Imagining – and Achieving – Your Goals
Have you ever wondered what Olympic athletes think about right before they compete? Imagine this for a moment: they're in front of thousands, or even millions, of people. They're feeling nervous, watching their competition, and considering all the things that might go wrong and how to avoid them.
Sounds reasonable, right? After all, that's probably what we would do in their position. However, if they did that, their odds of losing the competition would probably be quite high. Well-trained athletes know they should never visualize mistakes, especially right before a competition. Why? Because picturing, or visualizing, mistakes – imagining poor performance – increases the likelihood that the athletes will actually do those things during the event, even when they don't mean to.
Instead, most top athletes are trained to visualize their goals right before a competition. They see themselves winning the game, running the fastest race, or scoring the winning point. They're trained to "picture" what they want to happen, instead of what they don't want to happen. When they do this, their chances for success increase dramatically.
This is the power of visualization – and you, too, can use this technique every day to help you achieve your goals and dreams. In this article, we outline what visualization is, and how you can start using it in your life.
What Is Visualization?
Visualization is simply a technique that you can use to create a strong mental image of a future event. With good use of visualization, you can practice in advance for the event, so that you can prepare properly for it. And by visualizing success, you can build the self-confidence you need to perform well.
For instance, imagine you have a major job interview next week. You're nervous already, and it's easy to worry about giving poor answers to the interviewer's questions, speaking awkwardly about your past accomplishments, and forgetting your letters of recommendation.
Does this sound familiar? We've all probably experienced negative thinking like this.
However, instead of thinking negatively, you could use visualization to imagine that the interview goes well. You could picture yourself talking confidently, easily describing all of your past achievements, and providing letters of recommendation to the interviewer. That vision feels a lot better, doesn't it?
Visualization offers several benefits:
- Visualizing outcomes that you want can increase your confidence. "Seeing" yourself succeed helps you believe that it can – and will – happen.
- Visualization helps you "practice" success. When you imagine every step of an event or activity going well, you get your mind and body ready to take those steps in real life.
- Anyone can benefit from visualization. You don't have to be a life coach or personal development expert to use visualization to achieve your goals.
How to Use Visualization to Achieve Your Goals
The great thing about visualization is that you can use it in so many areas of your life. Do you want a promotion? Do you want to make more friends at the office? Do you want to start your own business?
Visualization can help you in all of these areas. This is why so many highly effective people use the technique to help them achieve their goals and dreams.
Follow these steps to start visualizing your goals.
Step 1: Decide What You Want
What do you want to focus on? Pick one dream or goal to start visualizing. For example, visualize a successful outcome of the presentation you're going to give next week.
Step 2: "Create" the Scene
Start imagining the exact scene. Don't be vague or unclear – the more specific you are, and the more details you imagine, the better the visualization will work for you.
Picture the scene as if you were there. What color are the walls? What are you wearing? Who is in the room with you?
Make sure you use all of your senses in the visualization exercise. Sight, sound, taste, smell, touch – include them all so that you really bring your vision to life.
In our example, imagine yourself standing in front of the group. Picture each team member's face, and what each person is wearing. Hear the sound of papers being moved around, the smell of fresh coffee, the sight of sunshine coming in through the office windows.
Also, imagine what you're feeling and experiencing. You're confident and excited about the presentation you're about to give. You know that your team members will enjoy what you have to say, and will find value in the information you share with them. You're really looking forward to getting started.
Step 3: Imagine Each Step Toward Your Successful Conclusion
What will you have to do to make sure your presentation is successful?
Identify each step that must take place for you to achieve your goal. And start picturing each step as part of your visualization exercise.
For example, your presentation will open with an introduction. So, visualize yourself explaining to the group why you're giving the presentation, and what they'll get out of it.
Visualize the talking points you'll use, and what you'll say for each slide. Picture your hand motions, and imagine looking directly at everyone as you speak.
Go through the entire presentation in your mind, focusing on each step and how you'll feel. Remember, always focus on what you want, not on what you don't want. You want to feel relaxed and confident, not nervous or forgetful. So, focus on the positive feelings, and avoid the negative ones.
Step 4: Visualize Daily
If your presentation is two weeks away, then aim to do a complete visualization at least once a day until the actual day arrives.
It's important to be consistent, because regular visualization can convince your brain that what you imagine is actually the truth. The more you visualize something, the stronger that vision becomes – and the higher the likelihood that you'll get what you want. Why? Because you've done it already.
Visualizing daily is just like training for a marathon, or perfecting a golf swing. The more you practice, the more familiar your body (or your mind) will become with those specific "motions." You're literally training your mind for a successful outcome.
The great thing about visualization is that you can do it anywhere: on the train to and from work, at night before you go to bed, or while you're having your morning coffee.
More Visualization Tips
Here are more things to try with visualization:
- Choose a quiet environment – Do your visualization exercises in a quiet place. This allows you to focus on the experience and get the greatest benefit from it. Every time you're interrupted, it takes longer to get back into the full visualization.
- Write down one sentence that describes the outcome you want – Post this statement somewhere that's easily visible, on or near your desk. This keeps the positive outcome right in front of you, where you'll think about it often. If you can, repeat the sentence out loud several times a day.
- Find an image that represents your visualization – This could be something you print off the internet, or cut from a magazine. In our presentation example, it might be a picture of someone talking confidently in front of a group. Put this image someplace that's easily visible – on your desk, saved on your computer's wallpaper, and so on. This is another tool to help you visualize your desired outcome while you're working.
Visualization is a useful technique that helps you reach your goals and live your dreams. It works by getting your mind and body ready for what you want to happen – and, just like exercise, the more you do it, the stronger it becomes. Aim to practice your visualization exercises daily in a quiet place, and make sure your visualizations are as detailed as possible. Remember – always focus on what you want to happen, not on what you don't want to happen.