Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's The How, Not The What

I am a big believer in visualization. I have found it to be an instrumental driving force behind change. In many ways my livelihood hinges on my ability to harness or create change within people and organizations, and I have often relied on the power of visualization in my work.

There is however an aspect of visualization that can be both subtle and startling. For me I bump against this tenet whenever I'm discussing future plans or goals. Especially when they are other peoples future plans or goals. I find myself talking more about how they are going achieve their desires, more so then about those specific desires. This actually works to my advantage because quite a few people only want to talk about the car they are going to drive, they aren't interested in what it takes to acquire it, so they learn to stop talking to me about it. ;-)

The Process is more Powerful than the Product


Have you ever heard someone say "It's the journey, not the destination."? This is a common sense way of explaining this same tenet. How you are going to go about doing something is more influential to your success than what you are trying to accomplish. How to use a tool is more important than acquiring one. The way you go about solving your problems will limit you more than the solutions you may or may not find.

This is a fully loaded tenet so I'm going to go into some more detail about how I apply this every day. When I'm talking to people who have goals, I don't start by asking them to visualize their goals. Instead I ask them to visualize the process of achieving those goals. I don't ask them what they are willing to do for their success. Instead I ask them what they are NOT willing to do.

This sounds pretty counter-intuitive until you realize that it is our limiting beliefs which truly rule our mental maps and models. Consider that guy you know who wants a bigger house. He wants the house, but he isn't willing to move to the middle of nowhere to afford it. That new car? But not willing to work an extra job. Fame? But not willing to wait tables and suffer the humiliation of auditions. Lose weight? But really enjoy dessert. They want to stop being hung over? But won't give up the weekend binge drinking.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? It isn't just about focusing on the limits. It's also about realizing that breaking down the limits is a process of change. It's fine to set a weight loss goal for 6 months out. But if you don't change your lifestyle in your little decisions every day, you likely won't meet your goals. If you want to have a comfortable retirement, but you are only contributing the minimums to your 401K, you'll likely not reach your dream. Afraid of speaking in public? Want to improve your self-image? Focus on the internal processes you use to restrict and limit yourself. When you can see the process you use you can change it.

The same is true with those people who want to talk about that better job or more money. When I tell them what they'll have to do to get it, they always do one of two things. They give themselves permission to do the necessary, or they realize they don't really want to do the necessary and they can finally stop obsessing over some future state and enjoy what they really have.

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