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Get What You Want With Serena’s Winning Secret

Money, success, a tight body, a happy marriage. She has it all — and you can put her pro strategy into play today.

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Serena Williams photo illustration
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Picture it: The job promotion. The new clients. The college degree. The fly car. Sounds like a fantasy, right? But go ahead and picture it, anyway. It’s not daydreaming. It’s called visualization. And it’s a tool our girl Serena Williams has used to gain courtside advantage throughout her entire career.

When she competes at this year’s U.S. Open (August 26 to September 8), the powerhouse will be chasing her seventh Open singles title. But from the time she was knee-high to a net, Serena’s dad, Richard, encouraged her to think and practice as if she was already competing in a Grand Slam match. Clearly, father knew best.

To date, Serena has 23 Grand Slam singles titles (the all-time record is 24), 72 singles titles and four Olympic gold medals. Girlfriend even made it onto the Wheaties box. Raise your hand if you think she visualized that as a youngster. (Hint: she did!) Between prize money, investments and endorsements, Serena’s amassed over $180 million in earnings. And let’s not forget that this 37-year-old epitome of Black Girl Magic is also a wife and the mother of a 23-month-old toddler.

While some use vision boards or apps such as EnVision to bring their dreams into focus, visualization needn’t be high tech. Actually, it can be downright old school. The Bible says, “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets,” (Habakkuk 2:2) and for eons folks have done just that. In my book Work It: Pursue Your Passion, Live Your Purpose — Now, I tell the story of a 10-year-old who, when given an assignment to write down what he wanted to be when he grew up, said he wanted to be on TV. His teacher scoffed but his father encouraged him to keep the assignment in a drawer and look at it often. The boy did. And 26 years later, Steve Harvey finally made it to television.

So what does it take to be a winner? “Everyone’s dream can come true if you just stick to it and work hard,” Serena says. But that’s not all. Her success also comes from having access to cutting-edge coaching and performance tools usually reserved for elite athletes. They’re guaranteed to work for you too, even if you don’t know your backspin from your break point.

“I am a strong believer in visualization,” Serena said to one interviewer. “You need to see things happening and envision yourself in a fantasy world — and really believe in that fantasy world — until it comes true.”

Cognitive scientific research indicates that the brain doesn’t know the difference between a real memory and an imagined one, so if you envision something vividly enough, your mind perceives it as something you’ve already experienced. Net result: When you really start that new business or interview for that top position, you won’t freak out because your brain has already been there.

You don’t even have to imagine the win itself, just the preceding moments. According to the Harvard Business Review, visualizing yourself just about to achieve (rather than achieving) a goal­ can also be a powerful boost to your confidence and performance. Stanford University neuroscientists found evidence that mental rehearsal prepares the mind for real-world action. They’re still not sure how the process works, but world-class athletes like Serena are proof that it does.

“You have to believe in yourself when no one does,” Serena says. “If plan A isn’t working, I have plan B, plan C and even plan D.” Meanwhile, neuroscientists say that the brain has its own GPS system, so program where you want to go (your goal) and your brain will get you there. Lots of other work needs to be done but the evidence suggests that success starts in your head.

Takeaway: To use visualization effectively, do these three things:
· Use your imagination to see what you want clearly.
· Help your brain accept a new reality by using your emotions and senses when you visualize. How will you feel when you get that promotion or lose 20 pounds?
· Repeat the process daily.

According to Merlisa Lawrence Corbett, author of Serena Williams: Tennis Champion, Sports Legend, and Cultural Heroine, the tennis star still jots down affirmations and brings them to her matches. Occasionally, Corbett says, Serena will even glance at the affirmations during a match.
Takeaway: Carry positive reinforcement notes with you everywhere — you never know when you may need a boost. Some affirmations to try:
· I am and always have been enough.
· I am a powerful creator; I create the life I want and enjoy it.
· I can let go of old, negative beliefs that stood in the way of my success.

Serena has been quoted as saying that “tennis is just a game; family is forever.” Indeed, nothing is as important as maintaining strong, loving relationships. But be sure to look at all aspects of your life if you want to stay on an even keel.
Takeaway: Some everyday ways to achieve balance include:
· Eat and drink mindfully. (#nopiggingoutonthebrownies)
· Take time to socialize and have fun with friends.
· Exercise regularly.

Downtime isn’t an indulgence. It’s crucial to success — Serena’s and yours. “One of the most important parts of her training that you rarely see is the fact that when she is not training, she's off,” Serena’s husband, Alexis Ohanian, told Business Insider. “Like off. Her business stops, she shuts everything off and creates time for herself. She's like, 'I'm closed for business.’ … Her assistants, her team, everyone knows that they're not talking to her — this is her time.”

Research supports Serena’s strategy. Scientific American reported that napping, meditation and mental breaks can increase productivity, revive attention spans and encourage creativity.
Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to rest when your body and mind tell you it’s time. Your emotional health and performance will be better because of it.