20/20 Advice About Visualization


(By Jeff McHugh) Can you create success by visualizing it? Some visualizations can help you reach your goals and others are a waste of time and energy. My friend, author, and communication coach Kes LaGuerre shared with me how basketball players improved free throws through visualization.

A study at the University of Chicago divided players into three groups:

  • One group practiced free throws every day for an hour.
  • The second group just visualized making free throws.
  • The third group did nothing.

The actual practice group improved by 24% and the visualized practice group – which never set foot on the court – improved 23%!

Similar studies at the University of California saw golf and tennis players improve their results by imagining themselves training.

What Does Not Work

“If you can see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand.” — Bob Proctor

That statement sounds nice but is not completely accurate. A book called The Secret by Rhonda Byrne was a bestseller a few years ago. Readers were encouraged to create “vision boards” of the life they wanted, and the law of attraction would manifest your dream into reality.

Give it a try, I thought. My vision board had pictures of my Portland condo, my then-girlfriend, the car I wanted, my friends, a jet airliner representing travel, and my dog.

Within a year everything on the vision board (except the dog) vanished!

My job was eliminated, had to move out of my condo and away from friends to find work, broke up with my girlfriend and my newly scrawny paycheck made Delta Airlines forget who I was. My vision board repelled dreams.

Science has disproven the idea of vision boards. Visualizing yourself in a Ferrari gets you exactly zero Ferraris and makes you feel like a failure every time you start your 2007 Taurus. What is more effective is visualizing yourself taking action towards getting a Ferrari or whatever you wish.

A study at the University of California told one group of students to imagine how great they would feel after scoring well on a test. Another group was told to visualize studying for that test and a third group visualized nothing.

The group who visualized success tended to study less and bombed the test. The students who visualized preparing for the quiz felt less stressed and had much higher grades – they studied more.

Visualizing goals can be demotivating. Another University of Pennsylvania study tracked students who visualized their dream job. After graduation, the students who spent more time fantasizing about the job they wanted and did not apply for as many jobs, got fewer offers and made less money.

How could visualization help your career as host of a radio or podcast show? Get in touch with what you want, then visualize the steps you need to take to create that reality. Some brainstorms:

  • To increase ratings, spend regular time visualizing yourself planning more of your show. Where and when you would work, how you would organize ideas, would you pre-write teases on paper or computer, etc.
  • To generate better ideas, visualize how you might practice good creative habits like collecting ideas on your mobile device, journaling, meditating, or committing to a one-hour weekly digital detox where all electronics are switched off.
  • Want to make more money? Visualize preparing for salary negotiations, researching how your show generates revenue and how much, picture yourself reviewing Nielsen, download numbers, and stream data that proves your performance, or imagine shopping at a bookstore for helpful advice on negotiation.

Life is unpredictable and experts say a majority of the good and bad that happens to each of us is just stupid luck. Consider how visualizing efforts and actions instead of goals might get you closer to what you want.

Jeff McHugh is known for developing remarkable talent for both morning and afternoon drive. He brings an uncommon mix of positivity, creativity, and strategy to the shows that he coaches. He is a member of the team at the Randy Lane Company. Reach Jeff at [email protected] and read his Radio Ink archives here.


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