I remember it like it was yesterday. I was managing a group of high-performers during my banking career. That afternoon, I was going before senior management to get approval for a sizable initiative I’d proposed.
I needed their backing and financial support to bring it to life. It was ten minutes before the meeting where I had to convince them.
I started to worry I wasn’t prepared enough. I saw in my mind the stakeholders around the table looking at me like I was crazy, my boss embarrassed of my presentation, and nobody going for what I was selling. I mapped out the unraveling of the entire meeting and saw my hard-earned reputation shattered.
Now there were only seven minutes before I’d be in the board room.
Then I stopped. I’d heard recently that spending time worrying creates what you don’t want. I’d never tested the theory, but I figured if there was a chance now was as good a time as any to change my thinking to a more supportive and positive reality.
I mapped out a positive outcome instead. I saw it in great detail. I saw myself fully articulate in my presentation, others contributing additional details and support, and everyone agreeing to the full proposal. Imagine my shock when the scenario played out as I’d seen in the positive reality I’d focused on.
Since then positive psychology has proven the theory true.
Brain science confirms that your brain constructs a world based upon how you expect it to look. The more time we spend imagining what might go wrong, the less time and resources our brain accesses a plan for things going right.
Assuming the worst until your proven wrong seems like a safe bet. After all, that way you’re never surprised or duped, and you have a plan for when things go wrong.
But because what you map out first in your mind is more likely to become reality, it’s best to spend your brain’s valuable resources looking for a success route before an escape route.
I initially started by looking at how I was going to fail rather than nail my presentation that day, but I caught myself in time to turn my brain’s resources to a win rather than a loss.
Since then I’ve learned you should always see your path to your desired outcome before you make a plan to survive mistakes or failure.
So if you want to start a business, don’t focus on all the businesses that fail in the first year. Instead focus on the ones that succeed, your passion to get your message or product out, and the people who will be supported by you succeeding.
If you want to change careers, don’t tell yourself there are no jobs in the new career field in your area, that the positions are limited or you don’t have the job skills being sought. Instead focus on your greatest game-changing moments in your life where you became the person you like being today. Seek out and connect with those who are already doing what you want to do. Change your reality to “If I knew it was possible, what would I do next?”
Your brain will always access more options, answers and solutions when you ask “how” rather than “what if.”
Your Turn: For the next big meeting, project, or presentation, make a mental picture of your route to success. What would it take to nail it? Play out the positive paths to your successful outcome. Do that for 30 minutes before you make a plan to mitigate risk or survive mistakes.