Visualisation isn’t simply a case of ‘thinking about something’.
It’s about commitment. It’s about accountability
What Jonny Wilkinson, John F Kennedy and Google all have in common … And why writing down your goals makes all the difference
Have you ever been asked to ‘visualise your goals’?
There’s more to it than you might think….
Take the former England rugby star Jonny Wilkinson, Google and President John F Kennedy, all three have used goal visualisation to incredible effect.
It was Jonny’s incredible last-minute drop goal that won England the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia.
Did you know that Jonny had seen that drop goal sail between those very Sydney posts many, many times before it actually happened?
“If you have realistically imagined situations, you feel better prepared and less fearful of the unexpected,” he said in his autobiography.
“It helps your body to get used to performing under pressure. I visualise the ball travelling along that path and imagine the sensation of how the ball is going to feel when it hits my foot for the perfect strike.”
In Google’s case, John Doerr, the venture capitalist who was one of the tech giant’s first backers, wrote about goal setting and Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in his book ‘Measure What Matters’.
Doerr’s stance on the entire goal setting process is that visualisation isn’t simply a case of ‘thinking about something’.
It’s about commitment. It’s about accountability.
Creating focus, motivation and strategy
So many of us set a resolution for the new year only to renege on that very pledge just weeks, or even days, later…
And while the differences between, say, giving up meat and growing your business ten fold inside 12 months are stark, the essence remains the same.
Visualising what you want to achieve and putting it in black and white creates focus, sparks motivation and forces you to strategise and ask questions of your progress.
History provides further evidence…
In 1961, American President John F Kennedy set himself a goal of putting a man on the moon before the end of the decade.
But he didn’t simply imagine Neil Armstrong’s history-making step on to the lunar surface eight years later.
Firstly, he wrote it down in a speech.
And then he was held accountable by millions of Americans after the speech was documented by the world’s media.
That accountability ensured there was no let-up from Kennedy in his pursuit of that goal — even if he had days where such an achievement probably seemed light years away.
The research behind the commitment of goals is there, too.
In 2014, Dominican University professor Dr Gail Matthews pulled together 267 people of hugely differing backgrounds and split them into smaller groups. Some groups wrote down their goals and others didn’t.
The ones that put pen to paper had increased success rates of between 43% and 76% compared with those who simply thought about them. Why?
The brain is a wonderful machine…
Writing down your goals gives you a clearer picture of your future and, as we go back to visualisation again, helps to lift the fog and enable you to see where you could be.
Part of the reason Jonny Wilkinson was so incredibly gifted at kicking a rugby ball was because of the intrinsic link between his right foot and his brain.
It’s the same with hands.
The best cricket players in the field are the ones whose hand / brain co-ordination almost defies physics.
They can pluck a cricket ball from mid-air with one hand, while the rest of us simply stand and applaud and wonder how they did it.
That link between mind and body is there when you write things down, too.
Once that goal is committed to paper, it’s lodged in the mind.
It’s going nowhere — at least until it’s been accomplished.
Your focus becomes ‘narrowed’, too.
We live in a world of plentiful choice, but that abundance of opportunity can result in distraction.
So in a world when most of our thinking and note-taking takes place on our phones, maybe it’s time for an old-school approach.
Maybe it’s time to put pen to paper and physically write down our goals to focus the mind if we want to reach our own personal finish line ..?