How Visualization Saved Me From Failing

airport+parking+free+parking+generic+lotManic Impressives are brilliant with words and ideas. But we often struggle with things. Especially the organization of things. Given our special relationship with time, showing up on time with everything we need is something we can never take for granted.

Which is why my recent trip was challenging all my weaknesses.

After 15 minutes trolling the gigantic airport lot, I found a parking spot, gathered my things and headed toward the shuttle bus. Backpack over my shoulder, suitcase in one hand, the other hand swinging free. Halfway from my car to the shuttle my free hand signaled my brain – “Hey, where’s the thing I’m supposed to be holding?”

Crap, left my horn in the trunk! How could I? I was heading to a gig and had spent hours practicing. How could I forget?

I hustled back to the car, grabbed the case, and made it to the shuttle feeling a bit stupid. But then I started feeling smart again. I hadn’t failed. I had remembered. But how had I remembered?

Visualization.

I’ve watched enough Olympic Games on TV to learn that before every race, dive or routine, pro athletes will visualize themselves performing their sport to perfection. They’ll close their eyes and see themselves executing each individual task flawlessly. Then when the gun, bell or whistle goes off, their bodies react automatically and they perform better.

The night before I headed to the airport I’d done the same thing. I visualized myself headed into the airport with my backpack on, my suitcase in one hand and my horn in the other. My body knew what I would be asking it to do well in advance of that parking lot moment.

When I left my car, the hand that was supposed to carry my horn noticed it was empty. It knew from the visualized rehearsal it was supposed to carry something. It sent a signal to my brain and that caused me to remember.

Sadly, as a raging Manic Impressive, I give my body and my brain many opportunities to practice this process. People like me seem to always be looking for misplaced wallets, keys, papers and glasses. And yes, sometimes even horns.

Visualization is a powerful technique to help us keep our sh*t together when we’re heading to the airport. But it’s also a secret weapon to get better performance in meetings, presentations and one-on-one encounters. If you put your mind in a situation ahead of time, you can prepare your body to react better, faster and smarter.

Heading to a worrisome meeting with your boss? Play it out ahead of time in your head. Close your eyes, see yourself walking into the office, hear yourself giving a greeting and see yourself sitting down. Role play what your boss is likely to say and how you will respond.

First, run through the worst case scenario. Imagine the worst thing your boss could say, then respond (again, this is in your mind) in the most appropriate way. If you’re worried about getting fired, then play it out that way.

Boss: “Your work stinks, you suck, and you’re fired.”

You: “That’s funny, I was coming here to tell you the same thing.”

See yourself standing up, shaking hands, saying something like, “It’s been my pleasure”, and walking out with your head held high.

Then take a few breaths and visualize the more likely scenario. Your work is generally good, but there’s room for a little improvement. Or, you’re a valued employee and you’re getting a raise. Or, they can’t afford to waste your talent in your current position so you’re being promoted to be your boss’s boss.

Even if none of those things end up happening, visualizing your intended outcome will prepare you to be more confident and respond more productively.

So the next time you have a presentation to your leadership team, a Parent/Teacher conference, or an appearance in front of a judge, close your eyes and visualize yourself performing well and getting what you want.

Then run back to your car, grab your case, and prepare to toot your own horn…

7 thoughts on “How Visualization Saved Me From Failing”

  1. This is great, Aram. I hadn’t thought of visualization as a way to help myself keep track of things, but I’m going to give it a try. I mean, there have been times when I’ve had to go back to the car for something more than twice!

  2. Adrenaline coursed throughout my body as I slowly inched my way toward the rapid. I positioned myself carefully as I entered the whitewater. About thirty feet upstream from the big wave, I started to paddle hard, taking short strokes to power through it. 20 feet. Ten feet. That’s what makes visualizing failure so helpful for perfectionists who often have a hard time starting things. If the failure we’ve just visualized is as bad as it can get, then why not try? It lowers the bar and takes the power of failure away.

    1. Nice take, Rupert! I’ve always visualized successful outcomes to draw me toward that. I like your method for using it to face down fear. Good example of embracing worst possible case. . .

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