If you listen carefully to what successful people say about accomplishing goals, you’ll find a consistent common thread: They envision their goals in detail. If you’re like me, you’ve heard this many times in interviews or read it in biographies, and completely ignored it.
I ignored it because I am “not a visual person.” I didn’t think I was very good at visualizing. But visualization is a learnable skill. You get better with practice.
I can’t believe what a difference this simple practice has made. It sometimes seems like magic. I try to stay skeptical and explain things using verifiable evidence. I know how easy it is to come to false conclusions, so I’ve explained the stunning results to myself by noting that when I envision my goals clearly, it focuses my mind and increases my motivation, which it does.
It also produces a reverse engineering effect; when I envision my goals clearly, I automatically start thinking about “how it happened.” And that gets me to thinking about what I’m doing now.
For example, one of my goals is a million subscribers for my blog. As I imagined looking at my Feedburner stats (statistics for my subscribers) and seeing a million subscribers, I thought about some possible ways this could happen. I wasn’t trying to think this way; it just happened naturally while visualizing the goal.
One of the things I thought of is the possibility that someone famous, like Oprah, would mention it on their show, causing a huge number of new visitors, many of whom really liked the blog and subscribed to it. And they shared the articles with their friends, causing even more people to subscribe, etc.
But then it occurred to me if Oprah was going to mention it and all these new people were going to look at the blog, it better be really good. I realized it would be embarrassing if all these people showed up on a day when the front page article was only so-so. Up to that time I was kind of casual about what I posted because I only had 400 subscribers.
So you see what happened? By simply envisioning the goal, I automatically started thinking backwards — back in time to the present — and it altered what I was doing in the present in such a way that the goal was more likely to happen. This kind of thinking comes about without trying. All I do is visualize my goal. The reverse engineering happens all by itself.
Another practical result of clearly visualizing a goal is the production of great ideas. Somehow the process of visualizing your goal stimulates your creativity. Surprising new ideas will start popping into your head spontaneously.
Because you have such a clear picture of your future, you will see your present differently. When you regularly envision your goals, you will find that you constructively reframe “negative events.” You start seeing setbacks more as useful information and less as a cause for demoralization.
These are some of the explainable results of envisioning goals. Something else happens too. It seems almost supernatural. Maybe at least part of it is the involvement of your reticular activator. But however we explain it, envisioning goals produces a whole host of positive effects.
How to Envision Your Goals
Visualizing a goal is a pretty straightforward task. But here are a few tips to make it more effective:
1. Relax first. Use the Silva Method or self-hypnosis or any method you already know how to use, as long as it makes you deeply relaxed without putting you to sleep. It’s important to be relaxed. When you try to visualize your goal without relaxing first, negative or anxious thoughts are more likely to worm their way into your visualizations.
2. See your goal in detail. The first thing to envision is the moment you realize you have achieved your goal. If you have a goal of publishing your book, you’ll know it’s published when you’re holding the printed copy of your book in your hands. It will be sent to you by mail. So envision getting the package in the mail, and with trembling fingers opening it with your spouse, pulling out the book, and holding it in your hands. Envision it in every sensory detail. Where are you? What do you feel? What does the book smell like? What time of day is it? What expression do you see on your spouse’s face? How do you feel?
Every time you relax and envision your goal, try to see new details you haven’t imagined before. Make it as real and vivid as possible.
And allow yourself to imagine past that point. What will you do next? What will happen afterwards? Imagine the consequences of your achievement a week later, a month later, a year later.
3. Sit up. Don’t lie down. When you lie down, your images tend to drift more randomly and you’re more likely to fall asleep. Sitting up gives you better control of your images.
4. Do it several times a week. Spend some time on it. Ten to twenty minutes at a time is good.
5. Don’t force positivity. If something negative appears in your visualizations and keeps popping up, consider it a message from your unconscious mind or the mute right hemisphere of your brain, or your inner wisdom. Consider it a message, and seek to discover the lesson. What is it telling you that will help you achieve the goal? And then visualize yourself resolving that problem and successfully accomplishing your purpose.
6. Remember a success. It helps to first remember a goal you’ve successfully achieved in the past. And then, in the same sitting, imagine your new goal. Remembering past successes emotionally enhances your visualizations of the future, and strengthens your confidence in your ability to achieve your goals.
You have big goals. You work hard. If your goal has seemed frustratingly elusive up until now, you might have been missing this one vital ingredient: Clearly envisioning your goal.
If you have clearly envisioned your goal but it still seems elusive, a belief about yourself may be preventing you from realizing your goal. Read this to learn more about the barriers to goal achievement. And use this to change your limiting beliefs.
Adam Khan is the author of Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot, Principles For Personal Growth, and Slotralogy: How to Change Your Habits of Thought.