What makes one person a success and another a failure?
Most would agree that success does not result from IQ alone, we've all seen brilliant people fade into mediocre jobs. Nor does it arise solely from great clothes, effective people skills or a good attitude. True and lasting success depends on a great Total Image.
As an image professional I am often mistaken for someone who concentrates solely on the visual appearance of a person. However, while it is true that looking good does positively impact how a person feels and acts and it is known to solicit the same reaction in others, of itself it will guarantee you of nothing more than a large credit card account.
Those who desire lasting success need to recognise and manage all the areas of total image and keep each under constantly review. Every image area is essential to success; if any one is allowed to deteriorate it will have a negative effect on your career.
The Five Areas of Total Image
1. Hidden Image
This is the sum and substance of who you are, the real you that others can't see. It is the bedrock on which every act of your life has been played out and on which your future will be determined.
It is the central elements that make up 'who you are', what you think and how you behave and react in every situation. It is 'your reality' and it governs what you want and expect out of life and other people and it sets the parameters from which you live and behave. Hidden/inner image is comprised of your unique set of values and beliefs, ethics, experiences, cultural background, honesty, integrity, passion/purpose, motivation, attitude, personality, self-esteem and confidence.
Anyone can be groomed to walk into a room and make a smashing impression, but it is the substance behind the performance that will ultimately sustain the impression. Any component of hidden image that is lacking or in need of attention has the power to diminish or override success in the four other areas of image.
2. Assumed/Believed Image
This is what others expect of you or if they know of you, it is your reputation. In many cases your reputation will have preceded you, either smoothing your way or impeding your path with avalanches of misconceived ideas and prejudices. Thus your reputation must be carefully created, maintained and zealously protected. You must know what others say and think of you and what to do to repair any damage. Self-positioning is a valuable skill in image management, it allows you to set a platform from which others to seek you out.
3. Seen Image
As the saying goes, 'seeing is believing', therefore this level is most powerful when meeting someone for the first time. Research has shown that visual presentation (dress, grooming and body language) accounts for more than half of the impression we make on others. When you dress and act in the manner expected of a successful person, in most cases it will be assumed that you possess the talent, personality and characteristics that accompany that image. Present a poor first impression and you may have to struggling a long time to reclaim lost ground.
4. Experienced Image
Closely allied with visual image are your behavioural, people and communication skills. If you can create positive and lasting relationships with people at all levels you will find doors are more easily opened, others will be more open to your ideas, opportunities will be presented to you and your professional endeavours will proceed more smoothly and you will gain faster results. Always strive to leave people with a positive experience of you.
5. Proven Image
This is the final area of image management. It is the results of your efforts and talents as proven over time. Did you live out your promises and fulfil expectations in all five areas of total image? If you did this will enhance and upgrade your reputation, if you didn't your reputation will be also be affected. Thus the circle of total image is forever being renewed. It is never too late to decide to take an active interest in improving your image.
Your future is in your hands
Ultimately you alone are responsible for the position you are in. Your present situation and your future are both the realisation of every conscious and unconscious decision you have ever, or will ever make. Success or failure is therefore in your hands, not your parent's, wife's, partner's, children's, friend's or even your employer's, but yours.
Success rarely comes easily or by accident, in most cases it involves consistent personal development; lessons learned from painful mistakes, clear personal goals, careful planning, self-promotion, continuing education and consistency of effort. No one area of image can make you successful or for the long term, but likewise awareness alone is not enough ? you must take action. I have heard many people say 'I know that' but they have never and will never implement the insight and will always wonder why nothing ever changes for them.
Corporations who take Total Image seriously are leading the way; they know their promises and mission statements are not worth the paper they are written on if not backed-up by congruent experiences. You are no different. Are you giving equal attention to inner image, outer presentation, behaviour, communication skills and reputation? If so, you are well on the way to business success.
Ann Reinten AICI is an internationally certified image professional, corporate image specialist and CEO of The Australian Image Company.
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