting into a better morning routine as a first step in following through on visualization techniques.
Below, Dr. Axe provides a great morning routine for business professionals that supports a healthy lifestyle that optimizes productivity levels.
Early Morning Schedule
Meditate (6:30 a.m. to 6:50 a.m.)
Dr. Axe recommends beginning each morning visualizing the day ahead. Meditating on the specifics of how you want the day to unfold helps your mind mentally rehearse having a great day. Additionally, this is a great time for prayer.
Workout (6:50 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.)
After meditating, Dr. Axe says spending the next 30 minutes to an hour working out increases oxygen and blood flow to the brain. In turn, this can help business owners or company leaders become more focused as they approach their workday.
Eat a Nutrient-Dense Breakfast (7:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.)
Having a healthy breakfast gives your brain and body the nutrients needed for a productive day. To jumpstart your mornings, visit this article on Dr. Axe’s website that provides 49 healthy breakfast ideas.
Set Goals and Visualize Achieving Them (8:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.)
Finally, Dr. Axe stresses the importance of taking the visualization of the day and making it a reality on paper. He sets yearly and monthly goals and then breaks them down into weekly goals. Next, when goal setting, he pencils key objectives into the week ahead. As a result, each workday starts with more focus, intent, and a plan of action.
When goal setting, think about:
- What must be true in order for the vision to become a reality?
- Who is by your side (your team) and how can they help you?
- Who needs to be hired?
- What areas need growth (personal and professional)?
Step 3: Learn How to Say No
Once a business leader establishes a vision, they must hold themselves accountable for making decisions that support the future they’ve imagined. As business mogul Warren Buffet once said: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.” In short, saying “no” creates space for saying “yes” to the things that achieve the visualization imagined.
Break Bad Habits and Build New Ones
Start by retraining the brain to filter every decision through the question, “Does this fall in line with my vision?”
This process supports the development of new habits. However, according to a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology, on average, it takes about 66 days for a new habit to fully form. “Performing an action for the first time requires planning . . . As behaviors are repeated in consistent settings they then begin to proceed more efficiently and with less thought as control of the behavior transfers to cues in the environment that activate an automatic response,” explain the study’s researchers. While it might be tough in the beginning, remember that consistency delivers desired results.
Create a “Stop-Doing” List
Additionally, best-selling author of Good to Great, Jim Collins, says having a “stop doing” list is just as important as a to-do list. In a blog on his website, he writes that he actually keeps these two lists side-by-side. He advises that “When you go over your “to-dos” for the day, make sure you start by reviewing your ‘stop doings,’”.
Make the conscious choice to eliminate actions and activities that don’t directly support your vision. Instead, focus on what is a priority. This applies to both personal decisions and company decisions. Even if it’s a good idea or a great opportunity, if it doesn’t align with the path you’re on, be resolute in saying “no.”
Live with the Intent of Achieving Your Vision
Without choosing actions that align with a person’s vision, visualization is nothing more than a dream. In fact, the only thing that turns a vision into a lived reality is intent-driven, aligned decisions, and actions that lead to goal achievement. Without executing a plan for accomplishing what is visualized, business and life end up off course.