More Than Just Football: How Visualization Boosts Performance

It’s football playoff season in the States: a sacred time in my home town of Denver, CO where – until a few short hours ago – the #DenverBroncos were favored to win the Super Bowl.

The team was ready to roll and visualizing a winning season. But even before they lost to Indianapolis, I had my doubts. @RussellWilson, quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks (the team that stomped the Broncos during last year’s Super Bowl) has been visualizing the plays.

Wilson’s been alluding to his strategy for several years – but now even the commentators are talking about it. It seems he started using #visualization when he was a kid. His dad introduced him to it. Told him about the great athletes who visualized jump shots, base hits, and winning passes. “I don’t ever visualize negative things happening,” he said in a recent interview. “I always visualize success. I always visualize things going right.”

18-year-old Colorado skier @MikaelaShiffrin also used visualization, in the years leading up to her spectacular performance in the 2014 winter Olympics. Journalists asked her what it was like to win a gold medal in her first-ever games. Her response: “To everybody this is my first Olympics, but to me it’s my thousandth. I’ve been here before in my head.”

Physicians, therapists, and educators regularly speak of the power of visualization – of positive images – to heal, inspire and ignite action. In our book, #AppreciativeLeadership, @DianaWhitneyPhD and I talk about how to build winning performance by engaging the whole system in visualizing where they want to go and how they’re going to get there. This strategy yields breakthrough results and unprecedented levels of innovation, commitment and collaboration.

I would have rooted for the Broncos, had they won. But now I can support Wilson and the Seahawks without guilt. I have a hunch that visualization might just make the difference for them – again.

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