Success must be visualized

“Act like you’ve been there before.”

That famous quote from legendary football coach Vince Lombardi reminded his players to show class when they made it to the end zone.

That advice remains sound today, when we’ve seen everything from taunting dances to the signing of autographs after a big score.

But the concept goes beyond sportsmanship, and can actually aid in getting to the end zone, or reaching any goal in sports, or for that matter, in life.

Visualization is a powerful technique, practiced by top performers from ball fields to board rooms.

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rogers has spoken for years about seeing successful plays in his mind before they actually happen. It may explain the incredible poise he exhibited in Sunday’s playoff game against Dallas. The Cowboys scored a game-tying field goal with 35 seconds on the clock. While fans may have been thinking overtime, Rogers knew he had two time outs, and plenty of confidence. He’d been there before.

Rogers had earned Super Bowl MVP honors on that same Arlington, Texas field in 2011, and has engineered other game-winning drives during his NFL career. Those experiences, and the ability to see a positive outcome, seemed to strip away any nerves that could have sabotaged his success.

Basketball coach Rene Portland used to close her Penn State practices with a special celebration drill. She’d throw an imaginary ball to her point guard and put a few seconds on the clock. Her starters would run a final play, ending in a virtual game-winning buzzer-beater. The reserves would storm the court and all would cheer, laugh and jump up and down as though they had just won the NCAA tournament. They didn’t just visualize the victory, they felt the exuberant reaction.

Athletes, including Olympians, tout the value of visualization, and the importance of both physical and mental training.

During a recent professional development workshop, a communication coach gave our class similar public speaking tips. When preparing for an important presentation, he advised, see yourself giving a great speech; visualize the audience’s response; feel the satisfaction of a job well done.

Public speaking ranks among people’s most debilitating fears; it helps to prepare and to visualize, so when the time comes, you feel like you’ve done it all before.

It all boils down to experience and confidence. Think back to a first day at a new school. It probably seemed overwhelming, getting on a bus full of strangers or finding the classroom; but the jitters fade after a few days.  Everything gets easier with time and experience.

Successful people like Aaron Rogers take the fast lane to success through visualization, diffusing stressful situations through the feeling of familiarity; confidence grows from even a conjured experience.

In basketball or business, in sport or in life … seeing … becomes believing … becomes achieving.

Kellie Goodman Shaffer can be reached at Her column appears on Tuesdays.