Watch Yourself Succeed – Then Do It!
It may sound like wishful thinking to you, but it’s not. Visualizing your success is the first step in achieving it.
Will visualization get you to your destination all on its own? No. But it will get the ball rolling toward your goals. And it can even help you cross the finish line more efficiently and effectively. Don’t believe me? Just ask Jack Nicklaus.
The Secret to Jack Nicklaus’s Success
If you’re not familiar with Jack Nicklaus, he’s only one of the best golfers to ever play the game. He’s won more professional major championships than any other player in history. And though he’s been retired since 2005, he still holds many records. So, how’d he do it?
Here’s the way he once described his process for success: “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp, in-focus picture of it in my head. It’s like a color movie. First, I ‘see’ where I want it to finish, nice and white and sitting high on the bright green grass. Then the scene quickly changes, and I ‘see’ the ball going there: its path, trajectory, and shape, even its behavior on landing. Then there’s sort of a fade-out, and the next scene shows me making the kind of swing that will turn the previous images into reality” (Canfield p.188).
In other words, Jack Nicklaus’s secret to success is simply visualizing himself achieving his goal before he makes an attempt. So, why does the practice of visualization have such power for our endeavors?
It all has to do with the way our brains work.
How Visualization Guides Us to Success
According to Jack Canfield’s book, The Success Principles, visualization empowers your brain in two key ways.
First, it “activates the creative powers of your subconscious mind” (Canfield p.187). When you begin visualizing what you want out of life, your subconscious will sense a tension between what is and what you’re feeding it through visualization. This discrepancy will cause the subconscious mind to search for ways to bring them into alignment, including the cultivation of new ideas.
So, when you begin practicing visualization techniques, you’ll find that you stumble on new ideas just about everywhere. This results from activating your subconscious’s latent power. And it’s backed up by research from Shelley Taylor, a UCLA researcher who found that visualization “can assist in problem-solving, enhance positive emotions, and increase the perception of the likelihood of an event.”
Besides stimulating your subconscious, visualizing exercises will also trigger your brain’s reticular activating system (or RAS for short) to be on the lookout for available resources that your conscious mind may have missed.
Have you ever learned an unfamiliar word or fact and then begun seeing it referenced everywhere you look? That’s your RAS at work. It acts as a sort of filter, helping you sort through the massive amount of information you encounter each day and allowing you to focus on what really matters.
When you begin visualizing your goals, your mind will be alerted to be on the lookout for information and resources related to those goals. Suddenly, you’ll begin seeing resources you can tap into that were previously hidden. And once you’re aware of them, taking advantage of them is a simple step.
But these aren’t the only two reasons that visualization works. A host of studies have shown that “we stimulate the same brain regions when we visualize an action and when we actually perform that same action.” This fact has been used by successful athletes, musicians, and more. In fact, there’s a well-known story of a boy named Andrew Garrido who learned the basics of piano playing with a piece of paper that had piano keys drawn on it. While practicing, he would imagine the feel and sounds of the piano. After five months, he was able to play dozens of songs with ease – even on a real piano or keyboard.
This is the power of visualization. And it doesn’t just work for golf or learning the piano on a paper keyboard. It can also help you achieve more mundane goals – like getting an A on your college midterm. Shelley Taylor and Lien Pham conducted a study involving three groups of students facing a major, upcoming exam. They guided one group through a visualization of successfully studying for the exam and receiving an A. They guided another group through a visualization of simply receiving an A. And the final group was a control that didn’t participate in any visualization exercises. The group that envisioned themselves studying and succeeding had the highest grades of all three groups.
So, how can you take advantage of this powerful tool for success?
Visualizing Your Success
When you’re ready to begin putting these things into practice, you’ll want to choose a goal that you hope to achieve. Then, get in a comfortable space, close your eyes, take some deep breaths, and begin imagining the process you’ll need to take in order to achieve your goals. Think about every step of the process, imagining every possible detail. Involve all of your senses, including sight, smell, and touch. Then, imagine achieving your goal. Think about the feelings that you’ll have. And as you go, make everything as vivid and clear as possible.
But don’t just do this exercise once. Make it a daily practice. Continually come back to your goals and visualize the process of achieving them. And if you have trouble conjuring an image in your mind, don’t be afraid to collect physical images, audio and video clips, and other objects that make your goals more tangible.
Also, don’t think that you’ll have to engage in visualizations for thirty minutes or an hour to enjoy their full effects. Ten to fifteen minutes per day are plenty.
How a Coach Can Help You Make the Most of Visualization
While you can perform visualization exercises on your own, having a skilled and experienced guide can go a long way toward helping you do so more successfully. A coach can lead you through visualization sessions that are comprehensive and tailored for your goals.
Even if you don’t want to have a coach long term, getting one at the beginning of your journey can ensure that you start off on the right foot. Once you’ve gotten a firm grasp on the ins and outs of effective visualization techniques, you can move ahead on your own. But there’s simply no better way to build confidence in your skills than by taking advantage of a coach’s wisdom at the outset.
Need coaching? Contact me today about my special coaching packages.