"What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve." — Napolean Hill
Visualization is actually a skill you can develop to improve your motivation and your results. Athletes and executives use visualization all the time to improve their motivation and results.
You can too.
You can use visualization as a dry run or a walkthrough to learn a new skill. You can use it to build a new mental model of what’s possible. You can tap your brain’s creativity and resourcefulness to get past a roadblock. You can use visualization to feel a new way about an upcoming situation. I think the most powerful use of visualization is to build or re-enforce paths to solutions.
Visualize Better Using Science
To make the most of visualization, you need to get science on your side. Just visualizing a great result doesn’t do it. In fact, that can do more harm than good. For example, if you just visualize yourself getting A’s, but don’t study for the test, that’s a recipe for failure. Success starts in the mind, but the key is to be optimistic about achieving your goal, while being realistic about the challenges you’ll face.
In the book 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot (Borzoi Books) , psychologist Richard Wiseman shares the science behind visualizing more effectively. It includes using a technique called “Doublethink” and seeing yourself in the third person.
Steps to Visualize with Skill
Here is a set of steps I put together that integrates the science and can help you visualize with skill:
- See yourself achieving your goal. Involve all your senses. See it, smell it, hear it, taste it, etc. The more sense you can involve the more you engage your brain and body in stepping into your success, creating a new mental model, and fully feeling the impact of achieving your desired results.
- See yourself going through the process. This is the tougher part, but it’s actually the more important part. This is where visualization will really help you. It’s the process that will create your path to success, but the process is also where you will hit your challenges. Visualization can help you see yourself dealing more effectively with the challenges, or finding new solutions.
- Identify the benefits of reaching your goal. Simply identify the vital few benefits that flow out of achieving your outcome. Focus on the benefits that mean the most to you.
- Identify the roadblocks, hurdles or challenges with reaching your goal.
- For each benefit, identify the biggest hurdle and what you’ll do when you encounter it. This is the “Doublethink.” Doublethink is simply holding two opposing beliefs in your mind and accepting both. This is actually crucial to your success. Instead of glossing over and just imagining a shiny happy outcome, you take a good hard look at the realistic challenges you’ll face. Imagine what you will do when you face these challenges. You’ll be more effective in the real situations from practicing “Doublethink” rather than just fantasizing or just focusing on the negatives.
To make your visualization more effective, rather than visualize yourself from the first person point of view, see yourself in the third person. See yourself as others would see you, like watching yourself in a movie or on the TV. See yourself in action while watching from above.
The real power of visualization comes from both fantasizing about achieving great results while simultaneously acknowledging and addressing your challenges, fears, and setbacks head-on.
Photo by Bruce Tuten.