3 Killer Tools You'll Need for Getting to Your "Next Level"
In a recent Facebook post, I wanted to encourage people I know who are struggling with reaching that next level of achievement. I pinpointed a conundrum plaguing many of us – the idea that when we deconstruct or reverse-engineer our circumstances, we often choose to pretend we didn’t see the problem, rather than put in the hard work to move to the next level. The comments to the post highlighted the fact that it’s not always easy to identify obstacles keeping us from success.
As a strategist and lawyer, I am systematically engaged in the processes of helping corporations, executives, leaders, managers, and teams deconstruct and reverse-engineer their obstacles in order to achieve success. Most individuals, however, have no idea where to start. Here are three killer tools I use to render high-powered results every time.
Mapping is a tool I use when I need to get my bearings on a subject that is large, dangerous, confusing, or broad. Should I take this new position? Should this partnership be formed? Should we leverage all our assets for this new acquisition? Big questions with potentially big consequences – this requires mapping. You want to see the big picture, and sometimes you can’t see the big picture without laying it out in context. Mapping is free-form, so it enables your brain to recalibrate your thinking as it sees the outcome of your thinking.
My process begins by laying out the dots and then connecting them. I am a visual person, so my mapping process actually takes place on a white board. I will lay out thoughts, questions, people, ideas, components, assets, risks, and opportunities. I draw big circles around these things, and then start looking for connections between them. I might make notes above, below, or around each circle. As these notes, lines and words go up on the board, I may erase and re-draw or re-write some things. Eventually, I will have a map, or perhaps an illustration of my thoughts on how to approach a situation or problem. The more I see my thoughts illustrated, the more I can understand them, including their implications. A friend commented in my Facebook post that she journals, and I believe using a journal to compliment the mapping process would be ideal.
I first encountered the concept of visualization during a visit to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs when I was in high school. I was a swimmer and was speaking with one of the training coaches in the facility. He described the process of visualizing the entire race, from warmup, to the start, the blocks, the turns, strokes, the finish, and everything in between. From that moment forward, my entire mindset changed. I visualized every single race. In my mind, I won every race before I ever hit the starting blocks.
It also changed my mindset for business and success. I visualize clients I will help, talks I will give, and events I will host. The key to visualization, I’ve found, is to walk through every single detail and to break up larger-scale situations into smaller chunks or phases. For example, I recently ran my first solo speaking event. Beginning months prior to the event, I would visualize waking up the morning of the event and preparing. I would see myself getting dressed, eating breakfast and gathering my things to put in the car. During each phase of visualization, I would ask myself if there was anything wrong with the picture (e.g., does my shirt need to be ironed the night before, will breakfast make my stomach hurt during the event, do I need a hand cart for my gear, etc.)? After visualizing through the entire day in phases, I had worked through it enough to where I could see every single detail in my mind long before I would experience it.
Visualization enables you to feel like you’ve already lived the experience, which calms your nerves and gives you guidance for overcoming obstacles. It’s a mental trick like, “I’ve done this before. I can do this again.”
If visualization gives your brain a familiarity with the roadmap for a circumstance, rehearsal gives you the practice necessary to actually connect with the bat with the ball. Malcolm Gladwell says you need 10,000 hours to become an expert at something, but many times, our opportunities to overcome an obstacle only come around once. When that’s the case, you need to spend a lot of time rehearsing how you will engage with the obstacle. Speeches, pitches, presentations, and other business activities often lend themselves to rehearsal. Those become much easier to rehearse because you can practice during your morning commute, in front of your mirror, or anywhere else at any time. Recognizing that your obstacle is something like fear of confrontation, however, presents a different set of complexities. How do you use “rehearsal” to overcome a fear of confrontation? You have to get creative.
Years ago, I wanted to improve my negotiations skills with pushy personality types. At the time, I was receiving a lot of unsolicited sales calls at home during the evening, so I decided to use those calls as my practicum for skills development. Some went well, some didn’t. I used those calls to develop a skill I wanted to improve, and I didn’t have to feel embarrassed or exposed in the process. When real negotiations with real pushy people happened, I had “rehearsed” a lot. I was – in fact – a much better negotiator.
How about you? How can you use mapping, visualization, and rehearsal to identify and overcome some obstacles in your life? I would love to hear about it. Reach out to me on social media and tell me about it.