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Visualize your goal

visualiseOkay, so you know what your goals are…but do you know what they look like? i.e. can you visualize yourself having achieved them? If not, I urge you to think about it, and answer these questions:

How do you see yourself in the “picture of your success”?

Where are you?

What are you doing?

Who are you with? How do you look?

Give yourself a clear picture of the situation. Be specific.

Also, experience your success. How do you feel having achieved your goals? Confident? Happy? Fulfilled?

Put all of this together in a simple statement. For example, “I have achieved X. I am in my large corner office overlooking the river, while wearing a designer suit and Jimmy Choo shoes. I feel the way I did in high school the day I heard I’d made valedictorian!”

“Why all the detail?” I hear you ask. Well, for two reasons. First, if you make yourself visualize your goal, it forces you to focus on what you really want. You might want a nice house (OK, right, who doesn’t?), but what sort of house? Where is it? What does it look like? Doing this exercise can be eye-opening. One young lawyer I mentored was feeling uncertain, so I asked her what her goal was. “To make partner, of course,” she replied. However, when I asked her to do this exercise, she realized that she had never really thought about the details of her goals—or (worse still) about what achieving them would really mean to her. The exercise made her recognize that she did indeed want to achieve partnership—but at a very different type of firm.

Second, visualizing a goal as though it were already reality gives your mind a powerful blueprint (read: weapon!) for what you want to achieve. When you do this, your subconscious inevitably responds, “Fine, if that’s how things look, then what can I do to make the reality match that picture?” And by visualizing yourself acting out your goals, you can create or strengthen the neural network in your brain to support their implementation. Visualizing causes the same neurons in the brain to “fire” as if you were in fact doing whatever you’re imagining, whether it’s showing the prime minister around your law chambers or winning the Masters golf tournament in Augusta! When you then attempt to achieve your goal, the brain is pre-patterned for success and instantly envisages a foundation to support your endeavors.

Another great technique is to draw a picture of your success, or to cut a photo from a magazine that represents its achievement. This makes your vision clear, vivid, and personal, and if you look at the same photo over and again, it “centers” the subconscious. For example: tennis champion Chris Evert is known for espousing visualization techniques. While commentating during a Wimbledon championship, she told a story about Venus Williams that struck me as significant. When Venus was still a young and relatively unknown player, she and her father visited Ms. Evert. During the visit, Mr. Williams asked permission to take a picture of Venus holding Evert’s Wimbledon trophy. Evert agreed. In these photos, Venus held the trophy up as if it were her own—and by implication, I assume that she studied these photos again and again. How prophetic, as the picture was finally played out (so far five times) in reality!

One of my (very successful) friends routinely inspires himself by imagining himself with every image and every trait that he aspires to. His daydream always ends the same way, as his biggest rival comes up and grudgingly congratulates him on winning some “unwinnable” case!

In his best-selling book (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People), Stephen Covey suggests that we should all begin with the end in mind (Habit #2), a theory based on the principle that every accomplishment is in fact created twice, first mentally, and then in physical reality. Whether it is building a law practice or a house, the idea has to come first. Sometimes the mental creation is unconscious (perhaps an outcome of other people’s agendas or of things we once heard), and thus the result is unintentional—but nonetheless, the principle of mental creation first is still at play.

So I strongly advocate your taking control of that first, crucial, step: Generate a purposeful mental picture manifesting the goal you want to achieve. All the great achievers today do this, from top businessmen to professional athletes.

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