Psychological techniques can increase your success

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As we approach the end of 2013, have you achieved the level of success you were hoping for when the year began? Have you met and exceeded your goals, or are you still slogging along wishing you were doing better but constantly feeling like you are swimming upstream?

During this time of year, we take stock of how we have done over the past 12 months in our work and many other facets of our lives. That results in New Year’s resolutions we will be making in a few weeks about work, income, weight loss, fitness, that smoking habit and so on.

What can you do to make 2014 different? I have a few suggestions. Although some of these come from sport psychology, they can be just as valid and effective in helping you achieve success in business performance as well as in personal growth and wellness.

Visualization: Sport psychologists have long known the power of this simple technique in enhancing sport performance. When we visualize something, the brain does not distinguish between what we just imagined and something that actually happened. So every time you visualize, you create new memories (in a sense) added to your experience base. The down side: Think about how often you imagine the worst-case scenario, or continue to picture past mistakes. Doing so just continues to reinforce those mistakes/failures and increases the likelihood of repeating them.

Rather than visualizing what you don’t want to happen, take time each day to picture what you do want to happen. Spend five minutes doing this once or twice each day, and you will be amazed at how things begin to turn around. As an added bonus, you will feel better too.

Think positively: When we experience something, not only does the experience affect us, but so too does our internal dialogue. Often what we say to ourselves, or our internal “self-talk,” dictates our reactions more than the experience itself.

While this may be new for some, the larger percentage of us in business have heard about this ad nauseam from “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Norman Vincent Peale, “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill, and so on.

The problem is that while the general idea is well understood, the nuts and bolts of how to do it are not. Is it positive thinking to say, “I won’t make that mistake again” or “I am not going to let that get me down”? To illustrate: If I say to you, “Whatever you do, do not visualize Barack Obama. Do not see his face,” what just happened? My guess is you visualized Obama anyway. The same thing happens with the “won’t” and “not” examples above. If that is how you self-talk, you will be more likely to “make that mistake again” and more likely to “let that get you down.”

Just as with visualization, rather than self-talking what you do not want to experience, work on self-talking what you do want to experience. This applies to your emotions and behavior as equally as to your business performance.

Imagine your self-talk and what you visualize as a team of powerful horses pulling a carriage (your emotions, behavior, performance, etc.). The horses are almost always running, perhaps in a direction you don’t want them to go because experiences in the near or distant past helped create a particular way of seeing yourself or a pattern of self-talk that is self- defeating.

If you let them continue to run wild, that team of horses could take the carriage over the edge of a cliff! Rather than letting them run unguided, recognize that the reins are sitting beside you. Take the reins and guide that team in the direction you want them to go. They will be pulling your feelings and behavior along.

Again, it takes very little time and energy to make a huge difference in what you experience. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish by committing just 5-10 minutes a day to this. This time next year you can be enjoying the ride of your life.

Dr. Gary J. Neuger is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Colorado Springs since 1986. He can be reached at 219-6220 or at