Do not confuse visualization with ‘if you can see it, you can achieve it’ jargon propagated by so-called self-help gurus. Visualization is a scientifically proven technique that is used by successful people around the world. In fact, the best athletes use it all the time to achieve tough goals. According to science, our nervous system reacts in a similar fashion to real-world and imaginary situations. For example, when you imagine yourself climbing a hill, or you are actually climbing a hill, in both cases, the same set of neural networks is activated.
Moreover, research has also proved that mental workouts excite our sympathetic nervous system. Our sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our flight –or-fight response, and controls our heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure in pressure situations. Thus, when you imagine something happening in great detail, your sympathetic nervous system is activated. When you do it enough times, you can actually train yourself to be calmer in tough real-life situations.
In essence, visualization is a method of training your nervous system to handle stress in real-life situations better. Of course, on a psychological level, the technique also helps to keep you motivated, and helps boost your self-confidence.
Whether you want to transform yourself into a lean, mean machine, or you want to excel at that super important project professionally, visualization can help you achieve your potential. Here are some visualization techniques that can get you closer to your goals:
Imagine success, and try to involve all your five senses
Sit down at a quiet place in a comfortable position, and try to imagine what it would be like to achieve a goal. Try to imagine it in as much detail as possible. For example, if you want to complete a marathon, imagine what it would feel like to cross the finish line. Try to create a mental picture of the situation- the people that would be around you, the elation that you would feel, the smells that you are likely to experience, the compliments that you will hear et al. The goal here is to create mental scenery and feel it like its actually happening, so that your nervous system is activated.
Of course, it won’t come to you immediately. Just like you need to practice driving a car to get better at it, you need to practice visualization to nail it. The image that you create in your head should be so detailed that you should transcend to that place and time when you achieve success.
Some experts suggest writing down the scenery in as much detail as possible to get started. When you begin writing, you would probably be able to write just a paragraph or two. However, sit down and every day and add more detail to it, just like a good author would. Writing down what it feels like to achieve your goal helps to imagine it better.
Start small and be more specific
If you can’t seem to nail down mental sceneries of success, it is probably wiser to start with small goals, and be specific about every step. For example, it could be as simple a goal as to cut down on unhealthy foods. In order to achieve that through visualization, imagine reaching for healthy options such as fruits and nuts. When you start imagining yourself doing so, focus on every step that’s involved in achieving it. Thus, you would have to walk to the fridge, open it, look for your favorite fruit, take it out, probably wash it, bite into it, and chew it until it’s finished.
A study was conducted by McGill University in 2011, where people were told to eat more fruits. One set was taught the visualization method and asked to be specific about each step, while the other was simply asked to stay motivated. The study found that people who imagined every step of eating more fruits were actually better at achieving the goal.
Make a vision board
Draw images for each goal that you want to achieve. If you are not very good at drawing, you could probably take pictures from the internet and stick them on your vision board. For example, if your goal is to deliver a presentation in front of hundreds of people, get a picture of a crowd and a confident speaker standing in front of them. You could also stick your own picture in front of the crowd in a confident pose.
Keep the vision board where you can see it every day. Your bedroom is a good bet. Our brain is conditioned to recall imagery more easily. Thus, when you see your vision board every day, the pictures are imprinted on your memory. You can recall them at will while you are at work, taking a shower, driving a car et al.
Create a visualization corner
Research has proved that you can condition your brain to perform tasks more efficiently by giving it the same set of surroundings over a period of time. Create a corner in your home where you visualize every day. Try to keep the settings for all five senses the same. Thus, you could use scented candles, put on your favorite music, sit on a comfortable chair, and even chew on your favorite gum while you visualize your goals.
Be realistic about it
Visualization will not give you superhuman powers. If you don’t have the talent to sing, visualization will not help you ace American Idol. Thus, you need to be realistic when setting your goals. Realistic does not mean conservative though. For example, if you are a musician and you are playing gigs in your neighborhood bar, that by no way means you cannot play in front of hundreds and thousands of people one day.
You have the potential. Visualization can help you unlock that potential. When you start to imagine success, you are inherently motivated to take steps to make the dream come true. That’s the whole idea behind this power technique to achieve your goals.