“Soon after the completion of Disney World someone said, ‘Isn’t it too bad Walt Disney didn’t live to see this’. I replied, ‘He did see it – that’s why it’s here’.”
– Mike Vance, creative director, Walt Disney Studios
Visioning is where my personal effectiveness quest began. In 1974, when I was just starting my straight commission Culligan sales job, someone recommended I read Claude Bristol’s book TNT: The Power Within You. The book sparked such an intensity of energy, excitement, and profound new awareness that I couldn’t get a good night’s sleep for almost a week. Even now, as I thumb through the book and recall that turning point in my life, a shiver runs up my spine.
Published in 1954, this was Claude Bristol’s second book (his first — which I read later — was The Magic of Believing). Both books were based on his decades of searching for a deeper understanding of, and applying, what he called “mind stuff.” This work came from his experience as a journalist studying and reporting on the full spectrum of spiritual and religious movements (especially fringe groups), building his own wealth and career as an investment banker, and his study of thousands of books on “the science of thought.”
Here are just a few of the many key passages and ideas from TNT that started my self-leadership juices flowing (the emphasis shown is his):
“Picture the force! It is the explosive force of a mental picture of what you want in life, given by you to your subconscious, touched off by faith in yourself and faith in God. Whatever you picture, within reason, can come true in your life if you have, sufficient faith in the power within! That’s your TNT — a mental picture of what you want and the faith that you can and will get it . . . we do not think in words. We think in pictures!
The universal language is feeling . . . this creative power operates like a magnet. Give it a strong, clear picture of what you want and this creative power starts to work magnetizing conditions about you — attracting to you the things, resources, opportunities, circumstances and even the people you need, to help bring to pass in your outer life what you have pictured . . . what you picture in your mind, if you picture it clearly and confidently and persistently enough, will eventually come to pass in your life . . . there is a universal law in the mental realm, ‘like attracts like’.”
TNT awakened me to the enormous power between my ears that I wasn’t using. I began reading many books and magazine articles on these topics and I attended presentations and workshops given by many of the leading authors, trainers, and speakers. I bought dozens of audio tapes on this and related “mental attitude” topics.
A strong early influence was personal development speaker and author, Zig Ziglar’s, audio tapes and his book, See You at the Top. In his book he wrote about the importance of “seeing the reaching.” He went on to state, “The world has a way, not only of stepping aside for men or women who know where they are going, but it often joins and helps them reach their objective.”
Over the next few years I used these approaches to build a successful sales and management career, quit smoking and biting my finger nails, lose weight and get into better physical shape, develop my writing and speaking skills, and help build Achieve into a top national training and consulting firm.
I even changed from being a “sickly kid” (I would miss weeks of school each year) to not missing a single work day because of sickness for a period of nearly 20 years. I blew my record with a number of ailments, unprecedented depression, and “sick days” in 1993 when the picture of my career future was the foggiest it had ever been.
Once the picture of my preferred future cleared up, so did my attitude and health. Our thoughts become things and really do manifest themselves in our lives.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavours to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
– Henry David Thoreau, 19th century American naturalist, poet, and essayist
My wife, Heather, and I have found that spending at least once a year in a quiet evening of uninterrupted time “daydreaming” has kept our marriage strong and our lives in focus. We look at family, house or home, our careers, our physical health, our financial health, community involvement, spiritual growth, and social life.
A “dream list” can help us find the core of our deepest and truest inner desires and vision. Recording every dream, desire, or goal that pops into our mind is a good way to start. Once the list is complete and exhaustive, we can start sifting through it to look for patterns or clusters. These can be grouped and prioritized to our dreams until they’re narrowed down to a manageable number. This is our personal source of energy and passion.
Imagery is what “emotionalizes” and energizes a vision. It’s a vitally important leadership skill. We seem to have a natural ability to image what we don’t want and then bring it into being. Reversing years of negative conditioning and bad habits so we can learn to vividly see what we do want isn’t easy. We have to work very hard at it. Since we’re all different, there is no universal “one approach fits all” way to increase our picturing power.
Here are a few ideas or keys that may can help develop this critical skill:
- Imagery often works best in a quiet relaxed place at our peak time of day (for me, that’s early morning just after vigorous exercise and a shower). We can start by focusing on our breathing, closing our eyes, and watching our thoughts on a big movie screen at the front of our head.
Here is a practice exercise – Count the windows in a very familiar home by mentally walking through all the rooms. Smell those distinct smells of each room. Feel the carpet or floor on bare feet. Hear the happy sounds of others in the house. Taste a favorite meal that waits in the kitchen.
- Focus on an aspect or area of our preferred future. We’ve been wildly successful. Explore that success. Hear those ideal conversations. See the perfect setting or physical elements. Smell the air. Taste the food or champagne. Feel the presence or touch of others or the material manifestation of our dream. Savor the scene. Wallow in it. Enjoy it.
- We might try tape-recording our descriptions of our vision. Play it back and use it to make notes. We can continue taping our visioning sessions until we’ve intensified the emotions and sharpened the clarity of the scenes to such a degree that listening to them sends shivers of excitement up and down our spine.
See the Appendix of Bernie Siegal’s book, Love, Medicine, and Miracles for his suggestions and other reference sources on relaxation, imagery, and visualization.
- I have found developing a number of personal affirmations is very useful. Napoleon Hill’s bestselling classic, Think and Grow Rich, is based on his 20 years of research on hundreds of highly successful business and political leaders commissioned by Andrew Carnegie early in the 20th century. He found that “auto suggestion” or “self suggestion” was a key to the success of the giants he studied. Today they’re often called “affirmations.”
- I have used a private “blessings and brag list” to build my confidence and reinforce my vision. It contains every accomplishment, strength, or success I’ve ever had along with all the blessings I’ve enjoyed. We have much to be thankful for. I keep adding to it. I review it frequently, but especially when I am having a “doubt day” or down on myself.
- If our job drains energy and we can’t get passionate about it, we’ll never be an energizing leader of others. We need to invest the time and effort in visioning our ideal job. Sometimes making changes in our current job will give us a dramatic energy boost. Richard Bolles’ book, What Color is Your Parachute, has an exceptionally useful Appendix called “How to Create a Picture of Your Ideal Job or Next Career.” It’s an extensive step-by-step workbook exercise that I, and others I’ve recommended it to, have found extremely useful.
Only share your vision with people who truly want to see you succeed and will encourage or help you get there. However, share, broadcast, brag on, take bets toward, or otherwise publicly declare your improvement goals. That paints you into a corner. Your pride will push you to keep going toward that goal when you’ve got to pull yourself out of bed early, pass on the dessert, or practice those new skills.