If the idea of somehow being able to visualize your way to success in business makes you roll your eyes, trust me, I’m with you on this.
But I have to say, as crazy and woo-woo as this sounds, there’s something to it.
At least for me and my business.
Have you ever seen someone else in your space skyrocket above everyone else?
Online, people publish their income reports or talk about the six-figure launch they just wrapped up from their latest product.
Some show the process and break things down to show just how hard it is.
Some, on the other hand, are publishing success stories to toot their own horn.
If you’ve read those and thought, “I could never make that much money,” then this post is for you.
Because you can.
You just have to be able to visualize it, to see it, to believe it, and then, here’s the kicker, to work your tushy off to get there.
That last part is important enough to restate it another way: you have to put in the work. Always. But if you do the mindset work in advance, you will be putting in the work knowing that your efforts will pay off. You may not know when, but you will get there, and when you’re in the lonely world of entrepreneurship, sometimes that’s enough.
Still here? Good.
Follow these seven steps, and change your mindset.
1. Find an hour or two for peace and quiet
The first step to visualizing your way to success is to get some peace and quiet. Depending on your situation, this could be really challenging.
My favorite time of day is 5 am. Not only is my house quiet, but the rest of the world is also quiet. I can be alone without offending my family, missing work calls, or feeling guilty about missing exercise.
My friend Claudia of DIY Marketing loves working at night. She says the hours between dinner and bed are her best for deep analytical thinking.
Know yourself. If the idea of getting up in the 5:00 hour sounds impossible, take some time to yourself after the dinner dishes have been put away.
But find an hour or two somewhere in your day where you’re not expected elsewhere and you can think without distractions.
2. Determine your goals
Get out a notebook — not the kind you can plug in, either. This is a pen and paper activity.
Why? Well, for one thing, there aren’t other tabs open in your paper notebook.
Plus, we’re doing deep work, which means we don’t have the space for distraction.
So now, think big. What are you building? What are you working toward?
You started working for yourself not only to get out of the daily commute but to build something.
To change lives.
Now, this is going to seem morbid but think about your obituary.
What does it say?
How many lives did you change?
How present were you in your family?
How much money did you make?
Hopefully, your obituary doesn’t just say, “she sure worked a lot.”
Maybe you want to build a million-dollar brand. That’s a great goal.
This visualization exercise is not meant to focus on “how you’re going to get there.” It’s meant to give yourself a destination.
So don’t think of this as your five-year plan. Instead, think of the life you’re building toward.
3. Imagine life once you get there
In step two, you wrote down what you’re working toward. Right now, sitting here in the early morning light/late afternoon light/late evening dark, that goal might seem insurmountable and farfetched.
But that was the point.
Now, try to imagine life after you’ve reached that goal.
What does life look like?
My goal is to have a million-dollar marketing agency that requires 20 hours a week of my time. I also want to spend a month in the summer living somewhere else. Somewhere we can drive to when our kids are little, and somewhere more exotic as they grow.
Once I get there, I’ll have more time with my family. More time to center myself at the gym. More time to connect with people I care about.
With a million dollar agency, unless I do some serious overspending, I’ll be taking home a paycheck that will enable us to do the kind of slow travel I want (without taking the kids out of school). I’ll be able to help fund their dreams. I’ll be able to be more charitable.
This is an extremely powerful exercise because if you’re anything like me, you’ll see that some of the things you’re saving for “someday” can be done today.
Sure, I can’t work on my business only 20 hours a week. Not right now. But I can fiercely guard the downtime I do have by not working at night or on the weekends.
I can spend time with my family now. Quality time, when the kids are little enough to want to hang out with me. Maybe not as much time as I want, but being present in their lives outweighs the sheer number of hours spent with them.
I can spend more quality time with my husband. Protecting my downtime will go a long way toward strengthening our relationship.
The thing is, if I somehow forget my “why” for being in business, the monetary success will come, but there’s no guarantee that my family will stick around for it.
I can’t go to two yoga classes a day, but to think that I have to wait until I have a bigger business to go to any yoga at all isn’t good for my health (or my sanity).
The slow travel might even happen next year if we play our cards right and go somewhere reasonable and not crazy expensive.
How close can you get to your ideal life, right now, before you achieve your goal?
4. Observe your future self
After you’ve imagined what life is like, take things a step farther and observe your future self, living the life you’ve described.
How do you act?
What’s your personality like?
Do you speak up in meetings more than you do today?
How’s your sales pitch in the future?
How are you earning money?
Take a page out of Dickens for this — only don’t go dark. Travel into some set time in the future and see your future self.
Make this visualization as vivid as possible, and really describe what you see.
5. Bring it home
In step four, you created a movie of your future.
But it was more like a home movie from forgotten times.
No sound, blurry focus, general idea.
Now, take that, and bring it into high definition.
How old are you once you “get there” — wherever “there” is for you?
Where do you live?
What time of year is it?
Set a timer for eight minutes and write this part down. Paint a picture in your mind (or, if you can paint, paint an actual picture of what this looks like).
6. Breathe life into it
As you visualize meeting your goals and succeeding in business, try breathing energy into the picture. Make it truly real.
If the future version of yourself spoke up more in meetings, resolve to do that.
If future you were more confident, start planting the seeds of confidence.
Start being more present in the lives you care about, too.
Take small steps toward this future.
That’s the only way it gets done.
7. Accept the vision
At the beginning of this article, we talked about seeing other people succeed and thinking, “that could never happen for me.”
Now we’re going to work on that.
Only we’re not talking about other people’s visions anymore.
We’re talking about yours.
Do your goals feel totally impossible, even after all this?
Unless your vision includes walking on the moon without a moon suit (which I’m sure is a highly technical term), you’re wrong.
For some of you, this will be the single hardest part of the exercise.
It was for me.
But you’ve done hard things before. Things your past self wouldn’t believe were possible for you.
This is no different.
Your goal is (hopefully) ambitious, but it’s not impossible.
In fact, it’s doable.
It might not be doable by the end of the day, or even by the end of five years, but it’s possible.
In order to believe this, you need to start acting as if it has already happened.
Do I mean lying about your income? I most certainly do not!
But start writing things as if the goal you’re reaching for in the future is already present.
You’ll build confidence, especially if the future version of yourself has confidence and the current version of you lacks it.
Believe that you’ll be more confident one day, and today, be 1% more confident than you were yesterday.
In order to build this confidence, write down your goal on a Post-it note (there I go again, talking about writing things down on paper!). In fact, write the same goal on five Post-it notes. Place them strategically where you can see them. Put one in the bathroom, by your toothbrush. Put one by the coffee. Put one in your car.
And make sure the note is in this format:
“I have a million-dollar marketing agency and I work 20 hours a week.”
Well, put your own goal there, unless you and I share a goal! But don’t use any of the following words:
No. Instead, write it as if it has already happened. Seeing that phrase around my house motivates me every single day.
Visualization is a lot about building confidence. It’s also about tapping into the brain’s tendency to heighten your awareness of opportunities that have to do with what you’re focusing on. If it’s on your mind, in other words, you may be more likely to see the opportunities that come your way.
This post is a significant departure from the kinds of content we typically share here, but mindset keeps coming up in the conversations I have with business owners. We use the term “self-fulfilling prophecy” to mean something negative. But trust me when I tell you that doing the work outlined here, finding space, dreaming big, and actually imagining every aspect of your life once your dreams have come true, will help motivate you on even your lowest days in this entrepreneurial journey.