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Purpose

How to Use Visualization to Achieve Goals and Success

If you want to reach a goal, you must ‘see the reaching’ in your own mind before you actually arrive at your goal.

— Zig Ziglar

  
Our brains are the most complex machines on the face of the earth. Human beings are only beginning to understand the vast power of our minds.
 
That’s why investments in research to explore the brain’s capabilities are increasing with initiatives such as the national BRAIN Initiative, funded with $150 million recently by the National Institutes of Health.
 
One remarkable and unique ability of our brain is to imagine future scenarios in rich detail, like our own virtual reality, to improve our performance under stress.
 
Paint a mental picture
You’ve probably heard the term “visualization.” It’s the process we can use to paint a mental picture of a future activity or event.
 
Athletes, business leaders, scientists and others have discovered that creating a rich, detailed picture of success in our minds can improve our performance.
 
Vivid mental experience
That’s why golf legend Jack Nicklaus said he would visualize every shot in his mind before he took them. Arnold Schwarzenegger would visualize his muscles growing before his workouts. Schwarzenegger said he also envisioned himself as a successful actor and politician for years before entering those professions. He says that in his mind, he had already achieved those goals.
 
Researchers say there are at least two phenomena driving this:

First, these mental pictures stimulate our neural networks, the nerve cells connecting our bodies and minds. When a vivid mental experience is created in our minds, our subconscious doesn’t make a clear distinction between this virtual reality and the actual event.
 
Second, researchers find that this mental rehearsal can calm our amygdala, the fight-or-flight center of fear in our brains. This can result in lower stress symptoms, such as stress hormones and increased heart rate. This gives us greater confidence in our abilities to complete the task at hand under pressure.
 
“Everyone can use imagery to prepare for all kinds of situations, including public presentations and difficult interactions,” says Daniel Kadish, Ph.D., a psychologist. “Mentally rehearsing maintaining a steady assertiveness while the other person is ignoring or distracting you can help you attain your goal.”

Strong and confident
This applies directly to improving your leadership and communications skills as well. When you have an important presentation, meeting or conversation, you can take the time to see yourself as strong and confident in achieving the outcome that you want.
 
If you paint a rich enough picture and try to actually experience the event, your subconscious will think that it has already taken place in the way you viewed it. This will help you to feel more comfortable and confident.
 
Performance coach Tony Robbins uses a ten-minute morning routine to "prime" his mental and emotional state for the day ahead. The last three minutes are dedicated to the visualization of completing a specific goal he is pursuing. "Don't think about making it happen, see it as done," Robbins says.

He imagines a celebration of completion, not only for himself, but he feels gratitude for how that goal will positively affect others.
 
Here’s a classic visualization exercise from The Charisma Myth by Olivia Fox Cabane (Amazon affiliate link), a book well worth reading on many levels.

If you try this exercise relating to a presentation or other situation you face, take the time to sit quietly and feel as if you are in the room where your communication will take place. See the people. Paint a rich, detailed picture of you achieving success.
 
Try it yourself: visualization exercise
The following visualization is a great tool to increase the amount of power you want to convey. You can try this exercise at home on the couch, at work sitting at your desk, or even in an elevator––whenever you have the opportunity to close your eyes for a minute.

  • Close your eyes and relax.
  • Remember a past experience when you felt absolutely triumphant––for example, the day you won a contest for an award.
  • Hear the sounds in the room—the murmurs of approval, the swell of applause.
  • See peoples’ smiles and expressions of warmth and admiration.
     
  • Feel your feet on the ground and the congratulatory handshakes.
  • Above all, experience your feelings, the warm glow of confidence rising within you.

Give this a try before you face a challenging communication situation. You’ll still need to do the work to prepare and rehearse, but you’ll find added confidence and better performance by visualizing your success.

Just visit our contact page to let me know if you have questions or stories about visualizing your success.

Many thanks to those of you who've been sharing these messages with your friends and colleagues. If you found value in this message, please do me a favor and click a button below to share with people who might benefit.

John
 

6 Easy Ways to Become More Optimistic

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
                                                       –– Winston Churchill


We all know people who remain upbeat and positive about the future, even in the midst of hardships or tragedies.
 
And all of us are familiar with the opposite: people who seem to have every advantage in life, yet take the negative view of every situation.
 
Research has shown that both of these approaches – positivity and negativity - have the potential of going viral by infecting the larger team and organizational cultures with positivity or negativity. With either emotion, we can spiral – downward or upward. It's a choice.
 
Pessimism is easy
Let’s face it. We live in a world filled with negativity. Pessimism is easy. Optimism is hard – it takes work, and we have to regulate our emotions.
 
None of us have a choice of what events we encounter, but we all have a choice about how we respond. And we are not only choosing for ourselves; our decisions affect our teams, families, friends and others.
 
There are good, practical reasons to maintain an optimistic view, including the simple notion that optimism can fuel us with the energy to pursue positive outcomes, despite the odds in sales, in business, in relationships, and in life.
 
Optimism may also help in the reduction of stress and its negative effects on the body caused by the release of cortisol and other hormones from the fight-or-flight response.
 
Optimism predicts resiliency
Research shows that optimism can also be a powerful force in our mental resiliency. Dr. Dennis Charney, the dean of Mount Sinai School of Medicine, studied some 750 Vietnam veterans who had been held as prisoners of war for six to eight years. Even though they suffered torture and were isolated in solitary confinement, they remained resilient.
 
Despite enduring inhumane stress, the research found that these POWs did not develop post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, as others had. Their secret? Charney identified 10 traits that set them apart from others, including having meaning in life – something to live for – and a sense of humor. But the number one trait was optimism.

Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl shared similar findings from his experiences in Nazi death camps, documented in his profound book, Man's Search for Meaning
 
Here are some tips to help you build and maintain optimism in your life and your work:
 
1. Practice gratitude. It's impossible to express gratitude and pessimism at the same time. At the end of my phone voicemail, I ask callers to tell me something they are grateful for. When I listen to their messages, sometimes there's a pause, with a flustered reply, such as "my family," and other times people give heartfelt, profound answers.
 
They might tell me about loved ones with a serious illness or a recent death in the family. The people who respond with these dramatic answers often have the greatest sense of optimism in their voices saying, “I know we will get through this” and “God is great.”
 
My practice upon waking is to immediately think of three things I’m grateful for in life, and why. For me, these can range from the critical: my family, friends, and health; the blessings of freedom in life and business; the opportunity to change people’s lives; to the mundane: a favorite meal, workout or coffee. These thoughts often end up making me smile; a great way to start the day.

2. Develop awareness. The first step is awareness. Every day, we and others create environments and situations filled with negativity and cynicism. We make pessimistic judgments and tell ourselves negative stories. It’s hard to know we’re wearing dark glasses until we take them off.
 
3. Assume the best. I have a CEO client who likes to say that “when we look into a dark room, we never assume it’s filled with angels.” It’s true. Research finds that we have a bias toward negative information (just turn on the TV news to confirm this) and we make negative assumptions. This might be protective wiring in our DNA, but it can impede our success.
 
Try assuming the best intentions of people and situations for a week and see if it changes your point of view. 

4. Keep your head up. Both literally and figuratively. You’ve heard the phrase "keep your chin up,” which means you should remain optimistic. As I’ve written about body language, how you position yourself can greatly influence your confidence and people’s confidence in you. Keep your head up and your eyes on the prize.
 
5. Try a negativity fast. Once we become aware of the high level of negativity in our lives, we have the opportunity to control the flow. Try going on a diet that limits your exposure to negative people, environments, and media.
 
6. Rewrite your story. Throughout the day we tell stories about our lives and businesses and about who we are. The person we tell stories to the most is ourselves and, particularly among high achievers, we will tell negative stories in comparison to others: “I’m not achieving enough; she is more accomplished; he has a better life.”
 
It’s funny because we’ll apply the negativity to ourselves, but we seem to always apply the positive filter when comparing ourselves to others: The rich and famous have those perfect lives; all of our friends on Facebook are living it up, and here we are caught up in the same old grind.
 
Rewriting the stories we tell ourselves – with a good measure of gratitude – will give us the lift we need for a greater sense of optimism.
 
None of this is easy. In a world of 24/7 social media and negative news, optimism can be a full-time job. But it is a task worth the effort, with remarkable benefits for us and those around us.
 
Develop your awareness and choose optimism.

How to Find Your Purpose in Life

Tomorrow is Memorial Day here in the U.S., when we honor the men and women who have fought and died in military service for our country. I am tremendously grateful for the sacrifices of our military and law enforcement officers.
 
In my leader coaching and training workshops, I often refer to military, law enforcement, and other protectors as the ultimate example of the power of purpose. These brave men and women are so aligned with their purpose – to preserve freedom and protect people – that they are willing to put their own lives on the line every day.
 
As you reflect on these brave souls this Memorial Day, you might also take time to consider your own purpose in life.
 
Can you imagine finding value in your work that would so deeply resonate with you?
 
The power of purpose
Though I am not making the same commitment as these brave people, I’ve been lucky enough to find my purpose in helping leaders find their truth and become great communicators.
 
In the first five months of this year I’ve traveled thousands of miles nearly every week to work with clients throughout the country, but I don’t get tired because I thrive on people experiencing personal growth. The feeling that I’m helping to change lives lets me tap the power of my purpose.
 
Speaking at a conference in Las Vegas last week, I witnessed the emotional resonance of purpose. In an exercise, I had asked people to share with a partner their life or business purpose. As I handed the microphone to audience members they gave powerful answers that brought tears to them and others in the room.

Most important days in your life
Richard Leider is an executive life coach and bestselling author of 11 books, including The Power of Purpose: Find Meaning, Live Longer, and Better. In his TED Talk, How to Unlock the Power of Purpose, Leider describes leading walking tours in Africa for decades, where he would interview tribal leaders.
 
He recounts his story of when a wise elder, becoming frustrated with too many questions around the fire, posed his own question to Leider: “Do you know the two most important days in your life?”
 
Leider replied, the day you are born and the day you die. The elder countered, the two most important days are the day you are born and the day you know why.
 
Leider cites research that having a clear purpose in life, particularly as we age, may ward off mental decline and increase life expectancy by up to seven years.
 
Search for meaning
Vicktor Frankl, soon after surviving Nazi concentration camps, wrote the seminal book Man’s Search for Meaning. He noted similar benefits, observing that when his fellow prisoners would lose their sense of purpose, they were more likely to become sick and die.
  
Finding your purpose
Leider, the executive life coach, has a couple of simple methods for unearthing your calling in your vocation.
 
First, ask these questions and rate your answer with a 1 (lowest ranking) to 10 (highest ranking):

1. Do you love what you do? 1-10
 
2. Is there any part of your day where you love what you do? 1-10
 
3. Are there any people you love serving more than others? 1-10
 
Your answers to these questions will give you clues about areas that hint at passion in your life. If you rated your job poorly, but love coaching soccer or mentoring students, it may be a clue that you should be teaching or coaching.
 
If you have certain clients that you like serving more than others, perhaps seniors or recent graduates, you might have also identified a niche that inspires you.
 
The napkin test

Second, here is Leider’s “Napkin Test,” which he calls the Purpose Formula: G + P + V = C. That is, “Gifts + Passions + Values = Calling.”
 
It’s a simple and elegant approach, but it takes some introspection and work to identify and align your gifts, passions, and values.
 
Leider says you can be fundamentally happier, more fulfilled, and more productive if you bring more of yourself to what you do. From my experience in my life and with my clients, I concur.
 
Finding your purpose can be a long journey, but it’s a road worth traveling.
 
You can travel down this road right now. The slower pace of summer is an ideal time to consider the most important question of your life: what is your purpose?
 
Will you reflect on that as you enjoy this Memorial Day weekend?

To share your thoughts with me you can visit our contact page.

I look forward to hearing from you.