Have you ever been so wrapped up in something that you forgot to be afraid?
On Thursday last week, I went swimming in the company of some friends. I watched with great admiration as they glided in the water like fishes. Although I was in the water, I couldn’t let go of fear. I kept imagining myself drowning. Finally, my friends encouraged me to hold on to the rails, stretch out my body and flap my legs.
Then a swim instructor came along, and after some pep talk and safety rules, he said, “Nora, take a deep breath, exhale, relax and picture this. You’re in the water. You hold the rails on this side of the pool, elongate your body and let your legs float out behind you. Your blood flows, and your body gets used to the water. Next, you breathe in deeply, filling your lungs with the air. You hold your breath and dip your head under the water for 10 seconds, then 15. Congratulations, you’ve just become a pro at having your face in the water!
“Next, you bend your right knee and position that side of your foot against the edge of the pool. You stretch out your hands and place them together in front of you. You fill your lungs with air again and dip your head into the water.
“Nora, you kick the pool wall with some athletic strength. That kick takes you almost to the other end. You glide gracefully. Ms. Nora, you’re swimming, feeling the tranquility under the water and relieving the stress in every muscle. You’re flowing like you never imagined you would.
“Most importantly, you and the water are now at peace. Your new relationship with the water is for a lifetime. It’s orgasmic, and you don’t want to stop”
Where the courage to swim came from, I do not know. But I certainly know that after that, I forgot to be afraid. My subsequent movements over the next 30 minutes had everyone’s jaws drop. Your girl glided like the swallow-tailed kites of Florida, and at some point, everyone stopped to give me a splish-splash ovation.
Coach Faith had succeeded in putting me in the moment. He psyched me and painted a beautiful future, so vivid that I could see myself living the new life. From then on, I soared. Hopefully, I will get transported to another beautiful future at our next hangout.
This instructor used a tried-and-tested storytelling technique called future pacing.
Future Pacing: Lessons from a Swimming Newbie
Future Pacing is a compelling type of storytelling that allows the reader to imagine themselves in their ideal future. Consider it a progressive lens that allows your audience to see near, far, and in-between. It helps them picture what life will be with or without your product.
In the case of positive future pacing, the audience sees themselves as living their dream life, thanks to your product. “Nora, you’re gliding, feeling the tranquility under the water, and you and the water are now at peace.” The product (his swim lessons) was the tool that helped me live the good life.
To use this technique effectively, you’d need to know your prospects’ pain points. What are they looking for, or what problem do they have? In this example, my pain point was that I couldn’t swim to save my life.
Once you identify their pain points, use this knowledge to transport them to their dream future.
Future pacing, the Present Tense, and Word Pictures
The trick to effective future pacing is using the present tense. It helps your readers picture themselves as doing the act. They think of the event as happening or as has already happened. “Ms. Nora, you’re gliding, feeling the tranquility under the water and relieving the stress in every muscle.”
Another trick is to use word pictures and emotions that would help them feel the moment and picture what their life would look like after their desire is fulfilled.
After all, isn’t a picture worth more than a thousand words?
When using word pictures, please be ultra-specific. For example, instead of saying, you get used to the water, the Coach paints a picture of a beautiful romance with the water. “You and the water are now at peace … It’s orgasmic, and you don’t want to stop”.
In negative future pacing, you show the clients the troubles they will have if they do not use your product. This technique is also powerful because, sometimes, the negative is more compelling than the positive and motivates people to take action faster. For example, consider Coach Faith’s words and think about all the opposites of the beautiful picture he painted. “Nora, you’re scared stiff of the water. Your stress level is off the rooftops, and your muscles are tense. You mope while everyone has the time of their lives, relieve stress, and keep fit.”
Look at this story here to see how future pacing works in a real-life copy.
Will you be future pacing any soon?
I thank you for reading, and I will see you next week.