How To Believe It Before You See It

Too often, we get it backwards. We think it’s when we reach our big goal – the seven-figure revenues, ideal weight or championship trophy — that we can believe it’s possible.

In fact, we have to embrace our vision before it actually happens: “You’ll see it when you believe it,” said Wayne Dyer.

That’s what Roger Federer proved when he won Wimbledon again this year, after not winning a major tournament for five years (!), even as many publicly expressed their belief that he couldn’t.”I kept believing and dreaming,” he said afterwards. “If you keep believing you can go really far in life.”

The thing is, “believing and dreaming” is hard because our brain does NOT want to imagine a different reality than the one in front of us. “That’s a waste of valuable mental energy,” says the brain, waving its calculator. “Let’s just keep scanning the current environment for potential threats and react the way we always do. More efficient that way.”

How do you get around that?

Start from where you are with what you have.
When Jake Jacobs, founder of Winds of Change Group, wanted to take his company to $5M in annual revenues, he and his team began taking action to behave like a $5M company wherever they could in the way they were currently conducting business: who they had as clients, what services they were offering, how they closed deals and how they delivered upon promises.

Start with tiny actions.
Even the smallest change can have a ripple effect. I spoke with a technology entrepreneur who feels in limbo while he waits for funding to come through. Once it does, he told me, he wants to get a receptionist, upgrade the office environment and showcase the artwork of up and coming artists (he showed me one of them, sitting on the floor, unhung). “Hang the picture!” I told him. “Put a table where the receptionist will sit. Send a signal to yourself (and your team) that things are happening NOW.”

Start with how you talk.
Another entrepreneur is seeking funding to develop a crucial piece of her technology. Though what she says sounds positive — “I’m going to get the money” — those words actually put her in a place of always being about to get the money, not actually having it. If you say, “I’m getting the money” it starts you thinking about what you’ll do when you receive the payment (in her case, prioritizing a to-do list for the developer).

The good news is you don’t have to be utterly convinced, beyond a shadow of a doubt, of your invincibility.

Golfer Jordan Spieth said after coming back from three bogeys to win The Open Championship: “Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps are the greatest to ever do what they did, and I’m not. But if you believe that you are, then you’re almost as good as being that. And it’s so hard in that situation to believe that, but just having just the slightest bit of belief in it makes you so confident.”

That’s what “act as if” really means. It’s not about faking it, pulling the wool over people’s eyes or shirking your current responsibilities. It’s about cultivating the slightest bit of belief, one tiny action at a time.