Will Smith uses it. Jim Carey uses it. Tiger Woods, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Venus & Serena Williams, and most world-class athletes and performers use it. Science has confirmed its effectiveness.
It’s one of the four pillars of success; “it” is visualization.
Today, we’ll take a deeper dive into the exact process you can use to make your dreams come true using this powerful tool.
But before we get there — a quick word of caution.
VISUALIZE WITH CARE
It should go without saying, but visualization should be done only for things you want to see, not things you don’t want to see.
The reason is that the mind is very obedient: it says “Yes” to whatever commands you put to it. Whether you ask it to answer the question “Why am I such a loser?” or “Why am I so amazing?” it will answer either question with equal thoroughness.
In this sense, your mind is like Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise, on constant repeat saying “Make it so,” to whatever you suggest.
“I’m an idiot!” – “Make it so.” – “I’m terrific like Tarzan!” – “Make it so.”
So it pays to be especially cautious of mind wandering and idle, negative or catastrophic rumination. The more time you dwell on outcomes you don’t want, the more time your mind will spend steering you towards those exact outcomes — because your mind is always 100% compliant with your wishes. (Tweet this)
Because of this, you want to visualize only those scenarios that will serve your best and highest good, and the highest good of all those around you.
Keep in mind (heh), your mind has no idea that the visualization isn’t real. The mind makes it real — just like the Matrix. This means you have to use this power with care, and avoid traumatizing or hurting yourself or others with this power.
With that proviso in mind — let’s get to the good stuff.
SIMPLE VISUALIZATION PROCESS
- Find a quiet place to sit down and compose yourself, close your eyes.
- Visualize, vividly and with detail, in the present tense, the event(s) you want to happen. Envision yourself talking to that beautiful stranger, or giving that winning presentation, or keeping your competent cool in the intense panel job interview, or crushing at that important athletic event.
- Stay in the first person — looking out of your own eyes.
- Engage all five senses. Make it as real for yourself as you can. This is key — your mind literally cannot tell the difference, so the more vivid and real you can make it, the better it is for your mind.
- Allow yourself to feel the emotions you will feel in this exact circumstances — excited anticipation as you talk to the beautiful stranger, the powerful calm competence as you deftly answer all the questions in the panel interview, the exultation as you open the letter of acceptance to the college of your choice, the pure joy as you break through the finish line.
- Repeat the visualization 3 – 5 times, start to finish. It may take you a while. If it takes you an hour, that’s not too long. It shouldn’t take less than five minutes. You can go longer — it just depends on how serious you are about this.
- Repeat as often as you can — daily at minimum, multiple times daily if you want to really change your life in a hurry. The best times for visualization are in the morning, right before you wake up, or right before you go to sleep. You know you’re having an impact on your mind when you start dreaming the same scenarios you spend time visualizing.
You may be wondering, Why so much? And the reason is, Results. If you really want good results from visualization, you can’t just do a quick eye-blink flash. You must be dedicated, or it won’t work.
Remember, this is mental rehearsal — you need to treat it with just as much seriousness as the physical rehearsal you’d do before a speech, a performance, an athletic event, or a job interview. In fact, the conclusion from studies suggests that doing both physical and mental rehearsal (visualization) give better results than doing either alone.
In one study, people who only participated in “mental exercise” increased their muscle mass by 13.5% — without doing any gym workouts at all. (Of course, the people who went to the gym and actually lifted heavy things increased muscle mass by 30%.)
I realized this personally when I took my lifting coach’s advice and began visualizing each lift, down to each rep, before a set. I felt approximately 25% stronger when I visualized. Now I visualize every lift. If you lift, or do another sport, I encourage you to test this for yourself.
WHAT THE MIND BELIEVES,
THE BODY ACHIEVES
One of the reasons this works is simple repetition.
When you visualize, your mind perceives and believes. Then, when your body and mind go into the “real thing,” your mind finds it familiar — it’s been here before. It can easily access the emotional state of competence that it needs to perform up to its potential.
Because the mind is seeing itself in a familiar situation, you also experience less anxiety and stress, which helps you perform better.
Third, when you’re visualizing, you are effectively giving your mind a set of commands to run, like a software program. So the mind is now finely tuned to running that program, and it will be on the lookout for anything in the environment — people, places, resources — that will help it run that program more smoothly. Because you have this new filter, you’ll pick up on more opportunities to use needed resources to get to your goal faster.
Fourth — the commands you issue the conscious mind are also issued to the subconscious mind, so you’ve also given the subconscious mind a problem to solve. The subconscious mind processes over 99.9% of the stimuli you take in at any given moment and can process 400 billion bits of data per second — while conscious mind pokes along at 2,000 bits of information per second.
This means that the subconscious mind operates (conservatively) 2 million times faster than the conscious mind, making it a vastly more powerful supercomputer to the conscious mind’s weak abacus of attention. (Tweet this)
So, don’t be surprised if, after even a few hours of this intense visualization, a fully-formed “solution” or path to your goal pops into your conscious mind while you’re in the shower or driving. (Ding! Your solution is ready.) I regularly use this technique to “order” solutions for the most pernicious problems I come across in my life, and it works like clockwork. (Protip: the process is enhanced by regular meditation and cardiovascular exercise.)
Did you enjoy this article? Did you learn something new about visualization? Let us know your results in the comments.
We’ll send you the latest article every Sunday. Click here to get Fierce Gentleman in your inbox.
Also published on Medium.