Jon Flatt speaks about the power of visualization

I wanted to talk a little bit about visualization, and visualizing things that you want to achieve. When we started KERV Interactive we had a lot of aspirations and a lot of goals. What we always did was set very high goals for ourselves and used those visual aspects of goal achievement to make sure that everything we are doing is really pressing forward towards achieving our goals. Whatever your goal is – if it’s to buy a beautiful car [or] go on a beautiful vacation – you should be looking at that visual, meditating and then understanding what it’s going to take to get there. It’s a great motivator; it’s something I’ve done throughout my whole career. When you really want something you always have to visualize, meditate on it, visualize what you want and make a plan to go get it. The visualization aspect of it is kind of building [a] bridge in your mind to get there, [and that] is a very important aspect to actually achieving [your goal]. I suggest every morning when you wake up – or evening, whenever you relax a little bit – look at something you really want, get a visual in your mind of something you really want to achieve and then go get it. – Jon Flatt, CEO at KERV Interactive

What Science Says About Visualization

1. Visualize first. Then plan.

According to more than 200 scientific studies on visualization, the best way to achieve real results is to utilize two types of visualization. This tactic is known as mental contrasting.

By following up your pie-in-the-sky Painted Picture with nuts-and-bolts strategic planning, you’ll have both the inspiration and the game plan necessary to reach your desired destination.

As you use mental contrasting, it’s critical to do the visualization and strategic planning in different places as these two processes require completely different mindsets.

The Painted Picture is best done away from the office so it it’s unencumbered by your current limitations, leaving the x’s and o’s of your business plan for your strategic planning process.

2. Having a vision is highly correlated with company growth.

Dozens of academic studies on what successful leaders have in common all point to vision as a core component. The evidence is clear: simply having a vision has a significant impact on the outcomes of employees and the organization.

In a study of 183 entrepreneurs (average revenue: $2.5 million), the average growth of companies with a vision was more than double than the companies without a vision.

3. Stories (told as visions of the future) change the way we think.

Another reason the Painted Picture works is that by visualizing abstract goals as pictures and videos, you’re essentially turning your future into a story that will stick.

Human beings are narrative creatures, and according to the research, great stories are not only easy for us to remember, but they also alter our beliefs, reduce our ability to detect inaccuracies and evoke new emotions in us. Our brains are wired to pay attention to and remember them.

To understand this phenomenon, you don’t need to look any further than your own personal experience desperately rooting for the protagonists in Jurassic World or for Elon Musk’s vision to colonize Mars. In other words, telling the story of your future company through a Painted Picture is a great way to inspire your team.

4. Making the future detailed makes it easier for you and others to prioritize it and make sacrifices for it.

Most people have trouble sacrificing something in the present in return for something larger in the future.

For example, in the famous “Marshmallow Test”children are offered one marshmallow right away or two marshmallows if they can wait for 15 minutes. About 70% take the marshmallow right away. Fascinatingly, the remaining 30% were much more likely to succeed in the future, including scoring 210 points higher on average on the SAT. (Forty years later, the findings still hold true).

What separates the two groups? It turns out that the difference lies in the availability bias. This is the cognitive bias where we make decisions based on what our mind can immediately recall.

In this case, the availability bias is manifested in the pleasure of eating marshmallows immediately. Our brain recalls that pleasure far more easily, in comparison to the relatively weak promise of future reward.

The young people who were successful hacked their brain by distracting themselves from the concrete short-term reward of eating the marshmallow. Instead, they focused on the abstract longer-term reward.

The Painted Picture operates using the same principle. By bringing the future into focus, it makes it easier for people to buy into it and sacrifice for it on a day-to-day basis.

5. Sharing a vision publicly creates internal pressure to make it a reality.

For all of the benefits of visualization, the true benefits to your business come when you share it. This is how we share our Painted Picture with our loved ones, employees, franchise partners and other stakeholders.

Public commitment, as documented by researcher Robert Cialdini, is an incredibly effective technique to get people to follow through with what they say. In one study where potential election voters were asked to publicly share if they were voting and why, next day voter turnout increased by 25%.

6. Revisiting it daily makes you like it more.

By revisiting the Painted Picture daily, I get more and more excited and committed to it. This phenomenon is called the mere exposure effect: the more we see something completely new, the more we develop a preference and have good feelings about it.

In one study on the mere exposure effect, simply repeatedly exposing people to fake Chinese characters for two seconds increased their liking towards those characters gradually.

No one has done a study on whether the mere exposure effect directly makes you more excited or committed to the vision, but that has been my personal experience and the mere exposure effect is one possible reason why.

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