BY Libby Gill


Even if you don’t consider yourself a “visual” person, human beings have an amazing ability to think about a challenge, imagine an ideal resolution and then manifest that outcome (or something close to it) in reality. By giving your brain a mental dress rehearsal, you not only release anxiety but also put yourself on the pathway to success. If you’ve experienced this phenomenon of “energy following idea,” you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, I want you to add this valuable skill to your risk repertoire. Here’s a good way to get started.

STEP ONE: Visualizing Your Ideal Outcome

1. Get in a comfortable position sitting or lying on the floor (or even at your desk). Close your eyes and begin taking slow, deep breaths. Feel the air go all the way down to the abdomen so you’re not taking shallow chest breaths. As you exhale, imagine yourself breathing out any negative feelings. Concentrate on a word like anger, fear or exhaustion that sums up how you’re feeling. Now, consciously breathe that word out of your system with each exhalation. Continue this for 3-5 minutes, allowing tension to drain away into the floor as your thoughts begin to slow down.
2. Now imagine a scene that you’ll picture in your mind, as though watching a mental movie. It could be something that you’ll actually be facing that day, such as asking the boss for a leadership role on a project. Or it could be a longer-term goal, such as seeing yourself in a vibrantly healthy and toned body.
3. Take yourself through the scene, letting it play out as positively as you can imagine. It could be the slim new you going clothes shopping or running on the beach. Maybe it’s the ultra-confident you pitching a client or closing a deal. Let the conversation or scenario unfold.
4. Put some obstacles in your place. The client throws you a curve ball or shuts you out and you risk losing the deal. Or you’re out to dinner with your friends, who are all feasting on pasta, bread and wine while you look on, thinking about your diet.
5. Continue to work through the scenario, giving yourself plenty of time to really feel what it’s like to be so supremely confident and in control that you breeze through the challenge barely batting an eye. See the final outcome of the situation, whether it’s you sticking to your diet and instead of feeling deprived and miserable finding it incredibly easy to eat a healthy dinner and have fun with your friends, regardless of what they’re eating. Or you masterfully bring the client around, seal the deal and become the office hero.
6. Bring the scene to a natural conclusion and anchor it with a word or phrase that sums up your feeling and your mission for the day. It could be power, energy, win, passion, health, abundance, joy or calm.
7. Take several more deep breaths, focusing deeply on your word during the inhalation. Continue this for 3-5 minutes until you feel energized and ready to take on the day. Open your eyes with a stretch and a smile.
8. When the scenario you imagined or something similar actually takes place (you’ll be amazed how often this happens), allow yourself to relax into your pre-programmed response. Let the sense of calm control, power or command take over and steer you toward the outcome you visualized. Don’t be frustrated if this doesn’t happen the first time (or every time). Just relax and have faith that by “seeing” the outcome you want, you greatly increase your odds of making it happen.

STEP TWO: Start a Daily Relaxation Practice

Most of us have time constraints of a busy career, family life and personal pastimes, so the idea of adding a relaxation practice to your already-busy schedule can seem daunting. But it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Think of some activities that will help you relax your way through any insecurities or fears as you move toward the outcome you visualized above. Following is an example of my client Barry’s relaxation practice, where he expanded on the physical exercise he was already doing to include conscious relaxation as part of his daily routine.

Barry’s Relaxation Routine
• Start the day with some conscious deep, slow breathing – 5 minutes
• Go for a morning run - 45 minutes
• Stretch and cool down after returning home – 5-10 minutes
• Meditate, sitting on the living room floor, focusing on breathing and slowing the mind – 15 minutes
• Once a week or so, instead of meditation, Barry would follow along with a relaxation tape or guided imagery CD – 20 minutes

Now, it’s your turn to experiment with relaxation processes that you can incorporate into your life. Once you’ve got a rhythm, continue to build your practice until it becomes second nature.

STEP THREE: Creating Your Escalating Risk Hierarchy

With your ideal outcome in mind, break down the action steps that will lead you to accomplishing your goal. Don’t worry how big or small they are. We’ll put them in order so you can work your way through the list from lowest to highest risk. Give each action item a 1-10 ranking on what I call the Anxiety Index, 1 for the lowest level risks all the way up to 10 for the most anxiety-provoking risks. Then put them in rank order from lowest to highest. As an example, here’s how my attorney client Shirley used my Clarify, Simplify & Execute process to get unstuck as she determined a new career path. Next, she created a regular relaxation practice, then put her action steps into an Escalating Risk Hierarchy so she could tackle them one at a time, from low to high risks. That way, she was able to build confidence as she built competence.
Note: Shirley wove her personal passions in alongside her professional goals. Make sure you do the same!

Shirley’s CSE Model
• Clarify your vision: Determine a new life purpose
• Simplify your mission: Find a new career that uses my legal skills but allows me to serve the community
• Execute your plan: Launch job exploration in non-profit and government arenas, with Libby serving as my accountability coach.

Her Relaxation Routine
• I start the day with a prayer of gratitude.
• Next, I run for at least an hour, more on weekends or when I’m training.
• Once a week, I take a yoga class and attend church.

Shirley’s Escalating Risk Hierarchy
• Book a vacation = 4
• Make new friends = 5
• Schedule time for fun = 6
• Explore careers in non-profit = 7
• Explore government service career = 7
• Start dating = 8
• Explore other law firm jobs = 9
• Internal work to unlock new passion = 10

Now that you’ve got a process, start taking action. If you feel yourself holding back or getting stuck, join my ACCOUNTABILITY CLUB for ongoing structure, support and accountability tools!

Author's Bio: 

An entertainment industry veteran, Libby Gill spent fifteen years heading public relations and corporate communications at Universal Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Turner Broadcasting. She was also the branding brain behind the launch of the Dr. Phil Show.

Libby is now an internationally respected executive coach, speaker and bestselling author. She has shared her success strategies on the Today Show, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch, CNN, NPR, Oprah & Friends Radio Network, Fox News, CBS Early Show, and in Time Magazine, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, O Magazine, Good Housekeeping, Self and many more.