It was a great time to love baseball when I was growing up in Pittsburgh. The Pirates were a competitive team, and they won two world championship titles in the ’70s. My favorite players were Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente, and my passion for baseball only was enhanced by the fact that I played the game almost daily during the summer when I was a child and later in high school.
Today, I’m not sure I’d recognize baseball in school—especially with the changes in coaching and training. One of the more recent developments has been introducing young athletes to visualization. That same evolution is happening in today’s workplace. Visualization has become more widely known and practiced among professionals. You’ve heard me talk about the importance of having a positive influence on others; visualization is a strategy for having a positive influence on ourselves.
Almost everyone can visualize, so it’s become a tool that’s broadly accessible. Only 1 to 3 percent of people have what’s called aphantasia, or mind-blindness, which means you have difficulty forming mental images. For the rest of you who can visualize, you may be saying “Yeah, but does it actually work?”
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Rethinking Positive Thinking author Gabriele Oettingen says yes. Her research reveals that we should mentally examine the whole journey to a desired outcome, recognizing the potential setbacks that may present themselves and seeing ourselves overcome them. When you observe the barriers that might arise and how you’ll get past them, you’re creating an incremental path toward success. Oettingen calls her four-step visualization process WOOP, which stands for:
Wish: Visualize with incredible detail.
Outcome: Think about what your wish will bring you.
Obstacle: Consider the obstacles and evaluate how realistic your goal is based on them.
Plan: Write a plan to overcome your obstacles and visualize yourself putting it into action.
Whether I’m anticipating a work-related event, an interaction with someone, or even a round of golf, I’ve found a visualization routine helps me.
- I choose a quiet environment to contemplate a desired outcome.
- I imagine each step involved in reaching a successful conclusion.
- I spend time each morning to meditate on the current aspects of my life.
Together, these habits represent the day’s mental rehearsal and a way for me to experience the positive results before they happen.
If you’re inspired by the idea of having a positive influence not only on others, but also on yourself, consider a routine that allows you time and space to see the day’s events before they happen. As effective team leaders, we’re often focused on our external influence, which is a good thing. But don’t forget the equally important task of priming your own mind with a positive influence before the endeavor begins. We might all benefit from a little more WOOP in our daily worldview.