Win Before You Begin

If you tend to procrastinate on certain projects, one reason could be that you haven’t created a victory in your mind first.

When you think about a project that isn’t advancing very well, consider these questions:

  • Do you have a clear vision of what success for this project looks like?

  • Can you see your desired end result clearly in your mind’s eye, like you’re recalling a vivid memory?

  • Is the path forward relatively clear, from start to finish?

  • Can you visualise the key action steps to bring the project to completion?

  • Have you firmly decided to do the project now (as in this week, this month or this quarter)?

  • Do you have a reasonably clear understanding of your standards for success (and what results would fall short of those standards)?

  • Are you confident that you can achieve the results you desire and satisfy your standards?

If you must answer no or maybe to any of these questions, it’s fair to say that you haven’t created a victory in your mind yet.

Without the pre-creation of a mental victory, you’re very likely to be plagued by procrastination, delay, excuses and hesitation.

Create the Mental Victory

Kick back in a chair, and put your feet up on a desk or table. Prepare to do some imagining.

Pick a project where you’ve been stuck and that you’d like to unlock, so you can make some real progress on it.

Start a five-minute timer. Knowing that the time is counting down can help you focus, so your mind doesn’t drift to other topics. If you run out of time and want to keep going, feel free to set another timer. Tell yourself that you only need to focus on this for five minutes.

Now engage your mind by thinking about the project. Start at the end. Imagine that it’s over and done with and you’ve succeeded. Go to that future time and place in your mind. See the final work product. It’s 100% finished. You did it! The project is complete.

Imagine how it feels to be finally done. Look at the outcome in your mind’s eye. Appreciate the results. You achieved what you wanted to achieve. You met or exceeded your standards. You satisfied the requirements for victory.

Engage fully with the outcome in your imagination. See it. Touch it. Experience it. If you were watching this as a movie, get clear about what you’re seeing on the movie screen.

Now after visualising the outcome, stay in the future in your mind, and reflect upon what you did to get there. You don’t have to review the steps in linear order. Just let your mind pick a step and show it to you.

Imagine yourself doing some of the action steps. Picture those scenes, one by one, in whatever order they come to you. Hop around the timeline as much as you want. See yourself doing some of the final actions shortly before the project is done. See yourself just getting started. See yourself doing some of the middle actions.

Invite your mind to build the story of how you went from present reality to future victory. Let your mind show you the steps you took to get there. Let it show you how it feels to experience the end result.

If you’re not sure about the outcome, this is your chance to play around with different possible outcomes. Compare the stories to see which you like best. It doesn’t take long to do this several times in a row with different results.

If there are obstacles to be overcome to achieve your goal, see yourself facing and overcoming those obstacles. Imagine solving the problems you expect to encounter along the way. Make the path seem real.

The Flow of Action

When you pre-create the victory and you see enough of the story to get there, you’re likely to feel some motivation to act – possibly even while you’re still visualising. Great, that’s good evidence that your mind now understands what success is supposed to look like. You’ve given your mind a clear goal that it can achieve.

Let yourself flow into action as the inspiration arises. See if you can invest at least 30 minutes in taking action to get started. Start building some momentum.

If you get stuck again, no worries. Just repeat the visualisation exercise. Return to the end result in your mind. Re-experience the achievement. Invite your mind to help you visualise some of the key beats to get there. Realize that you can take the steps and solve the problems to reach your desired outcome.

Try this even with projects that you feel you should do but resist doing. If you really don’t feel like doing them, just tell yourself that you’re only going to visualise the end result for a while, and you don’t need to take action right now. See what happens.

You may find that this little mental trick works nicely. Once you get into visualising the end result, your mind will often wander into thinking about the steps to get there. Let your mind explore some possible stories around that – without feeling obligated to act. You may find that this alone is enough to bypass the resistance.

If you really want to get into this, make two lists of all your open and pending projects. For your first list, include the projects where you’re satisfied with your progress, and you expect them to be completed successfully if you just keep doing what you’re doing. For your second list, note the projects that don’t satisfy this criteria. Now compare the projects on those two lists. I’ll bet you’ll see that you’ve pre-created a successful outcome in your mind for the projects that are advancing nicely, and you haven’t properly done this for the stuck projects. And now you know how to fix that.

Written by Steve Pavlina

Steve Pavlina is a Personal Development Coach who runs one of the most popular personal development websites in the world.