"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.
The Power of Visualization
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, 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 just 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.
Third Person Perspective
Third person helps us choreograph and play with different scenarios very quickly. We can imagine multiple paths before choosing a path and envision quick scenes of success.
If we we stop there, then all we have is an imagination, and fantasy. Then when we actually try something, reality smacks us in the face, and we get surprised – our expectations of our success fall down and go boom.
But those doses of reality inform us for the future — if we use them.
Use Doublethink with First Person Perspective
That’s where Doublethink comes into play. With Doublethink we step into the challenges we are likely going to hit. This is where we can visualize in the first person. This is where we can bring all of our senses to bear. We can see it, feel it, taste it, heart it, smell it.
We are in the thick of it, and we are now testing our ideas of how we will deal with the challenge before us. We are truly baking into our bodies and minds what the future will feel like, drawing from our past experience and the experience we are shaping in our minds for the future.
This way, when reality smacks back, not only do we expect it, we know exactly how to do deal with, and we know exactly how it will feel.
Or, we get surprised, and we’ll use this experience the next time we try to visualize this scene.
Visualize Better By Combining First Person, Third Person, and Doublethink
To bottom line it, you need both. Use third-person visualization to rapidly play out possibilities and to create the scene end-to-end from a balcony view, or like watching a movie.
See your success, then Doublethink your way through.
Zoom in to the challenging parts. Use your first person view to really test yourself against the challenges and setbacks. Work through them so you can see, hear, feel, taste, and smell success.
Note that it might feel natural to visualize from the third person since it gives us the balcony view and helps us rise above any current limitations. We know babies do scenario planning — it’s wired into us. They probably use a rapid combination of third person and first person views to figure out how to escape from the crib or get the ba-ba.
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.