Achieving Goals Through Visualization

Visualization is a powerful tool in communicating with the subconscious mind.  Scientific studies have shown that the mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is vividly imagined.  Elite athletes, successful speakers, famous celebrities, and a variety of others have incorporated visualization into their practice as a way to enhance performance and achieve goals, but this technique is readily available to everyone.  The only resources that you need are a compelling enough reason to achieve your goal and a creative imagination.

You may have heard about the famous study by Australian psychologist Alan Richardson that tested basketball players' abilities to improve their free throws over a period of thirty days.  He randomly broke a group of one hundred players into groups of three.  The first group (Group A) was told to practice free throws for twenty minutes, five days a week, for four weeks.  The second group (Group B) was told to simply visualize themselves throwing free throws for the same duration over the course of four weeks.  The last group (Group C) was told to neither visualize nor practice free throws at all.

Not surprisingly, Test Group C had no significant improvement.  Groups A and B, however, had marked improvements of 24% and 23%, respectively. The link between visualization, muscle memory, and improved performance have been so well established that Olympians from all over the world, major sports teams and the like are all incorporating visualization into their normal practice routines. 

Golf legend Jack Nicklaus once said, "I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head."  Conor McGregor, current UFC Featherweight Champion visualized his matches in painstaking detail.  McGregor had a crystal clear vision of every moment of each fight played out in his mind and there was never a moment when he wasn't absolutely certain he wouldn't be victorious.  He said, "If you have a clear picture in your head of something that's going to happen...then nothing can stop it."  World famous photographer Ansel Adams said, "In my mind's eye, I visualize how a particular... sight and feeling will appear on a print. If it excites me, there is a good chance it will make a good photograph. It is an intuitive sense, an ability that comes from a lot of practice." 

Swedish Psychologist K. Anders Ericsson came up with the concept of the 10,000 Hour Rule.  The rule proposes that anyone with natural aptitude can become masterfully skilled in any subject with a minimum of 10,000 hours of "deliberate practice."  I think a lot of athletes, musicians, and successful entrepreneurs become expertly skilled at their crafts because they become obsessed with their vision.  They literally eat, sleep and breathe whatever they are most passionate about.  If your mind cannot tell the difference between what is real and what is vividly practiced, is it conceivable that these individuals are accumulating hours of "deliberate" and focused practice through visualization?

Think of something that you excel at.  It could be golf, knitting, painting, or playing a musical instrument.  How many hours would you estimate you have spent thinking about this particular thing, or honing this particular skill, or pursuing this favorite pastime?  If you really stopped to consider the hours or even years that you've invested, you might surprise yourself.

In order to visualize successfully, you must have a really clear vision of the goal you want to achieve.  As an example, don't just say that you want to go on a vacation next year.  Have a more specific goal of traveling first class to Barcelona for ten days in April of 2017 with your best friend.  The more specific, the better. And always set your goal or intention from a positive state of mind.

Next, you need to have a really good reason to want to achieve that goal.  You may be familiar with Freud's concept of the Pleasure Principle.  It basically states that people are motivated for one of two reasons: to seek pleasure or to avoid pain.  In the case of this imagined Spanish vacation, you would obviously be motivated by pleasure.  On a surface level, you might say you want to visit Spain for the amazing tapas, cava, and historical sites.  But if you dive deeper to find meaning behind wanting to take this vacation, it could be about longing for a sense of peace or freedom in your life or to connect with and experience an entirely different culture, perhaps even more compelling reasons.

The next step is to visualize yourself achieving your goal.  Vividly picture yourself on your vacation.  What are you wearing?  Who are you with?  What's the weather like and what sights or sounds do you see and hear?  How are you feeling?  Really act as if these things have already happened in your life.  When you visualize - visualize in both the first person and third person.  When you visualize in the first person, you are seeing the world through your own eyes, seeing what you saw, hearing what you heard, smelling particular scents, etc.  Eliciting these powerful visuals evokes intense feelings, which play a major role in activating your subconscious mind in achieving your goal.  Once you have visualized the scene through your own eyes, see the same scene through the third person (or observer's viewpoint).  Picture yourself in a movie theater watching yourself on vacation on the big screen.  Do you notice anything different from this vantage point than from visualizing in first person?

Visualization is extremely powerful because it helps you move through life with intention and purpose.  When done properly, visualization can have astonishing results.  When you have a clear goal, your mind looks for creative ways to bring your dream to fruition.  Oftentimes, your focus creates awareness not previously there.  You are able to spot potential opportunities that act as stepping stones towards achieving your goal.  When you visualize, you also evoke strong feelings and emotions that attract the right supporters for your vision and the tools necessary to reach your goals.  Imagine the biggest goal that you would like to achieve and consider the impact this could have on your life if it happened.  Visualization takes practice and committed effort, but the effort that you exude today could literally change the direction of your future.