Swimming Blind

Updated: Jul 5

We're told to think positively and poof, good things will happen.

While thinking positively is surely helpful, and being optimistic about your goals is a good thing, does positive thinking alone produce the results you want?

On a recent episode of the Happiness Lab, Dr. Laurie Santos shared an alternate perspective on the impact negative thinking has on positive results.

She began with a story about Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time. Michael's training leading up to the Olympics included both a physical and mental practice.

The mental practice was rooted in setting, visualizing and envisioning dream goals. Michael posted his list of goals on his refrigerator so that he would see them several times a day. Visualizing them over and over.

This mental practice also included Michael envisioning his goals. Seeing his goals in his mind's eye and envisioning the perfect race.


The feel of the water.

The smell of the chlorine.

The 19 strokes to the flip.

The count of the kicks.

The breathing.

Watching the perfect race with his mind’s eye was a required practice from Michael’s Coach. Like a movie playing on repeat.

Simply imagining a behavior can train your mind just as if you have actually done it. Visioning this way recruits the same brain circuits as real life events. Your brain can’t tell the difference between something you have imagined and what actually happens.

In Michael’s first 200-meter men’s butterfly Olympic final, he knew what he had to do. This movie had played in his mind since he was 11 years old.

As he hit the water, Michael’s goggles filled with water.

Michael was swimming blind.

As a precocious kid in training, Michael had gotten bored with the positive mental training his Coach required. Instead, Michael began training his mind through the lens of visioning the worst.

Michael shifted from envisioning the perfect race to envisioning wildly imperfect races. He imagined how he would react to all sorts of challenges.

That day in the pool, goggles full of water, Michael closed his eyes and focused on what he had run through his head so many times. Swimming blind with the count of the 19 strokes to hit the wall, the turn, another 19 strokes. Michael swam blind to a world record gold metal.


Why not predict failures BEFORE they happen…..

Spend time thinking about what could go wrong.

Imagine the story of how it happens.

See roadblocks and challenges and what you would do.

Bring awareness to the fear of the unknown.

Do this personally and professionally.


Seeing mistakes you or your team might make before you make them can literally change your future and the future of your business.


Visualizing ‘if then’ scenarios will help you experience the experience, so that when you are hit with it, your mind will know what to do. Your mind will have already experienced and developed the muscle to see the experience like is has already happened.

Write your vision for an extraordinary future, and be sure to post it, just as Michael did. Planning for it in great detail with contingency plans for obstacles, mistakes and roadblocks.

Nothing will stop you now.



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