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How focusing on what you want will help you get there quicker

Are you stuck in a job you hate, but no ideas what you want to do instead?

Are you fed up of feeling trapped, but scared you'll make the wrong decision?

Are you miserable, stuck inside your own head, wasting time that you could be using to move towards the career you want, but still too afraid to start?

“Begin with the end in mind”

So says Stephen Covey, author of “The 7 habits of highly successful people” and I think it’s a great thing to think about when you are planning your career change, even when you are feeling scared, unsure or lost.

It is something many of us do each day without realising - we imagine what we want our ‘end’, our destination to look like - both career wise and our life in general.

It is so easy to get trapped in the daily grind, to just keep pushing on, and even with career change, when we moving from thing to thing, exploring, testing and trying out, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. But having a sense of direction, an idea about where we want to end up, even very roughly, can be hugely beneficial.

And one of the best ways to do this is by visualisation – literally visualising the things you want to achieve, and where you want to be.

Now, as you will know if you’ve followed me for any length of time, I’m not very into ‘woo-woo’ but with visualisation there is scientific evidence to back up the method (and scientific evidence always makes me happy!)

A study conducted by Dr Biasiotto from the University of Chicago took a group of basketball players, split them in three groups and tested each player’s ability to make free throws. After this, the first group had to practice free throws for 20 minutes every day; the second group were instructed to visualise themselves making free throws, no practice was allowed; and the third group were told to do nothing.

At the end of 30 days, the results were measured:

- The first group improved by 24%

- The second group improved by 23% without even touching a basketball.

This significant improvement supports the theory of the power of visualisation.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you should stop doing everything, and just visualise what you want – wouldn’t that be great?! The point of this is to help you imagine what you could achieve if you took consistent action towards your career change and combined it with visualisation.

So why does visualisation work?

It is though that the brain cannot identify the difference between the reality of something actually happening and imagining that same thing happening (shooting free throws and thinking about shooting free throws).

Research shows that any time you are thinking you are conditioning the pathways in your brain. Consequently, whether you are reminiscing about the past, thinking about the present or anticipating the future you are strengthening the neural networks associated with whatever you are thinking about. There is some truth in the saying that whatever you focus on becomes your reality.

Ok, so now you are convinced about the power of visualisation, how do you actually do it? And what can you do alongside it to maximise your chances of success?

It’s not rocket science – just take a few minutes at the start and end of every day to really get into the nitty gritty of what you want your life and career to look like. And if you don’t know what you want to be actually doing, that’s fine, just focus on the other things around it – what you want to be seeing, hearing, feeling. It needs to be you (or the you that you want to be) experiencing these things, rather than like a movie of your life.

When you are visualising what you want, try moving around in your vision, and try different areas of your life – for example, if you had the career you are working towards, what would that mean for your life outside work?

Start with just 5 minutes at the start and end of every day, and just see how you feel.

Once you have got the visualisation sorted – what do you do with it? How can you maximise your chances of career success using this? Below I’ve got 3 tips for you that you can put into action today:

1. Create a vision board – now, I know this is a bit of a cliché and a great way to procrastinate but having what you are aiming for in plain sight, so that you see it regularly throughout the day can be really useful to keep you focused. There are lots of ways of doing this, from the old-school cutting up magazines to creating Pinterest boards. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just make sure it is somewhere you can refer to regularly.

2. Use your visualisation as a planning tool – when you know where you are heading, look at the steps you need to take, and create a rough road map to guide you. It could be as simple as working out who you need to talk to, or thinking about what the future means for you as an individual and using that to plan trips, book courses or take up that hobby you’ve been putting off.

3. Let the visualisation spur you on to take action everyday – if you are regularly thinking about or seeing your goal then you are subconsciously going to start taking action to move towards it. Intensify this and make sure you are taking small consistent actions everyday (listening to a podcast, reading a blog, connecting with someone on LinkedIn). The more consistent you are, the more likely you are to head in the direction you want to go.

So there you have it – the power of visualisation, and what it can do for your career change.

I’d love to know what this brings up for you – are you going to give it go? And if not, what’s stopping you?

Over in my group, The Returnity Lounge, we use practical tools to move forward in our careers and find roles and opportunities that fulfil, excite and intrigue us. Career change can be an uncertain time, but together, as a community, we can get through it together.

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