Visualising your goals

By: Sophie Granlund, 20 February 2023 Categories: Organisational vision & strategy

One definition of visualisation is “a technique involving focusing on positive mental images in order to achieve a particular goal”. This is a very personal and immediate way to actively impact the way in which we set about accomplishing a specific goal. When we do struggle to visualise the way forward, an outside-in perspective and a growth mindset can be invaluable. We can gain a good understanding of this by looking at some historical and sporting greats, who, through various techniques, manage to achieve the seemingly impossible.

These so-called mavericks were seen by their peers to pursue rebellious, even potentially disruptive, policies or ideas. Society around them considered their visualisation practices to be controversial, but time soon proved that they knew exactly what they were doing. It’s true that change can make people feel uncomfortable. However, “The greatest discovery of all time is that a person can change his future by merely changing his attitude.” (Oprah Winfrey).

There are many successful figures in history who demonstrated significant resilience and determination, often in the face of societal disdain or personal adversity.

For example, Thomas Edison failed somewhere between 1,000 and 10,000 times before he invented the light bulb. Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, was rejected by thirty different publishers. He was so upset that he threw the novel in the bin, until his wife later fished it out and encouraged him to finish it. In 2012 Malala Yousafzai, a young teenager, spoke out about the rights of education for girls in her home nation of Pakistan. She was shot in the head, but miraculously survived and went on to become an international campaigner for equal rights.

The key learning from these examples is that due to a resoundingly strong ‘why’ for each of them, they proved they had what it took to fulfill what was apparently unachievable, according to either themselves or society at the time. Whilst they are all distinctive characters from different eras, the common thread between them is their passion and desire to make a difference in their chosen field. Despite many setbacks, they continued to visualise the way forward to their ultimate goals.

An inspiring example of an individual sportsperson who voiced particular clarity around his goals was Mohammed Ali, widely accepted as the greatest boxer to have ever lived. How did he achieve such immense professional success? Ali’s phrase “Live the rest of your life as a champion” was something he started stating long before he became world champion and manifested this belief every single day. He had a definite vision and dedicated all his time to fulfilling that objective, demonstrating unflinching self-confidence and determination to stick to his plan.

Last summer at the Euros, the England ‘Lionesses’ brought home England’s first major trophy since 1966, to the delight of a euphoric home nation. At the helm was coach Sarina Wiegman, the Dutch visionary who proved her methodical approach and influence on the sideline to be transformative. She was fluent in visualising the many steps it took that would lead to the trailblazing win for England women’s football. However, Wiegman made bold decisions that attracted much scrutiny along the way. Her mantra is that she has the utmost faith in the responsibility bestowed upon each player, coaching her side with a firm set of team-focused values. She expects each player not to focus on their individual goals, but the team’s goals, because success for the team leads to success for the individual. In the same way, any leader can adopt this strategy to mobilise their team with a clear focus on the goal and the process of getting there.

The last word should go to Mohammed Ali: "He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life." Whether we ask for an outside-in perspective from others or manifest our own mindset (or both) as we work towards our goal, visualising our belief in this process every day, could lead to even greater results.