Visioning your future is the act of seeing in your mind what you want to happen. It is more than just thinking about what you want to happen. You need to see your vision as an accomplished feat, as if it has already happened. In your mind’s eye, your vision is real, as if you’ve already reached your goal.
Here’s an example: I recently went through a Rusty Wallace Racing Experience in which participants drive NASCAR cars around a pro track. You can drive as fast as you want, and it can get a little scary. Before you put on the fire suit, helmet and neck brace, the instructors take you through a one-hour training course. (If you didn’t buy the insurance upfront, then you sure will want to by the end of the instructional session — they do a great job of scaring you!) One of their main points is to “look where you want to go.” Over and over they say, “If anything goes wrong, remember to look where you want to go because if you look at the wall, you will hit the wall; if you look at a car in front of you, you will hit that car. So look where you want your car to go and you will go there.”
Visioning is the same thing.
When we visualize how our lives will be when we’ve realized our dreams, our bodies and minds have an interesting way of helping us get there. Visualization unlocks a critical component in goal setting. It allows you to envision what needs to change in order to get you where you want to go. It helps you to feel the sensation of reaching your goal even before you get there. Visioning your goal actually releases endorphins, which are the chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. That’s how real it can feel.
When I visioned the successful completion of my first Ironman race, I visualized crossing the finish line and giving people high-fives everywhere I went. I envisioned the feeling I would experience knowing what I had just accomplished. I visualized telling all the people back home that I’d done it. Visioning my success in detail helped me endure the grueling training schedule and helped me get through some dark days.
When I finally crossed the finish line, my vision sprung to life.
It has worked this way for me in business, too. I remember going for a run one morning and thinking about what a failure I had become. I had launched my own business, but I’d had a lot of trouble gaining traction and getting any sustainable revenue. As I ran, I kept thinking that I should shut the company down and get a job working for someone else. I was working hard at my startup but without any real purpose, and I wasn’t sure where I was headed.
On that run, I remember looking up at these huge, eight-foot tall and higher, century-old trees growing right next to each other. They were all gnarly and tangled and competing for sunlight. I thought to myself, “Each of these trees somehow found a way.” It wasn’t a clear path straight to the top. They had to grow and change to find their direction to the sun, and their survival depended on bending and adapting themselves.
I realized then that I had to be the same way. I also had to adapt and change. I had to see my way toward my own sun, my own future, and the type of company I wanted to create. That was a turning point. I started visioning myself running a successful small business. I saw myself traveling the world with the ability to work from anywhere. I saw myself driving nice cars and having the money to buy what I needed and wanted. Even though I didn’t know exactly how to get there, I began focusing intently on where I wanted to go, and gradually my path started to light up.
The following is an excerpt from the author’s recently published book, Shut Up and Go!