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3 Visualization Strategies to Create Breakthrough Results

Mar 10, 2024

“I would visualize things coming to me. It would just make me feel better. Visualization works if you work hard. That’s the thing. You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”

                                                                                                         - Jim Carrey


Visualization combined with inspired action can be one of the most powerful tools in a leader’s toolbox for success. 


When you look at elite-level athletes, you will notice that the difference between them in athletic talent is oftentimes so minuscule it is almost non-existent.  It is the person who creates the trifecta of combining the power of their body, mind and spirit that will experience the greatest probability of powerful performance and victory. 


If our hearts are the source of our desires, and our bodies are the vehicles to enact them physically, then your minds are the sculptors that help to make them a reality.  Visualization is an incredibly powerful tool for creating what we want to make manifest. 


Years ago, a study at the University of Chicago was done to measure the power of visualization. 


Several college students were brought to a gymnasium and were asked to begin shooting free throws from 15 feet away from the basketball hoop to measure how many they could successfully make in a defined period.  Their results were noted, and the participants were then broken out into three groups for the continuance of the study.


  • One group was to practice shooting free throws 15 minutes each day, Monday – Friday for the next six weeks. 
  • Another was not to not pick up a basketball for the entire time period of the experiment. 
  • The final group was asked to simply visualize in their minds for 30 minutes each day taking and successfully making free throws for the next month and a half. 


At the end of the trial period, the participants returned to the gym and each group once again attempted to complete as many successful free throws as possible. 


  • As expected, the group that physically practiced free throws each day had the greatest level of improvement (24%).
  • While those who had done nothing had no improvement in their performance (0%)
  • However, in amazement to the experiment facilitators, the group which had simply visualized making free throws each day showed a 23% level of improvement, almost the exact level of those who practiced physically during the study.


Now, I do not take this experiment to mean that we never have to take physical initiative to realize our dreams, but it does speak to the power of our imaginations in creating what we want to achieve.  As a competitive athlete, martial arts instructor/student, speaker and life coach, I have frequently used the power of visualization to prepare me for athletic events, crucial conversations and speeches.  Almost without fail, the results I have achieved have been exactly what I visualized or even better than I expected. 



So how can we all leverage the power of visualization in your role as a leader to create the results you desire?


Here are three practices I have learned to use to maximize the impact of visualization.


1) Focus on the process – Many people believe that focusing on the end-result we want to achieve is an effective means of visualization. While it may feel good to see visualize yourself on the medal stand, it has been my experience that I am most effective when I focus on the process for attaining what I desire rather than just how I want things to end up. 


If you have a big sales call, for example, refrain from just focusing other customer giving you a signed contract.  Instead, focus on how you will masterfully share your information during the sales call while connecting with the customer and truly communicating how what you have to offer can meet their needs and or solve a problem them are experiencing.


2) Make it a full-sensory experience – We are multi-dimensional beings. It is not just our minds that respond well to visualizations, but actually, we get the maximum benefit when we incorporate all of our senses and feelings.  What does it look like, feel like, taste like, smell like? 


I not only used this strategy as a competitive athlete, but also today as a professional speaker.  Before a talk, I not only use visualization to take myself through specifics steps of my keynote presentations, but I also feel myself connecting with the audience, seeing their eyes light up when I make a salient point and hearing them laugh at my jokes. 


3) See what you desire (even in the face of challenge) – One of my teachers once said to me,


“If you are going to fantasize, you might as well win!”


How many times do we allow doubt and fear to creep into our visualizations, as we become fearful of the “worst that can happen?” It does not mean that we ignore challenges that may arise.  On the contrary, it simply means we program ourselves to positively deal with circumstances if something goes awry. 


In 1999, the year I won the national Taekwondo championships, I went into the competition with a right hamstring injury.  In the third round of my first of four matches, I re-injured my leg.  However, knowing re-injury was a possibility, I had prepared how I would deal with it if re-injury occurred.  After winning that first match, I had my coach massage and wrap the injured leg and then I went and mentally rehearsed my fight plan I had created if injury took place.  I then regrouped and went onto win my next three matches and the championship.



This week take some time to visualize a result you would like to achieve before an upcoming event of importance.  See, feel and “experience” the result you desire before it happens.  Then, note how the situation ends up and see how consistent it was with what you had visualized.


And remember, if you are going to fantasize……..you might as well win.


Chris Natzke

Black Belt Leadership Speaking & Coaching




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