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Does visualisation work?

If it’s worked for countless successful people across the globe then my personal opinion is a resounding yes, it does work (if you use it correctly, of course!)! 

Visualisation is, quite simply, picturing in your mind, using your imagination, what you want to achieve – your vision, your goal, whatever that may be.  So firstly, you need to have a clear vision and clear goals to work towards – read my blog posts on creating your vision and setting clear goals if you need help with this!

The technique of visualising is used extensively by elite athletes who mentally visualise themselves achieving their goal.  Michael Phelps, Olympic Champion Swimmer is quoted in Rhonda Byrne’s book ‘Hero’ as saying “When I’m about to fall asleep , I visualise to the point that I know exactly what I want to do: dive, glide, stroke, flip, reach the wall, hit the split time to the hundredth, then swim back again for as many times as I need to finish the race.”

Relaxation is the key

Why would he visualise himself achieving his goal when he’s about to fall asleep? 

This is because your mind is most receptive when it’s in a state of relaxation – your deeper, subconscious mind is more open to suggestion because your usual ‘mind chatter’ (stemming from your conscious mind trying to protect you) that tends to talk you out of things (you know the voice I’m talking about!)  isn’t as active as it would be at other times of the day.  I have read that your mind is also in this relaxed state as soon as you wake up (as your conscious mind is still in a sleepy state), so this is another ideal time to spend a few minutes visualising yourself achieving your goals.

But as we all know, we live in a hectic world where relaxation is not usually on the menu!  We’re always in a rush to go somewhere or do something and there are distractions at every turn.  And when we do have the luxury of relaxing, we usually switch off completely to give our minds a break.  So it’s important to be disciplined enough to make time to visualise regularly and make it a daily habit!  It doesn’t have to be just before you sleep or just after you wake up – if this doesn’t quite work for you, then make some time at a time that works for you if you can find some quiet time somewhere.

Using sheer willpower alone or forcing yourself to visualise success just won’t cut it and apparently does more harm than good!  So make use of the easier, effortless way and just relax and let your mind visualise your desired outcome.

See the details  

You’ll notice that Michael Phelps pictured all the details too – down to hitting the split time by the hundredth.  When visualising, use all your senses!  See yourself achieving your goal as though you’re watching a movie in your mind, notice all the details – what are you wearing, who are you with, are you smiling, laughing?  What do you hear?  Can you taste anything?  How do you FEEL?  Adding feeling to your vision makes it a lot more powerful.  Bring all the little details to life when you’re visualising!

See it now, not in the future

You’ve heard the saying ‘Act as if.’  When you’re visualising, see it as though it’s happening now and not in the future.  If you keep on visualising your goals to be happening in the future, they will always be in the future!  If you regularly visualise yourself achieving your goals, and pay attention to the details, you will find yourself becoming that person – doing the things you should be doing as the person you’re imagining in your mind.

We already use visualisation

If this is new to you, you might be thinking, what is this airy fairy stuff?  Who has time to sit there day dreaming?  Well, it’s likely something you already do anyway!  Perhaps you’ve built a house – you would have had to picture the end result first in order to know where to start – and as you built your house, you would constantly be visualising what you want it to look like to help make all your choices and take action.  You would be feeling pretty excited too as you design your house and visualise how wonderful it will be when you finally move in.  When the empty shell is going up, you walk into what will be the living room and while others may see bare walls and building supplies scattered everywhere, that’s not what you see – you see exactly where the sofas will be, the furnishings, the roaring fire and a beautiful mirror you’ve already chosen to sit above the mantelpiece.  You see the finished result.  You have visualised your goal.

How about planning a wedding?  Same thing!  You’re visualising your big day – you have every detail pictured – your dress, the colour scheme, the venue, the flowers, EVERYthing.  Everything you do is to bring that vision in your mind closer to life.  Again, how do you FEEL when you’re picturing your wedding?  No doubt you feel great happiness and excitement!  Goosebumps too maybe!  Imagine visualising what’s meant to be one of the happiest days of your life and you feel nothing?  That’s not really going to drive you into action to want to make that vision real!

Use visualisation the right way

Unfortunately, a lot of people also use visualisation, unintentionally, to work against them instead of in their favour!  How many times do we visualise worst case scenarios?  We run late for work and imagine how much trouble we’re going to be in.  Or read about all the businesses closing and redundancies happening around us and visualise how terrible things are going to be in the future.  How about people who feel a bit ill and suddenly they’re imagining being given the worst diagnosis?  Visualising negative circumstances only makes them more likely to happen.  Ever heard the saying ‘what you think about, you bring about?’  So be careful what you focus on.  You can CHOOSE what to visualise, so visualise only good things!  And as I said above, be sure to make time to visualise the specific goals you’ve set for yourself – the imagination is powerful, and it can work for or against you.  Always visualise the best outcome! 

The power of your imagination

One really interesting concept I have read about is how your imagination can often be in conflict with your vision.  This was a real revelation to me personally!  On the one hand I would really want to achieve a particular goal and would do all the things I thought I needed to do to make it happen.  But deep down, my imagination thought otherwise.  While affirming my positive goals, I would imagine ‘but what if this happens, and what if I make a mistake, and what if I make the wrong decision, what if … what if … what if?’  If there is conflict between your imagination and your desired goal, I learned, then your imagination always wins hands down.  If you imagine you may fail, then that’s what you’re setting yourself up to do.  This is why injecting feeling into your visualisation is so key – feel like you’ve won!  Don’t visualise your goal and think to yourself ‘I hope this works’ – BELIEVE that it’s already working!  I have a little quote in my bedroom that says ‘if you can dream it, you can do it.’  It’s true!  If so many people have imagined and created great lives for themselves, what’s the difference between them and you?  The difference is that you need to direct and control your imagination – and not let it control you!

Everything started with a thought

Everything you see started as a thought, as a vision, before it became a reality.  Someone thought of and designed the chair you’re sitting on.  Someone thought of, visualised and made the clothes you’re wearing.  The movies you watch started with a thought and a vision as the story took shape.  The art hanging on your wall started with a vision of the end result.  The aeroplanes that fly today started as a thought, someone dared to think ‘what if we could fly?’ and imagined it would happen. 

So the important question to ask yourself is – what are you visualising that will become your reality in the future?  Make sure it’s a grand, positive vision!