In this article I would like to show you how to use visualization to achieve your goals.
You nervous system cannot tell the difference between an imagined experience and a « real » experience. In either case it reacts automatically to information which you give to it from your forebrain. – Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics
Visualization As a Way to Practice
Our imagination is probably one of the most powerful tools we have to develop ourself and improve our life. Our imagination allows us to create in our mind any kind of experiences at any time. You can practice anything in your mind as often as you want and for free. Actually, professional players, chess players, golfers, generals in the army, CEOs and many other succcessful people are using visualization everyday. You are using it too whether you are aware of it or not but chances are that most of the time it is to visualize negative things. You might be worrying about the future and visualizing yourself losing your job or failing an exam, or you might be dwelling on the past.
The reality is that we cannot clearly distinguish real experiences from “fake” experiences, which means that we can trick our mind by simulating desired experiences through visualization making it believe that it is real. The more details you visualize, the more your brain will interprete that experience as real. If you believe you have a poor imagination don’t worry; imagination is like a muscle. Take the practice of visualization as a good opportunity for you to improve your imagination.
In the 1960s an experiment evaluating students on their ability to score free throws at basketball under different conditions was conducted. Students were divided into three groups: one group was asked to train 20 minutes a day for 20 days, one group was asked not to train at all, and one group was asked to practice free throws but only in their imagination 20 minutes a day for 20 days. What the experiment revealed is that, the group who practiced only in their imagination performed almost exactly as well as students who actually practiced. Students who practiced improved in scoring 24% while students who practiced in their imagination improved in scoring 23%. Students who didn’t train didn’t show any improvement. This experiment was replicated many times and showed similar results.
Change Your Self-Image Through Visualization
The more you practice visualization, the more you will start to feel that what you are visualizing is becoming real. Visualization will help you deal with your limiting beliefs and change your self-image. Indeed, all your current belief system is regulated by what you’ve experienced through your life, what your professors, your parents or the media told you and that you accepted as the “truth”. What visualization allows you is to create new experiences and accumulate them in your brain. By doing so you can progressively reshape your self-image by reaching your subconscious mind.
It is no exaggeration to say that every human being is hypnotized to some extent, either by ideas he has uncritically accepted from others, or ideas he has repeated to himself or convinced himself are true – Maxwell Maltz
By visualizing everyday the life you want to have and the person you want to be, you will start to affect your subconscious mind and modify your self-image. Our subconscious mind accept any kind of information it received as true. Thus, if we create new experiences by using our imagination, new beliefs will be created, our interpretation of the world will change and our self-image will be reshaped. Our subconcious mind, which Maxwell Maltz calls an automatic goal-striving machine, will accept those new experiences as true and will work towards achieving the goals we have set based on those experiences. That’s why it is important to have clear goals. The clearer your goals, the better your subconscious mind will support you.
Ideally you should constantly visualize where you want to be in 5 years or 10 years. In your mind, you should already be where you want to be years before you actually get there. Visualization is like meditation, you should practice everyday to alter progressively your self-image and move towards your goals.
A Simple Example of How I Use Visualization
I used to feel awkward when talking with teachers. I considered myself as inferior to them and hadn’t the confidence to really talk to them. When I bumped into teachers I would say “hi” but would feel awkward having a conversation with them or asking them questions. One day I came up with the idea of visualizing myself bumping into them and imagined they smiled at me as if I was their best friend. In my apartment I would literally imagine myself opening my arms and hug them, or high five them while saying out loud “How are you doing man?” or “What’s up bro!”. I repeat this exercise everyday for about two weeks. After that, I bumped into several teachers but strangely enough I didn’t feel awkward anymore and actually I had small conversations with them and asked them some questions.
If for instance, there is someone you are not at ease talking with, you might want to try this technique. I would be curious to know how it works for you.
As I mentioned in my article about meditation don’t make things complicated or find excuses not to start something. Let’s make it simple. Don’t worry if you are not good at visualizing. Our imagination is like a muscle it has to be trained (I suck at visualizing. That’s why I want to practice too).
In this article I would like to challenge you to practice visualization for just 5 minutes a day for a month.
Here are some guidelines (for more details check the video below)
– Sit down and close your eyes
– Focus on a specific goal (being confident, being slim, earning a specific amount of money, doing your dream job…)
– Visualize your goal with as much details as possible and as if you already accomplished it (How do you feel? What do you do? How do you behave? What do you hear?)
– Focus on the same goal for a month
The more you will practice the clearer your goal will become and the more emotion you will attach to your vision, the powerful it will be.
I must admit that I haven’t seriously dug into visualization yet. For that reason, I declare here that I will commit myself to the practice of visualization for at least 5 minutes a day for a full month (from September 18th to October 18th).
Let’s practice visualization together for a month and see how it goes! Leave me a comment below and share with me what is the goal you want to focus on.
Video explaining how to practice visualization
A powerful motivational video about Arnold Schwarzenegger where he talked a little bit about visualization
See also: Is Meditation For Everyone?