My heart beating wildly in excited anticipation, I approach the cherry red Mercedes sports car. I marvel at the shiny paint, the sleek lines of the car, the open sunroof. My trembling hand reaches out and touches the door handle, then pulls back. Who am I to own a Mercedes? I’m not rich, live on the edge financially. Am I crazy to even dream of owning this car?
Then swallowing my fears, I open the door and step inside, breathe in the rich smell of leather and feel it warm and slick as it cups my butt. I place both hands on the steering wheel at the 10 and 2 positions, and feel the sensual caress of the padded and leather-wrapped wheel. I close my eyes for a moment, take a deep breath and enjoy the exultation of success! Opening my eyes again, I look at the unfamiliar dashboard and clusters of instruments I’ll soon get to know. I gauge the space, reach for the pedals on the floor, adjust the seat.
I look through the windshield and side windows and see color and movement. Green trees are flying by, I’m passing cars on the highway. Other drivers look at me and smile, giving me a “thumbs up” sign. I feel the vibration of the powerful motor and the tires on the roadway.
“Pat, are you okay?”
The jarring voice interrupted my daydreaming. I was so deep into my vision that it took a moment to realize I was at home with a friend, having an evening glass of wine.
But the power of that vision was real. It had been ten years since I first drove the car of my dreams, a low-slung Mercedes. It had captured my imagination and I had promised myself I would own such a car when I became successful. Another friend and I had been shopping for a new car to replace my old two-door Buick that was rapidly reaching the end of its useful life for me. I had just started a new job, and it would require frequent trips around town to visit client companies. The Buick was no longer reliable. It was in the shop almost as much as it was in my driveway. So on a lark, we stopped at the dealership and I drove the Mercedes. And it is no exaggeration to say that my life changed forever.
I bought an Oldsmobile because it drove more like the Mercedes than the other cars I drove. The color was wrong, and the front seat was a fabric bench rather than the leather bucket I wanted, but it was reliable. More important, each time I drove that Oldsmobile a cognitive dissonance set up within me. I knew this was the wrong car and my mind put me back into that Mercedes. And for ten years I worked hard, honed my skills, moved up in my career and dreamed of “my” Mercedes.
Almost ten years to the day later, I drove home in my new, English Red Mercedes. I’d experienced not a moment of doubt or fear when I sat in the new car for the first time. On the contrary, it was like coming home to a place where I belonged and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. Finally!
But as I look back now on that experience I understand that it was the original vision that started the entire process. My dissatisfaction with the status quo, the cognitive dissonance, had prodded me to save my money, continuously develop my skills and do the work required to move up in my career and income level.
The lesson is clear for readers: If you want to change your status quo you must first develop a clear vision of what it will look like when you’re where you want to be. Want to improve your group’s safety record? Increase your company’s productivity? Achieve new sales records? Have more satisfying relationships with the people around you? Then you must develop a clear vision of the outcome, and put yourself inside the vision. This process doesn’t work if you see yourself as if in a movie, with someone else holding the camera. You must be inside the vision, looking out through your own eyes and emotions. And in a work environment, you must get staff into the vision with you, working toward the same outcomes.
When you do that, cognitive dissonance will take over and you will soar to new heights!
In future blogs we’ll discuss more specifics about how to develop and use your vision to achieve great goals. Meanwhile, my thanks to Lou Tice for his original New Age Thinking training program, where I learned about these tools.