There are many tactics people use to achieve success. One such method is visualising your goals.
Visualisation is a process where you mentally provide imagery of achieving a goal or anything that involves a favourable outcome. Although this may seem like a bizarre way to practice for success, our minds play a pivotal role in whether or not we are able to achieve a result that we seek. Noted as one of the best forms of practice, mental visualisation became quite popular among the Soviets dating back to the 1970s. Nowadays, visualisation has been implemented in psychological therapy that consists of helping people change their behaviours.
Some examples include alcohol rehabilitation and improving athletic ability in modern day sport. Yes, you read that correctly. The process of visualisation has been so successful, that every professional athlete you follow is most likely practicing training drills in their head before they practice them on the field.
How Does It Work?
Some people believe that visualisation is successful because of how well our brain interacts with images. When we see pictures, we are able to communicate with them, embrace their language, and interestingly enough – use them as reminders of what is truly important. Thus, giving great merit to the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Not only that, but visualising images has shown to help us process and break down the steps to reaching our goal.
Nevertheless, the “why” is still only a theory. But with many scientific studies manifesting the effects of visualisation, some of which shown below and statements from professional athletes and entrepreneurs illustrating the importance of visualisation. There are little doubts about the effectiveness of this process.
A study by Guang Yue et al. contrasted individuals who went to the gym with others who only performed virtual workouts in their heads. Guang found that those participants that went to the gym had an increase of 30% of muscle strength, while the group that performed mental exercises had an increase of 13.5% of strength. This average increase continued for three months after practicing mental training.
A different study published in the North American Journal of Psychology in 2007 portrayed that athletes:
[one_whole boxed=”true” centered_text=”true”] Who mentally practiced a hip-flexor exercise had strength gains that were almost as significant as those who actually performed this exercise on a weighted machine (those who physically trained did so five times a week for 15 minutes each). [/one_whole]
Moreover, recent brain studies have now revealed that by visualising an action or goal, we actually use many cognitive processes in our brain including attention, perception, planning, motor control, and memory. Therefore by simply providing a mental image of your goal, your brain is literally training to perform the task. Not to mention that when you practice in your head, you also have the ability to increase your motivation levels and spark confidence while improving your motor performance.
Modern Day People Who Have Used Visualisation
Tiger Woods was mentored by his father, Earl Woods, in visualisation and imagery when he was only a little boy. Every time Tiger Woods would go for a punt, he would always visualise exactly where he wanted the golf ball to go. Today, Woods has truly become one of the best, if not the best, all-time golfers in the world, and it could be thanks to visualisation.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, seven-time Mr. Olympia champion, consistently used this method stating:
[one_whole boxed=”true” centered_text=”true”]“The mind is really so incredible. Before I won my first Mr. Universe title, I walked around the tournament like I owned it. I had won it so many times in my mind, the title was already mine.” [/one_whole]
Back when Shaquille O’Neal was playing for the LA Lakers with Kobe Bryant, he would catch Kobe in the gym practicing plays over and over again without a ball. Although Shaquille mocked Kobe about his training techniques at the time, Kobe went on to win five NBA championships as well as win the MVP two years in a row.
Muhammad Ali, the heavyweight champion, used a different form of visualisation, consistently and arrogantly uttering “I am the greatest.” Despite the fact that he was so young at the time, this affirmation, mental rehearsal, and self-confirmation seemed to work in his favour. He did, after all, end up becoming the world’s greatest boxer.
How Do We Visualise?
As Muhammad Ali has shown us, there are different forms of visualisation. Below will be one of the many ways that you can implement mental imagery to helping you achieve your goals.
- Imagine a specific goal.
- Hold a mental picture and make it as detailed as you possibly can.
- Use all five senses to make the image as distinct as possible.
- Ask yourself, who are you with? What emotions do you feel right now? What are you wearing? What do you hear? Be as precise as possible.
- Sit up straight, and practice every night and morning.
- Eliminate any doubts and combine it with meditation or affirmation such as Ali has done, if necessary.
By doing so, your brain is focused on the goal, and as a result, it will process the steps needed to reach that goal. Though having said that, this type of process is easier said than done. There is no doubt that to master visualisation you will require a significant amount of practice to get your brain to where it needs to be. But as the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
All in All
Despite many successful individuals in sports as well as business that use this type of unconventional practice to help them attain their goals. I do not blame you if you still believe this mental visualisation is nonsense. After all, imagining your dream goal in your head and then going out to achieve it sounds ridiculous. If success was so simple, everyone should be a on a tropical island bathing in the sun right? Wrong.
Although I am contradicting myself in a sense, visualisation is just one small piece of the puzzle in achieving your goal and for some, not even a piece at all. However, if you are able to visualise a goal in your head for long enough and it can become a part of you. In turn, your brain will slowly begin to figure out the steps to get you to where you want to be. Think of it like a domino effect; once you visualise your objective so much that it becomes your ultimate mission to complete. Then the determination, sacrifice and good habits that are required to accomplish this task will form due to your unyielding desire to give up.