There are a lot of normal days in our lives. The days where we wake up, go to work, only to increment the progress bar. To excel during these days, you need a Daily Routine. But there are also special days. Days when you have a competition or an interview, you need to perform, you need to show what you’ve been preparing for. Days when you need to give your 100% on a workshop, a training, or a summit. For these days, you need a special routine which I call Daily Design. And you need to practice it during your normal days to make it a habit .
This article is about using visualization techniques to mentally prepare for the special days in your life. I have covered two examples so far: How to Survive the Back-to-back Meetings Week and Organizing the Perfect Workshop. But here I will approach the topic to show you how you can prepare for such events in general.
Time to read
Time to read: 12 minutes (based on 150 words per minute).
What is a special day?
I am sure that you can think of a few examples of special day situations. Maybe your Director or your VP is coming for a summit and you want to show them your latest work, but you feel really nervous. Maybe you need to attend or present at a workshop and you are wondering if you are prepared enough. Or maybe today is a competition – be it athletics, or anything else – and you feel cramps in your stomach. You spend hours agonizing and entertaining all possible outcomes only to find out at the end that you actually did well. But, on your next normal day, you think you could have done better the day before.
The difference between normal days and special days in only … in … your … mind. That’s right! There is no difference. Just like there are no special problems or special thoughts. Your attention makes them one way or the other. And your thoughts can be the difference between success, mediocrity, and failure.
In this chapter I will show you my technique, which is based on the Law of Manifestation, to prepare mentally for events like this. What influenced a lot of what I do were a few passages that I read bout Michael Phelps in Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit (link to Goodreads). I was further inspired recently by a podcast with Hugh Jackman hosted by Tim Ferris (link to Tim’s blog post about that).
Why do we need daily design?
For good or bad most of us are creatures of habit. Your bodies and your minds do not want to be out of the comfort zone for long. And these special days put you easily outside of your comfort zone. The problem is that you are wasting a precious opportunity to train your stamina, willpower, belief, and, in general, your character. Opportunities like this do not come every day. If you can’t treasure them then you need to train yourself to treasure them.
Also, when you leave your mind wonder and not be concentrated, it usually falls back to negative self-talk. Your mind is the most brilliant tool ever created. And it’s job is to keep you safe. If left uncheck, it starts surveying the surroundings and your thoughts about danger. You need to keep your mind occupied before and especially during those events.
By the end of this article you will have a framework to teach yourself the habit of doing a daily design of your special days. You will have the tools to prepare yourself mentally for most challenges and, ultimately, excel at them. This will help you progress your career, your relationships, and every other aspect of your life.
How did Michael Phelps and Hugh Jackman do daily design
I would encourage you to go read “The Power of Habit” and go listen to the Hugh Jackman’s podcast, but this is what they do.
Michael Phelps, together with his coach Bob Bowman, created a very detailed routine before every major competition. Michael would wake up and fall immediately into his race routine (having breakfast, stretching, warming up, putting on his suit). He would accumulate so many small wins that the actual race would just be another one of them – not a big deal. All this was videotaped. Except not really. Ever since Michael was thirteen, he would sit quietly in his locker after practice and would visualize the jump in the water, every stroke, every movement, even how the water would feel against his skin.
When Hugh Jackman wakes up before an event – acting performance or filming a movie – he would concentrate and design his day in past tense. I went to the locker to put make up on. I did this and that. And I made a brilliant performance. He would type and send this to his therapist, who is his accountability partner. And, at the end of the day, he would review his daily design and rate how close his day way.
How can you practice daily design?
First of all I want to start with defining a few terms. Feel free to skip them if they are not new to you.
Law of Manifestation: All thoughts turn into things eventually. This is the ability to attract whatever we are thinking about.
A habit is a routine that is repeated regularly until it becomes subconscious. A habit has a cue that starts it, a behavior, and a reward.
Step 1: Choose a specific goal
First of all, you must pick something specific for which you will be preparing. Even if you only have a generic topic in your head (e.g. public speaking), you need to start with a specific goal that you can measure the results. You can choose any of the examples that we discussed so far. Or you can pick anything else that you feel strongly about and you want to improve.
Ask yourself and answer the following questions which will show you where your motivation lies:
- Do I really want this (in my heart)?
- How will I benefit from doing this?
- Does it feel right (overall)?
- How will this be good for others?
Step 2: Create the best possible scenario
It will look like a game plan. Michael Phelps used to picture every stroke. Once, when he jumped in the pool at the 2012 Beijing Olympic Games, he realized that there is moist in his goggles. This was not the best possible scenario, but since he had rehearsed it so many times, he just closed his eyes and kept swimming. He knew how many strokes he needed to reach the end of the pool and he counted patiently. He did not need to see, because he could see his video tape. At the end, he removed his goggle to assess the result. At the score board he saw WR (world record) and his name next to it.
Take some time and imagine the best possible scenario that will help you achieve your specific goal. Add as many details to the picture as possible. Use as many of your senses as possible – add sounds, smell. Touch the clicker in your mind. In the months and weeks before the event rehearse the scenario again and again.
Step 3: Plan your response to obstacles
There will be obstacles. They are what usually make the whole experience challenging and they are what helps you learn, elevate yourself, and benefit. “The Obstacle is the Way” as Ryan Holiday named one of his books (link in Goodreads). You need to train yourself to anticipate and overcome these obstacles. Maybe somebody messed up the hall where you are giving a presentation – what a good way to get your mind off the outcome and help the organizer re-arrange it. Maybe your equipment is broken – what a good opportunity to test something new.
To overcome these obstacles you will need willpower. This is a finite resource that you can train (like a muscle). The more you learn to use your willpower the bigger the pool you can tap into when needed. Charles Duhigg calls these moments when you need your willpower “inflection points”. Visualize yourself reacting to these changes – with a smile, positivity, and finesse.
Step 4: Make some quiet time
You don’t find time you make time. Make quiet time part of your daily routine (regardless of whether you have an event that you are preparing for or not). Teach yourself the habit of spending quiet time with yourself, and enjoying that time. You could meditate, or just sit quietly and listen. You could follow your breath, or anything that you want. Use this time to connect with yourself, your feelings, your body.
If you are interested if further articles on this topic: How to Learn Meditation and Change Your Mind and Body.
Step 5: Visualize your special day
When the special day starts getting closer, use your quiet time to rehearse the specific scenario. Follow your routine and overcome those imaginary obstacles. Go over your scenario, minute by minute, and visualize it. Remember to use paste tense.
Give yourself small rewards for following the plan – those are the small wins. Once you start getting these rewards along the way, you will make the successful outcome even more inevitable. These can be as small as a healthy snack, or a quiet time for a nap, or a quick meditation to keep your energy high.
Step 6: Enjoy it
Go and actually spend your special day as you would normally do. Don’t push yourself to follow your script down to the last detail. You have already adopted the habit and your mind and body will respond automatically. When things divert from the plan embrace them, use them as learning opportunities. Trust your instincts. Be grateful that things not always turn the way you planned them. This will enrich your scenario and will help you be even better prepared for the future.
Give yourself a bigger reward at the end. Treat yourself to a nice dinner, or go out for a run with a smile. For Michael Phelps this was the gold medal. For Hugh Jackman the response from the audience.
Step 7: Adjust
At the end of the day, review the plan and compare it to your day. Adjust the plan, if needed, and make it better. Identify those points where you diverted too much. What can you do to prevent that?
Ideally, also think about the whole process. What can you improve in general to make more successful plans for the next special day? Do you need more preparation? Or more rehearsal? Or stronger positive self-talk?
Step 8: Turn it into a habit
Consider adopting daily design to your everyday life. What if you spend 5 minutes designing your day during your morning time. To turn this into a habit think about a cue. For example, when you start your meditation, or when you wake up, or when you sit on your desk. The behavior will be the process of visualization. And the reward is a day well spent. Teach yourself to crave this reward which will reinforce the habit.
Habits are the most powerful and the most dangerous tool that we have. Combining habits with the law of manifestation can help you do daily design for the special days in your life. Make time to create a scenario for a situation that you fear. Visualize yourself being excellent and overcoming all obstacles. Go and experience the situation and compare it to your scenario. And finally, turn this into a habit so that each of your days is a small win.
What are the next steps?
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