04/12 2010

How to Use Visualization to Achieve Your Goals

How many of you saw skier Lindsay Vonn doing what appeared to be a hula dance with her eyes closed, just before winning the gold medal in the 2010 Winter Olympics? As you probably know, she was visualizing the bumps and turns of the race course. In fact, visualization is an integral part of her training.


And she keeps really good company.

Muhammad Ali was known to visualize knocking out George Foreman, and Michael Jordan used to visualize hitting the last shot in basketball games.

Michael Jordan winning shot

But why should we let Olympians and World Champions reap all the benefits of visualization? You and I can use it to  help achieve our own daily or long-term goals.

What is visualization?

Visualization, in a nutshell, is creating a mental picture of a desired outcome. That outcome might be anything from performing well in a sporting event to achieving a business goal to losing weight and eating well.  I was skeptical about visualization until I tried it recently, and found it to be a very worthwhile exercise.  My next post on Wednesday, the 14th, will break down the method I followed.

It is believed by many that visualization is a powerful tool in making lifestyle changes and achieving goals. By developing a mental image of achieving a goal and subsequently transferring this image to your subconscious mind, your physical body or presence starts to assume that which is visualized.

Does it really work?

Recent developments in brain scanning technology suggest that the brain cannot differentiate between an imagined action and a real one. By imagining an activity, physiological changes happen in much the same way as actually doing them. For example, neural pathways are stimulated and strengthened whether a person is racing down a slalom course or envisioning it.

Depending on which expert you ask, this neural strengthening might result in increased confidence, a belief in self and/or the ability to think outside of the box for ways to earn money or accomplish other goals. What I like about it is that it’s free, portable and universally accessible – you don’t have much to lose by giving it a go.

Four Ways to Use Visualization

1. Well-being and health: Visualization allows the imagination to create a sense of well-being. By relaxing and calming your mind, you can fill yourself with positive thoughts that boost your body’s natural healing powers. In fact, cancer patients often integrate visualization into their treatment.

2. Sleeping better: This list of tips on getting better sleep from Zen to Fitness includes a great one for visualizing the next day:

“This takes just 10 minutes and can set things up for your next day. Try just laying down closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. Then move into visualising key points and things you want to achieve the following day or even that week, make sure your visualizations are positive and make them play out to be ideal. Of course this guarantees nothing but it certainly helps. This is a tip from one of my favourite books PshycoCybernetics.”

3. Pain Management: Chronic pain sufferers can use visualization to help cope, suggests the doctor behind How to Cope With Pain. This post suggests sending your mind to a relaxing setting, such as the beach. You could also try envisioning a relaxing scene from your most recent vacation.

4. Weight Loss: Those trying to lose weight may want to try applying visualization techniques along the way. Some promote the idea of envisioning yourself at your healthy weight, suggesting that it will help reinforce the lifestyle changes you’re making to reach your goal.

For more detail on the steps to visualization, tune into my post on Wednesday, the 14th.

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