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The Power of Visualization: Learn the 2P method to secure better performance

By Whiskey Tango

Bottom Line up Front-Visualization is a powerful tool to enhance your job performance and allow you to build a better plan for your future.

Short Story-Tug boat dive- 2007

I descended the anchor line into the darkness. The chem lights littered the decent rope every 15 feet. 90 feet of seawater below me sat an old tug boat. I had planned this dive for weeks. I Notified the dive chamber in the event of an emergency and coordinated with the boat drivers. I Got the coordinates of the locations. Briefed the dive plan. Coordinated Scuba tanks and dive equipment. This was my first test as a leader. I had just earned my dive supervisor certification at the Navy SEALs dive supervisor's course. Diving at night is always associated with higher risk.

The deeper I dove the more pressure I felt. The pressure in my ears had to be equalized. The pressure against my dive mask had to be blown out. We were split up into dive pairs. Each diver had a partner in the event of an emergency. We armed our dive teams with waterproof high-intensity dive lights. My dive buddy(turtle) and I slowed down every twenty feet to neutralize the pressure build-up. we reached the tug boat a couple of minutes after we left the surface. Once at the bottom, we checked our dive watches and monitored our bottom time. At 90 feet of seawater, you can stay down for 30 minutes before you run into decompression issues. An additional issue of being at this depth is running out of compressed air faster. We needed to closely monitor our air consumption and gauges.

The strange part about diving is that you are defying natural laws. People weren't designed to breathe underwater, therefore there are a significant number of medical problems that one might incur if certain rules are not followed. These medical conditions always seem to end in a seizure, followed by a coma, and then death. The navy through experimentation and the courage of sailors determined these limits. And set forth guidance in manuals. Ascend too quickly and risk death. Hold your breath, ascend and blow out your lungs. Stay down too long and risk decompression sickness. Pass gas the wrong way under water.....well you get the picture.

Being next to a sunken ship at night is a spooky ordeal. At night the underwater life seems to come alive. Lobsters crawl out of nooks. Eels slither through the dark. Fish life and aquatic movement increase depending on where you are. The tug boat was no different life seemed to be teaming as we swam around the ghostly ship. During the descent, my dive light stopped working. I was now carrying around a pointless light while clinging tight to my buddy. I felt like scobby following shaggy through an old abandoned mine in search of ghosts. Turtle and I swam around the bow of the boat and onto the deck. We dodged other divers as we inspected the sea life. We saw the old dive master Mike messing with a lobster as we peered into the pilot house of the ship. Turtle and I went through the breach and into the pilot house to take a look around. My eyes followed his beam as it swept along the interior of the ship. He turned to leave sooner than I expected and I shifted in the water to follow him through the exit. As I swam toward his light something held me back. My regulator was violently yanked from my mouth as I moved forward. I felt naked at ninety feet without my air source in my mouth. The military rigs we dove weren't equipped with a spare regulator. I watched as Turtle's light disappeared from my vision. I was alone in the pitch black dark of the pilot house. The panic began to quickly build in my mind. I yanked to free my regulator but it was caught on something. I forced myself to calm down. "I had been trained in special forces dive school for this very moment", I thought. "Worst case if I can't get free I'll ditch my gear and swim out to find a buddy or swim 90 feet to the surface." "This was a crap plan", I thought. I reached back to trace my regulator hose. I moved my hand along the hose until I found the issue. My regulator was caught on a metal hook protruding from the wall. I unwound my regulator and stuffed it back in my mouth. I was full-on huffing air in panic. I felt the weight of the situation come crashing into me as I fought my brush with death. At 90 ft of seawater, you can burn through your compressed air pretty quickly. I cautiously exited the boat house. I didn't want to snag on any additional metal rungs. Unscathed but rattled I scanned the Tug boat deck for my dive partner. I found Turtle checking the side of the ship for lobster I swam next to him and remained very close until our mission concluded a few minutes later. We made the ascent to the surface as I left my close call behind.

So what's the point? Often times we find ourselves following the person next to us. We fail to have our own light. Our own path. We feel predestined to follow the path we are on. At points, we may have a moment that knocks us out of comfortable living. We are thrust into a dark place disoriented and lost. When I was trapped 90 ft below the surface I was forced to visualize my way out of my current reality and into a better one. Utilize the 2P model to get the most out of this important tool.

1) Picture success

The benefits and science behind visualization are hard to deny. Athletes use visualization techniques to enhance performance on the field. Michael Jordan talks about visualizing the perfect shot. Michael Phelps uses it to enhance his world record gold medal performances. Experts have studied it. It’s science.

Typically events that I’ll visualize are events that I either want to maximize success, minimize anxiety, or both. The techniques I’ve found in utilizing visualization are separating them into near and far-term events. For near-term tasks or critical events w/in 24 hrs, I want you to visualize details. For critical events that are further out than 24hrs, I’d recommend you think of steps to get there. For Example; Let's say I have a state cross-country championship in two weeks. This is an event that is critical. I’ve worked all summer and months of the school year to get there. I wouldn’t describe my emotions as fearful but my nerves and emotions will come into play. I need to visualize it first to set myself up for success.

I’ll visualize the steps I need to take to get successfully to the race. I picture getting in my last-minute training runs and driving to the course so I can run the exact race I’ll be competing in. I picture doing light workouts, I picture healthy foods I’ll eat, and carrying around water like a psychopath to ensure my hydration is on point. I visualize carb loading the night prior and taking a sleeping aid to ensure I get adequate rest. I visualize waking up and eating a light and healthy breakfast and arriving at the race with plenty of time. I link up with the cross-country team and we warm up for the race. I stretch and get in the zone as I begin the next phase of visualization.

On the day of the event, I visualize details. I picture the starting line full of runners bouncing with nervous energy. I fix my eyes on the starting gun as I hear the famed statement “Runners take your mark”. I picture the grass under my feet as I crouch for the start. My legs are tense and poised to react. I envision the sound of the gun and the release of energy as it goes off. I picture the heard of a thousand runners barreling out of the start towards the first bottleneck in the trail. I can hear the muffled footsteps of the hoard of runners. I can see the plume of dirt as the earth is pounded by the drum of a thousand feet. I picture myself coming out of the gate strong. I pump my legs hard enough so I don’t get bogged down in the back of the pack but in control enough not to exhaust myself at the beginning of the race. I visualize my upper body configuration. My shoulders are shrugged and elbows out so I can safeguard my runner's position in the stampede. My eyes are alert and scanning for gaps in the crowd and falling runners. I picture myself positioned toward the front of the pack as I enter the first bottleneck. The bottleneck is followed by a 90-degree turn and a downhill scramble over a creek. I picture myself trying to relax into my race pace as break out of the heard. I envision myself fighting to relax my muscles and control my breathing. I continue this visualization until my mission is complete. Then again and again until I can see the whole race clearly and the critical steps I need to take. Coming out strong, relaxing my body during the race, and picturing the turns. Meeting my time markers, feeling out my fatigue. This drill will enhance my performance, it will improve the place in which I finish.

Now let’s run a drill for you to make it more personal. Now, remember this event is either you’re most important or most feared. It’s an event that you know will play on your nerves. Envision your biggest task of tomorrow or this week. It could be leading a meeting, giving a going away speech, taking a test, it could be a date with your crush, coaching a baseball team, it could be a job interview. If you don’t have any adverse or critical events in the next week/month I’d refer you back to ensure your direction in life. Now visualize all the steps you’ll need to take to arrive at that event in time. Then picture the successful execution of it. Then go out and do it. I guarantee that you’ll feel more comfortable in this stressful moment if you heed my advice. You’ll feel prepared. You’ll feel the satisfaction of execution and if by poor fortune and bad execution you don’t I’d ask you to learn from it. Learning from the mistake and take this into account in your next visualization. I didn’t visualize needing a resumé for that interview. I didn’t foresee needing a reservation at that restaurant.

1) Picture failure-The military considers this part as either contingency planning or creating branch plans. These are plans in which your plan may deviate based on circumstances. They are the emergency plans. A careful balance must be struck when contingency planning. We all know the overly aggressive parent that worries to the detriment of their child because they fear unrealistically that something may go wrong. We want to avoid the wizard of OZ planning. The type of planning that involves I was planning on taking my dog for a walk and I’ve heard it possible that all of the sudden a house may fall out of the sky and land on my dog. Soo in order to keep my dog safe I’m not going to walk the dog. There is being prepared and then there is just plain scared.

Visualization is the best way to picture these realistic failure points. As a jump master, I would picture a premature exit from a jumper. I would envision and brief my expected response. I would picture jumpers being hung up while exiting the aircraft. I would coordinate my planned actions with the aircrew. As a jumper, I would picture known parachute malfunctions. Partial malfunctions of my parachute, full malfunctions, mid-air collisions, canopy entailments, and other emergency procedures. My jumpers and I would rehearse these actions before each jump.

I’ve only ever had to execute parachute cut-away procedures once (knock on wood). Cut-away procedures are when there is a major issue with your main parachute. The jumper identifies that the issue is significant enough that they separate from their main parachute and open their reserve parachute. My parachute opened and was immediately put into a spin. I was jumping an advanced parachute system which meant that my parachute was much smaller and sportier than the slower combat-loaded chutes. So the spin or constant turn was more aggressive. I felt the “G” forces of the spin begin to weigh on me as I reached up to gain control of my parachute. I activated my opposite steering toggle. My situation became a low-speed malfunction. I recited my situation and made an assessment just like I did in my rehearsed pre-visualized checklist of emergencies. “More than 50% opposite toggle to counter the turn”. I checked my altitude and made the decision to cut away.

The event was extremely tame in terms of “exciting” cutaways. I had been trained for over a decade to picture that moment. So what about you? Do you visually step yourself through your success? Do you picture steps A to Z? What does it look like? Now try to conceptualize the realistic failure points and envision how you will react. What action will you take when your plan falls apart?

Wrap up. Visualization is a key tool. It’s critical to achieving your definition of greatness. Visualization fleshes out your plan. It makes your goal tangible. It fills in details and gaps in your plan. It exposes weak points. Visualization is done by picturing both success and failure. Visualization allows you to shape and affect their future. A future you define. A future of greatness.

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