Visualize success like a major league all-star

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I read in the Boston Globe about this guy, Jim Fannin, who is a mental coach for hundreds of people, including twenty-two major league baseball all-stars. So I decided to interview him, thinking that I’d be able to implement his program for my own goals.

Most of what I know about mental coaching comes from my experience in professional beach volleyball. At the top of any sport, the difference between players is not physical skills because everyone has them. The difference is mental. Who can stay focused and believe in themselves during every game.

I couldn’t do that on the volleyball tour, and I know this shortcoming holds me back in my work today, too. So I was very curious about Fannin saying that he can teach people how to gain mental focus.

It turns out, that Fannin teaches people how to be top in their field by teaching one thing: Play a movie in your head of you achieving your big goal. For Alex Rodriguez it was being a top hitter. And he became the American League MVP. Not just in his own movie, but in real life.

Sounds easy, but for most people, getting to the movie is very hard. (Which is why Fannin wrote a book.) Here are the steps you have to take:

1. Know exactly what you want. A defined, very specific goal. Not “start a company” but “open a dog-grooming business in Portland.”

2. Know exactly what reaching the goal will look like — the steps leading up to the achievement. If your goal is to win a Nobel Prize, you need to imagine yourself making the great discovery.

3. Organize your life around your goal so that you can play your movie in your head before you go to bed and immediately when you get up. This means you need to get to some sort of meditative point where you can sit still, for maybe ten minutes, while you play your movie in your head.

4. Find optimism. Lots of it. Because you have to believe in yourself enough that you will actually do this exercise every day until you reach your dream.

I believe that this will work. It makes sense to me, and it’s worked for thousands of people. Not just athletes.

But this morning, when I woke up, I realized how hard it was going to be. I had no movie to play in my head and I had not set aside time in my schedule to day to plan what my movie will be. So I guess I’ll start tomorrow.

18 replies
  1. Ken Fasimpaur
    Ken Fasimpaur says:

    Interesting idea. I’ll have to look into Fannin’s book to see if he has advice on visualizing multiple equally important goals. A film trilogy, perhaps!

  2. Diana
    Diana says:

    Hello! I’m on your mailing list, and I think your blog is really great! I’ve read your columns in our local news-weekly, and I always appreciate your insight into finding and thriving at a career.

    I’m currently job-hunting, so the idea of the mental “movie” sounds pretty helpful.

  3. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Hey, Diane. Jim Fannin actually gave a lot of examples of how the movie thing can help with job hunting. The advantage is that you know your goal — the kind of job you want to get — and you know the basic parts of the movie — the interview, salary negotiation, etc. So I think this would be a good place to learn all the visualization techniques.

    I’m finding it’s much harder to use the technique for more overarching life goals, like, eradicate poverty in Kentucky or something.

  4. Dani
    Dani says:

    I’m also on your mailing list, and really just want to be one of the first to comment on what I’m sure will become a ridiculously popular blog!

    The great thing about this technique is that it encourages you to focus on your strengths and they role they play in your goal. I’ve found playing to your strengths is a much better way to reach succes than putting all your energy into fixing your weaknesses.

  5. Lynda
    Lynda says:

    I’m a big fan of your newsletter and am thrilled that you’ve started blogging. We recently launched a blog directory at that has an edited group of blogs that appeal to women. I’m sure the thousands of women who visit daily would love to discover your blog.
    If you have a minute can you submit your blog?
    Lynda Keeler

  6. Gavin Allinson
    Gavin Allinson says:

    Did you ever gt round to interviewing Jim? I read a newspaper article about Luke Donald the pro golfer, in it he said if you want to have abnormal results you need to have abnormal thoughts

  7. Penelope Trunk
    Penelope Trunk says:

    Hi, Gavin. Your question is a really good one: Did I ever interview Jim. In fact, I interviewed him for the post that you are commenting on. Which makes me think that I have to be more clear in the blog about when I am interviewing people for blog entries.

    I did a half-hour interview with him and he had a million more tips than those I put in the post. (Example, if you are feeling bad thoughts, tip your chin up. Fro 75% of people the bad thoughts will go away.)

    Anyway, I’ll write more about the interview for my column (which I post on the blog) in the middle of July.


    • Jack Borden
      Jack Borden says:


      Outstanding info re Jim Fannin !

      Countless people have contacted me re the stress-reduction value of
      looking up…at the sky.

      Those who develop Sky Awareness soon recognize the wisdom in the sky quotes
      attributed to Emerson and Thoreau.

      I have 64 pages of HDT’s quotes re sky.

      I’ll mail you the above if you provide a postal address.

      Ck Boston Globe G Sec Cover story by Jan Brogan…1st wk of January 2013 for
      more re FSS/SA. Also cover story 4/94 SMITHSONIAN plus FSS stories in

      MORE SKY


  8. Kelly Cree
    Kelly Cree says:

    I often find myself giving a motivational speech to a packed high school auditorium as I attempt to fall asleep at night. Then, one night, I realized I was talking to myself. I think this has a similar effect.

  9. Kathryn
    Kathryn says:

    I created a multi-slide screen saver that would pop up when my computer was dormant during the day. It was a subtle reminder to me of what my goals were.

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