“You can’t do it unless you imagine it,” observed George Lucas. This applies to elite amateur and professional athletes, CEO’s, high school seniors applying to college, couples on dates, and me writing this article. In fact, it’s a universal inborn power-tool for all successful endeavors.
You remember those bracelets that were being advertised on television that promised physical stability and more just by wearing it? They had an unsuspecting mall shopper attempt to stand on one foot. Of course, the person fell over. Then they asked the same shopper to simply put on this super-duper special magic powered bracelet and whoosh, this time the individual was able to experience better balance on the same foot. But wait…there’s more.
You see, any act you do twice becomes easier the second time around. When you use your imagination the way top athletes do, that’s the first time and when they – and you—then perform the act in real life, that’s the second time. The story was reported that Lyndon Rush, the famed Olympic bobsledder from Canada, mentally rehearsed, imagined, going from curve 7 on the track to curve 14 mentally stimulating competition—and he was still only in the airport in Munich before arriving in Sochi.
Among the athletes, CEO’s, millennial entrepreneurs, reports and actors that I coach, it’s clear that Carl Sagan was right when he noted, “Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.” The more an individual imagines having competed a performance fully with unbelievable success BEFORE attempting it, in a multisensory way, the better he/she will do “the second time.”
Full multisensory engagement is the key. I ask CEO’s and athletes alike, to imagine seeing in their mind’s eye the audience, the crowds in the stands, where he/she is standing or sitting, what people are doing, hearing the crowd, feeling the temperature in the board room or on the field, and use all of their senses to walk through the experience to a complete success.
There’s a physiological explanation, of course, that underlies why imagery is so connected to your successful endeavors. What you imagine, well, I’ll let Picasso say it, “Everything you can imagine is real.” What you see in your mind creates neural patterns in your brain just as though you had actually performed the feat you desire.
How can you use this to help you get to the gym, sign the business deal, interview successfully for the new job, or score a second date with that fabulous guy or gal you are having a drink with?
Here are the steps to propel you to unthinkable abundance, success and optimal life:
- What’s your desire? Don’t be afraid to state it fully, larger than you may have felt you deserved, boldly and clearly. The more concrete your goal is, the more you can touch and feel it, the better. Where are you going on that second date? Where are you going to park your car at your new job? What’s your office look like? What’s the press release going to say about your new business success?
- Be sure you live with this imagery positively, with certainty, daily, many times throughout your day. Don’t be afraid of playing the tape too many times in your mind—be bold or you won’t see your success materialize. Repeated imagery will build confidence and control when you experience the performance in real life.
- Follow Dr. Seuss’s advice, “Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!” You will insure that you benefit from imagery as much as athletes do when you genuinely believe it works. It’s not wishing, it’s science. Galinsky and Kilduff, in the December, 2013 Harvard Business Review, described a process, “priming for power,” that involves shifting your attitude in advance of an important meeting or event. In this imagery, they suggest triggering thoughts of your aspirations and goals, happiness and feelings of power. The science? In addition to establishing the neural pathways I described above, this also reduces cortisol (the “stress hormone”) and increases your optimism and performance.
- When you do engage in this success-boosting insurance policy, be sure you only imaging pure success—no room for anything else. Why ask for the moon but think it’d be ok to have less? Success requires complete focus on arriving at the goal line in victory, not mediocrity.
- Finally, let’s finish with Stephen Covey’s wonderful advice, “Live out of your imagination, not your history.”