Positive anticipation of success builds confidence and certainty. Once you have visualized success in your mind and celebrated your victory, you know that you can do it. This is different from thinking you “can” do something, because you have proof. In your mind’s eye, you have seen yourself win and already felt what it was like — so of course, you can do it again.
Athletes do this kind of all the time. Michael Phelps, the incredible U.S. swimmer who has won 18 Olympic gold medals, visualizes every moment of every single race he swims. His coach, Bob Bowman, calls it “putting in the videotape.” Every night and every morning, Phelps rehearses his upcoming race. He sees himself walking out to the pool, standing on the block, getting into position, jumping in the water. He sees and feels every stroke, every breath — right up until the moment that he touches the wall ahead of everyone else.
Phelps also visualizes what to do when things go wrong, like the time at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 where his goggles leaked and he had to swim an entire race completely blind. (He still won the gold, by the way.) But what he never visualizes is failing to achieve his goal. He uses his mind to create the physical, mental and emotional habits of success.
But most of all, Phelps doesn’t stop his visualization with the sight, sounds, and feelings of touching the wall. He also sees his head coming out of the water, ripping off his swim cap, looking up at the timer on the wall, seeing a record-setting time — and then celebrating his victory. He creates a positive anticipation of success each time he visualizes.
The process of visualizing exactly what you want, and then feeling as if you already have it, is something everyone should practice and master — because the brain doesn’t know the difference between a real and a well-imagined event. That is the way we work. Of course, it also works for bad events that have happened in the past or you are worried may happen, but this is not where you want to live.
So before you ever get started, make a practice of visualizing yourself as being successful at whatever you attempt. Like Michael Phelps, every night and morning run the videotape of whatever you need to accomplish. See every moment and feel it fully. Then you too will find yourself on top of the podium, with whatever your version of a gold medal draped around your neck!
The next post will talk about the effects of meaning upon our thinking.