5 Ways to Use Visualisation to Achieve Your Goals
on April 7, 2020 • Grace
For generations, visualisation has been used by athletes, entrepreneurs and general go-getters in order to turn their dreams into reality. That’s because visualisation takes the guess-work out of a challenge.
Visualisation involves imagining yourself having an experience, from running a marathon to asking for a promotion, as practice for when you ultimately undertake that experience in real life.
By visualising ourselves facing a challenge, and coming out on top, we are preparing our brains, as well our bodies, for the outcome we desire. Want some proof? In one study, athletes who visualised themselves doing a hip-flexor exercise had strength gains that were scarily similar to the people who actually did the exercises on a machine for 15 minutes, five days a week.
Those same effects can be seen for whatever goal you set your mind to. Here’s how to start putting visualisation to use in order to achieve your goals:
- Write Down Your Goals
In order to use visualisation successfully, you must first figure out what your goals are, and then stick to them.
Before jumping into the process of achieving your goals, take some time to brainstorm what you really want out of your challenge. Think both long-term and short-term: Where do you want to be in a week, in a month, in a year? Ensure that these goals are clear, measurable and attainable.
Next, simply write your goals down, whether that be in a notebook, on an app on your phone, or on sticky notes stuck to your fridge, mirrors and windows. Use the language: “I want to…”
By putting these goals into words, you are forcing yourself to get serious about what you want. On the other hand, if you let your goals stay foggy daydreams, you will never have a clear path to achieving them.
If writing isn’t your thing: Since visualisation is a highly visual tactic, another great way to communicate and stick to your goals is by expressing them with pictures. Create a mood board next to your desk, or make your phone lock screen a picture of what you hope to achieve. This could be a photo of someone reaching the top of a mountain, or living in Paris, or becoming the CEO of their own company — whatever will inspire you to commit to the challenge and turn your goal into a reality.
- Rehearse, Then Rehearse Again
Once you have your goals laid out, it’s time to start visualising them. Think of this visualisation as a mental rehearsal for your achievements.
Remember: Your mental rehearsal is not a fantasy. It is a visualisation of your future success. In order to do it right, imagine every step of the process of reaching this success — the beginning, middle and end:
- Visualise walking into the location, whether it’s a boardroom, a sports arena, or a new storefront. Imagine yourself getting prepared and taking a few deep breaths before jumping in.
- Visualise the main event. Walk yourself through the entirety process, whether that be giving a speech or running laps. Remember: You want to visualise this main event as a success.
- Visualise finishing up — cooling down, receiving any awards or positive feedback, and meeting up with your friends or family after the challenge.
Mental rehearsals take the uncertainty out of a challenge. They give you a chance to identify any stressors or unexpected mishaps, and then deal with them before the big day. This will make you more confident when you are actually physically tackling your goals.
Go through these rehearsals often — every day leading up to the outcome, if possible. Take time to practice your visualisation when you are relaxed, such as when you first wake up or after a meditation.
- Focus on the Details
In order to turn this imagination into reality, be sure to visualise your achievements as clearly and accurately as possible.
In other words, dig into the details. Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Physically put yourself in the place of your challenge and visualise:
- What it smells like. If it’s an office space, can you smell freshly brewed coffee or printer paper? If it’s a sports track, can you smell mowed grass or nearby food stands?
- What it looks like. Are you inside or outside? What colour are the walls? Is it light or dark outside? Are there lots of people around you, or is the space mostly empty?
- What it sounds like. Can you hear the typing of keypads or the scribbling of pens? Are people around you talking, or cheering, or listening intently to you?
- What you are wearing when you achieve your goal. Are you in your best workout gear, or your best suit? Do you feel comfortable? Do you feel confident?
- Who is watching your shining moment. Are your friends and family on the sidelines cheering you on? Or are you surrounded by business professionals and colleagues?
- What it feels like to finally experience your goal. Are you exhausted, but satisfied? Or are you exhilarated, ready to go out and celebrate? What do you want to do first now that you’ve achieved your success?
Not only will these detailed visuals give you a release of dopamine, but they also clue your brain into exactly how to prepare for your success. When you imagine an experience as accurately as possible, you activate the relevant brain regions for experiencing it.
As performance psychologist Michael Gervais says, “The most effective imagery involves all five senses. You should be so immersed in a mental image that it seems as if it is actually happening.”
- Practice Positive Self-Talk
During visualisation, pay extra attention to your self-talk. Is it positive and helpful, or negative and hurtful? Our internal dialogue is where we either motivate ourselves with internal pep talks, or intimidate ourselves with doubts and worries.
Negative thoughts and emotions will ultimately cause you to run away from difficult situations and obstacles. This leaves you stationary, never growing or achieving your goals.
Positive thoughts and emotions, however, help you run headfirst into a new challenge. This keeps our minds open and constantly growing. Instead of shying away from an obstacle, a positive mindset will keep you motivated to overcome it.
In order to practice positive self-talk, come up with an affirmation or two that you can repeat to yourself every day. This affirmation should be visual, and it should evoke the feeling of achieving your goal. Keeping this thought in your mind, rather than negative fears or doubts, will help you stay focused on your goal, and motivated to turn it into reality.
- Look at it From Multiple Perspectives
Visualising your goals is kind of like shooting a film in your head, or writing your own success story. You have creative control over everything, from the outcome, to the characters, to the perspective from which it’s told.
While you always want to cast the lead as yourself (and not a Julia Roberts look-a-like), try playing around with the perspective of the camera in order to get a better feel for the experience.
Start with a first-person perspective. In other words, visualise the experience through your own eyes. See what it looks like to cross the finish line, or say the final word, or shake hands with a new business partner. This perspective will help you feel the experience as if it is your own — which it will soon be!
Then, take a look from the third-person point-of-view. This is the view of someone on the sidelines or in the room with you, watching you achieve the goal you’ve worked so hard toward. This perspective will highlight the impact of your goal, and help you generate motivation.
In fact, according to a 2011 study, people who visualised themselves as the person they would become as a result of exercise burned more calories than those who visualised themselves actually doing the exercise. The same goes for any success you set out to achieve!
Ready to start putting your mind to work? Good news: It only takes 10 minutes a day to see results from visualising your success. Start now, and get ready to start seeing your biggest goals become your reality!
For more motivation to achieve your goals and conquer any challenge that comes your way, check out the rest of my blogs here.