Skip
Current Issue
This Month's Print Issue

Follow Fast Company

We’ll come to you.

4 minute read

Leadership

The Skeptic's Guide To Visualizing Career Success

"Visualization" sometimes feels cheesy. This exercise can help you take your goals out of the clouds and put them in action here on earth.

The Skeptic's Guide To Visualizing Career Success

[Source photos: Flickr users Susanne Nilsson, emdot]

You want to be successful, right?

In fact, you’ve probably used that very word recently. But have you truly thought about it? What I mean is, have you deeply defined what the word means to you personally?

We bandy it about all the time, saying things like, "Oh yeah, I want to be successful" or, "I hope I’m successful," but rarely do we define it in a meaningful way for ourselves.

And that’s where things go wrong.

There are about a zillion articles out there telling you to just visualize it, as if it’s as simple as eating breakfast or checking your email. Plus, if you’re like me, sometimes the idea of "visualizing something" feels just a little bit, well, squishy. And squishy doesn’t often lead to results.

So, let’s be the opposite of that and get practical instead.

Get Started

Start with the idea of your success. To help you get there, we’ve got to know what the word means to you. What I think of as success and what you think of it are probably pretty different.

Ready—what does it mean to you? Insert your answer here: _______. (Well, in your head, this is a screen and you shouldn’t write on it.)

Maybe you wrote "making a lot of money" or "doing work I love" or "becoming CEO of a Fortune 500 company" or "working from the beach at all times, wearing shoes entirely made from sand."

Awesome—great work! Step one is complete.

Now, there’s more to do so we can understand and start to see your definition come to life. It's time to bring your senses into play and get descriptive.

If you chose making a lot of money as success, for example, what does that look like? What does that taste like? What does that smell like? What do you wake up to in the morning? How do you commute? Smell the gilded leather and get down and dirty with the fancy gourmet coffee.

Or, if you chose something like "doing work I love," then get in there and put your senses to work. When you do work you love, what do you wear? What does your desk look like? What do you smell in the air around you? What do you see in the mirror each morning? You get the idea.

How does seeing, tasting, touching all of this feel? Yes, this is a little out there, but you’ve got to make yourself walk through this process. Keep trying until you can accurately describe everything as if it’s a real memory.

You Aren’t Done Yet

Real results come from knowing why you’re doing what you’re doing in the first place. When you understand this on a deep level, it’s motivating and empowering. When you feel motivated and empowered, you tend to make things happen for yourself. So go back to your original statement on what success means to you and ask yourself why you want that. Dig a little deeper, because there’s something driving you and it’s time to shine a light on it.

I know I view success as doing work I love because it gives me a chance to realize my potential and have an impact on the world. That matters to me. When I start a new coaching project or create a new program, I think about the people who I’m touching. I see their sense of relief as they find answers to their big career questions. I visualize their sense of freedom as they leave behind a toxic job environment. I imagine them standing a little taller as they reach out to a new career opportunity or networking contact, knowing that I’ve helped to make them more confident.

When I visualize that, my work gets better (and, as a happy side benefit, so does my confidence in myself!).

What’s your why? Dig a little deeper than you have before, and connect with what is driving you. If it’s money, what is the money giving to your life? What is it allowing you to have or achieve?

See it, taste it, feel it. Revel in it!

Here’s The Final Part Of The Plan

Invite a friend or three to a round of happy-hour drinks or a cup of coffee. Run through this exercise out loud with them, each person sharing their own version of success. Warn them it might feel silly at first, but you’ve all got to take this seriously for it to work.

Get elaborate with each other, and help to draw out the visualizations as you chat by asking questions. For example, you might say, "I want to make a lot of money, which in my mind means I always fly first-class when I travel for work."

And your friends will ask, "What does first class feel like? Describe walking onto the plane and sitting down! What drink do you ask for from the flight attendant?"

Or you could say, "I want to become the leader of my company." And your friends might respond, "Tell us about your first meeting as leader, how do you walk into the room? What’s the first thing you say?"

There’s something so powerful about talking through your vision with people you trust. Not only does talking about it imply a commitment to making it happen (bravo!), but it also helps you flesh out your vision and make it more and more detailed, and therefore much more real.

If you can see it and say it aloud, you’re more likely to make it happen. So, get out there and grab your success. It’s waiting for you!

This article originally appeared on The Daily Muse and is reprinted with permission.

loading