Can Visualization Take Your Practice to the Next Level?
Chances are you are already using mental imagery, but how you use it and whether you use it by design or default can matter greatly.
Each morning before picking up the phone, do you motivate yourself by purposefully picturing yourself on stage as a Top 20 qualifier, surrounded by family and a supportive, impassioned team of colleagues? Or do you allow yourself to start from a place of apprehension as your mind instinctively pictures the range of negative responses from angry strangers unexpectedly interrupted by your unsolicited call? For humans, mental imagery has powerful effects on our emotional state which, in turn, drives our levels of motivation and resilience.
The potential benefits of positive visualization span a wide range of uses - from athletes like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods using visualization to improve their strength, technique, and consistency to Russian prodigy Natan Sharansky, who kept himself sane during a 9 year prison sentence by playing chess with himself in his head, and later, using all that practice to beat the world chess champion, Gary Kasparov, in 1996.
For financial advisors, there are a few scenarios where visualization can be particularly helpful:
When you have a clear, specific goal and understand the path required to get there, but effective execution and consistency prove elusive
When you are about to undertake a required activity in your practice that instinctively causes physical or emotional stress
When you are looking to break a habitual negative pattern of activity or behavior or looking to form and perfect a new one
In each scenario, visualization can assist in creating neural pathways for the positive process or activity required and, with repetition, in training your mind and body as if the activity were actually being experienced in real time.
Here are a few strategies to consider when using visualization effectively on your own path to achievement:
Make sure you're in a calm, quiet space that is free from potential distractions. Give yourself enough time to see the outcome and then walk through each of the processes required to get there clearly. If you have trouble at first, start with just a few minutes and gradually take longer amounts of time to see and hold the images. Expand and improve the images and details each time you picture it. If you don't feel the excitement and anticipation as you visualize the result, re-evaluate what your real desired outcome is and refine your goal as needed.
Keep Negative Thoughts At Bay
If obstacles or personal limitations start to pop up, calmly refocus on your natural strengths and abilities. It may be helpful to think of specific times when you overcame those particular limitations successfully in the past - how you did so and what it felt like to do it. Focus on positive activities and outcomes and allow the positive emotional energy that results to really set in.
See the Result with All 5 Senses
Using the same Top 20 example goal, when you close your eyes and imagine seeing yourself on stage in Milwaukee, what song is playing as you walk out? What else do you hear? How does each step feel as you walk out? Who is with you? How bright and what color are the lights? What else do you see? What do you smell or taste? What emotions does the experience of standing center stage conjure? What does the photo you'll put on your desk later look like? Walk yourself through each sense as you picture your outcome.
Focus on the Process, Not Just the Outcome
After seeing yourself in the position of having achieved your goal, focus on the top 3-5 actions required to get there. Staying with our example, picture your body language, voice and composure as you receive the green light on recommendations made to your largest client ever. Imagine your confidence as you ask for referrals and your gratitude as you receive the names of quality QS's from grateful clients. Picture a bright sunny day in your favorite power suit, enjoying your morning beverage of choice as you comfortably dial to fill your calendar.
Imagine You As Your Best Authentic Self
To keep your imagery realistic, make sure the successful approach you see to each process and outcome is congruent with how you see yourself at your best rather than simply emulating what you see as successful characteristics of others that may not feel natural for you.
Keep A Journal
Keeping one place to write self reflection thoughts, goals and ideas can be helpful. As you visualize, new ideas may surface: strategies to overcome obstacles, processes or paths to success, or motivational self-rewards to keep you on track and improve your consistency. At the end of your visualization, having your journal handy to write these down will help you implement your best ideas, incorporate them into your future visualizations and expand your imagery and ideas the next time.
Repetition Creates Skill
The first time you visualize mastering the tasks needed to achieve your goal, you'll be forging a new neural pathway. The more often you repeat the exercise, the more familiar and routine the process will seem. When you then perform the tasks necessary for success in real life, the positive patterns and emotions associated with the task you've visualized will start to replace old patterns and negative energy. Avoid the temptation to be easily discouraged by inevitable challenges and obstacles by remembering successful examples from your past and the emotional energy created by picturing your ultimate outcome.