“Take time to dream! In each creative mind a dream takes wings and moves in graceful flow until it permeates the soul in relentless and persistent longing. The dream keeps urging ‘It could be.’ It won’t let go ’til the dreamer heeds and shapes it into reality.”

In the early 1950s, Florence Chadwick became the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. During her first attempt, she had been swimming for hours and was getting very near to the English coast. That’s when the seas turned much colder and heavy swells developed. A dense fog settled in blocking everything from view with a chilly wet blanket. As Florence’s pace slowed and energy drained, her mother called through the fog from one of the small boats following behind, “Come on, Florence, you can make it. It’s only a little further.” But she was exhausted and couldn’t go any further. As she slumped in the boat, Florence felt defeated and was heartbroken when she realized how close she’d come. Later she told the media, “I am not offering excuses, but I think I could have made it if I had been able to see my goal.” On her next attempt, Florence developed a powerful mental image of the coast of England. She memorized every coastal feature and replayed those images again and again in her mind. This time she encountered the same discouraging conditions as before. But her vision saw her through to success.

Carl Hiebert also used visioning to reach his goal of being the first person to fly an ultralight across Canada during Expo ’86 in Vancouver. It took him five years of planning and preparation. The 58-day adventure featured an emergency crash landing, severe weather, and numerous other natural and human-made challenges. Here’s how Carl describes the key role vision played in his unprecedented achievement, “As the pavilions of the World’s Fair became visible, I was surprised by how familiar they looked…then it struck me. I had seen this view many times through the process of visualization… I had pasted a photograph of my ultralight in the sky just above the cluster of pavilions, and almost every day, for the next 12 months, I had spent a few minutes staring at that picture, imaging myself arriving safely at Expo. Visualizing my victorious arrival had become the proverbial carrot hung just beyond the doubts and difficulties. It had been the incentive I needed to stay with my commitment.”

A big part of Florence and Carl’s extraordinary achievements came from their ability to tap into the mighty power of a vision. They aren’t alone. Extensive research in the last few decades on peak performance, leadership, personal effectiveness, adaptability to change, world-class athletes, and even the healing process, clearly shows the central role vision plays in success. Most organizations, social movements, world records, new products or services, and remarkable achievements began as a figment of someone’s imagination. Somebody had a thought that turned into a dream. That dream grew even as the dreamer was being ridiculed and told to “get real.” In 1924, Thomas Watson Sr. was heavily in debt when he came home one evening and proudly announced that his struggling Computing-Tabulating-Recording Company would now be called International Business Machines (IBM). Hearing this, his 10-year-old son, who later became a key figure in IBM’s growth, stood in the doorway of the living room thinking, ‘That little outfit?’ Coupled with disciplined action, dreams become a magnetized vision that attracts the people, events, and circumstances needed to achieve the breakthrough.

The word “vision” comes from the Latin root meaning “to see.” What we see depends upon where we look – our focus. A dream or vision is one of the most powerful forces in the universe. Like any mighty energy, our visions can help or hurt us because they are self-fulfilling prophecies. If we see ourselves as helpless victims to changes coming at us, we will be. If our attitude is “same old crap, different day,” we’ll get what we asked for. If we don’t talk to ourselves because we don’t like to deal with such a low class of people, our poor self-image won’t improve. If we focus on the thieves, liars, and idiots all around us, we’ll miss the saints that walk among us (a little girl, riding in the front seat of the car beside her mother, asked, “where are all the stupid jerks today?” Her mother replied, “They only come out when your father’s driving”). If we see little but frustration, dead ends, and career or family traps in our future, that’s where we’re headed. A skeptical “realist” lives by the philosophy “I’ll believe it when I see it.” A dreamer harnesses the vision force and successfully moves through life knowing “I’ll see it when I believe it.”

Our vision or imagination is the center point that focuses and guides our choices, authenticity, passion, spirit, growth and development, and energy. The remarkable blind and deaf author, Helen Keller, once said, “nothing is more tragic than someone who has sight, but no vision.” We can’t leave the incredible magnetic power of vision unharnessed. Left on their own, our thoughts often pull us toward the reasons why we can’t succeed rather than the many reasons we can. To increase our effectiveness, we need to actively and consciously attract into our lives what we truly want. We need to ensure the picture of our future is what we prefer, not the dark images of our fears, doubts, and insecurities that will then come true. Organization, team, and personal improvement starts with “imagineering.”