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How to Visualize Your Goals- The Right Way

How to Visualize Your Goals- The Right Way

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Lisa Batten, PhD

Psychology, Nootropics Specialist

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How to Visualize Your Goals- The Right Way

Table of contents

Are you looking for ways to better reach your goals and dreams? What if I told you that there is a skill used by top athletes, business people, and successful people worldwide? What if I told you that this skill requires nothing more than your own mind and a moment of your time?

Visualization is a personal development tool that has helped countless people achieve their goals. Whether it’s perfecting your free throws, losing weight, or creating your dream life, mental imagery can help get you there. Here at Ultiself, we want to show you the scientifically proven methods for using visualization techniques the right way.


What is Goal Visualization?

When it comes to using visualization to achieve your goals there are two different ways to do it- a right way and a wrong way. The right way helps you gain success, the wrong way can leave you demotivated and even depressed. 

The wrong way to use goal visualization is anchored in advice from self-proclaimed ‘life coaches” and “self-help gurus”. It advises people to visualize an outcome or imagine the life you want in order to reach it. The idea that you can manifest a particular fantasy simply by visualizing the ideal outcome is not only useless for achieving goals, it can cause or worsen mental health problems like depression. Therefore, if you want to crush your goals, indulging in fantasies about the future is not going to help you out much. Unless you do it right.


How to visualize your goals - the right way

While visualizing the wrong way may hinder your progress, research shows us that visualizing the right way can help you better reach your goals. In order to best use visualization to your advantage, it should be done using two key visualization techniques- mental contrasting and visualizing the process. 

Mental Contrasting

Mental contrasting was introduced by psychologist Gabriele Oettingen in the early 2000s. It is a scientifically proven visualization tool where individuals first imagine their desired goals then reflect on their current state. For instance, if you were in a foot race and your goal is the finish line, mental contrasting forces you to consider how far away from the finish line you currently are. This keeps you from being unrealistic about your expectations and forces you to consider the obstacles needed to conquer your goals.


Try Mental Contrasting:

Step 1

Select a specific goal you want to achieve. Close your eyes and begin creating a vision of how it looks and feels to achieve it. Now, write down your goal and all of the good things that will come when you reach that goal.

Step 2

Take a moment to imagine the hurdles that might come between you and the goal. Think about your resources, conflicts, personal struggles, and any other real life obstacles that may block your progress. Write them out. 

Step 3

Review all of the things that may interfere with you accomplishing your goal and imagine ways to overcome each one of these obstacles.

Visualizing the Process

Mental contrasting is a pivotal step in creating a realistic view of the work ahead of you to achieve your goal.  But, the power of visualization doesn’t end there. As you adopt a daily routine to conquer your goals, you can use mental pictures to visualize the process along the way. 

Working process

One very effective way of visualizing the process is by using “choice points”. These are moments in time where your actions either create traction toward your goal or distraction away from it. In his book, Indistractable, Nir Eyal points out that “the opposite of distraction is traction”. By visualizing yourself facing difficult choices in a future event you will be more mentally ready to handle it when it comes. For instance, if your goal is weight loss and you are going to a birthday party, you can visualize yourself turning down that cake. 

Visualization Tips

As you begin to use visualization to achieve your goals, try out these tips to ensure greater success:

  1. Visualize Often- The more often you visualize the process, the more likely you are to achieve your desired outcome. Frequently using visualization strengthens pathways in your brain associated with the activity you are thinking about. 
  2. Let it Linger- When engaging in visualization let the image linger in your mind. If you are visualizing yourself waking up early to go for a run, make it a crisp and clear image. Imagine every detail and let the picture linger until it feels vivid and real. 
  3. Get Emotional- Connect emotionally to your visualizations. Anticipate the positive and negative feelings of the process. An emotional attachment builds stronger connections in your brain between the desired outcome and the necessary action.
  4. Positive Affirmations- Create positive affirmations that encourage you to continue toward your goal. Praise yourself for the work you do along the way. For instance, “I am proud of myself for tracking my habits today, this brings me closer to my goal”. 
  5. Create a Vision Board- Some people find that a visual representation of what they want and how they will get there is an excellent visualization tool. Vision boards can be done in many different ways, find what works for you.

Your mind is a powerful tool and if you approach visualization the right way it can be an amazing way to help you stay focused and motivated in the pursuit of your dreams.

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 Happiness  Confidence  Productivity  Focus  Creativity  Sharpness  Motivation
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