By Dr. Ari Bernstein
Consider this quote from William Arthur Ward, a well-known crafter of inspirational quotes: “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.” In a nutshell, this sentiment could help explain the importance of visualization as a powerful tool for achieving your goals.
But does visualization really work? And if it does, how can you implement this superpower in your own life? Throughout these past few years, I’ve really harnassed my own ability to visualize my goals. It can be a powerful tool to enact change in your life.
What Is Visualization?
The Cambridge Dictionary defines visualization as “the act of visualizing something or someone” or “forming a picture of it in your mind.” Sounds easy right? So easy that you might be a bit skeptical. But there are studies that show that a little “mental practice” can prepare you for success almost as well as physical actions can.
In one study, researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Foundation demonstrated the power of the mind’s visualization over the body and its muscles. It has been proven that visualization trains the brain for actual performance by:
- Enhancing your motivation to strive for your goals and dreams
- Priming your brain for success
- Increasing your confidence and self-efficacy
- Promoting positive thinking to help you stay on track with your goals
- Helping your brain recognize what resources you will need to achieve those goals
Other studies have shown that by combining visualization with action increased performance. Famous athletes like Tiger Woods, Jack Nicklaus, and Muhammad Ali all employed visualization to enhance their performance and achieve greatness in their sports.
Visualization has worked for them, and it’s also worked for me, so whether your focus is on business success, athletics, or personal growth, visualizing is a method for success.
Techniques for Implementing Visualization into Your Life
You might be asking how you can implement visualization into your life. The funny thing is that you might already be doing it on a subconscious level. Our brains constantly use visualization to simulate what could happen in our lives. For example, you could have a meeting scheduled with a client to discuss your proposal. It is highly likely before the meeting occurs that you have gone over various scenarios of what your client’s response and the outcomes might be.
Considering the possibilities of what could happen is something we all automatically do as humans. But what if you applied more conscious intentions into your visualizations? It is possible to learn to use visualization techniques to create future simulations that can help you achieve your own personal goals.
To get started with visualizing your goals, you must first know what those goals are. Once you know what they are, the following techniques can help make your visualizations seem more realistic and enhance your motivation and performance to achieve those goals.
- Limit your distractions.As you begin to visualize your goals, you need to do it without distractions, at least until you have a little practice in developing your visualizations. This means turning off the cell phone and going to a quiet place so that you can fully focus while visualizing.
- Picture your goal in detail.For instance, do you have a goal of traveling around Europe? Can you imagine yourself walking the streets of Paris or Italy? What sights would you see? What would you smell in the air? Consider using all your senses to add more details to your visualization. The more details you include, the more realistic your visualization will seem to you. These thoughts can kick your brain into action by developing a plan for what you need to do to achieve your goal.
- Make an intense emotional connection to your goal.Our emotions are a powerful sensory tool for our brains. When you strongly feel your desire to fulfill your goal, it creates a deeper emotional intensity to your visualizations. For example, consider the moment where the theme music begins during Rocky as Rocky Balboa runs up those steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum. That music brings about intense emotions as the struggling fighter is working toward his goal of becoming a champion.
Don’t give up! In the beginning, you may find yourself having difficulty achieving success with your visualizing techniques. And that’s okay — failures help us learn. Keep trying and you will find it will become more comfortable with time. You might not immediately realize the progress you have made, but in time you will see how far you have come.