When it comes to achieving our goals, visualization can be an incredibly powerful tool. Our brains are capable of so much more than we often give them credit for. When we visualize our desired outcome, we are programming our minds for success.
This is because visualization triggers the same areas of the brain as actual experience.
In this blog post, we will discuss how visualization can help you achieve your performance potential and reach your goals!
We all use visualization
Yes – it´s true! We have all used visualization already at least a couple of times in our lives!
Haven´t you ever been in a situation that was not the nicest situation to be in and you thought to yourself: “… when I am through this cold freezing rain, I will take a hot shower and get myself a really nice hot cup of tea and wrap myself up in dozens of blankets in front of a cozy fire back home.”
Like so or at least something similar…
Thinking of all those nice, cozy, warm, comforting things while being exposed to a cold and harsh environment already is one way of visualization.
And I am very sure that you have already had at least one comparable experience in your life.
This means, you already visualized but you didn´t do it on purpose and you didn´t visualize in a focused manner to achieve a certain goal or boost your physical performance.
What is the difference between visualization and meditation?
Don´t confuse meditation with visualization techniques! These two methods are two completely different things!
Meditation is meant to focus on your inner self. It is meant to bring all the senses together and open your mind’s eye. It is a way of mental rehearsal, it helps you in times of hard feelings, find calmness, clarity and soothe your soul and ultimately get over something or come to a conclusion over an issue that has been lingering around the back of your head for a long time…
Visualization on the other hand is a training technique for your mind to get you focused in a way that can be compared to excitement.
You set a goal for yourself – whatever this goal might be – and basically, you will try to get a very clear picture in your mind about yourself reaching that goal.
You envision yourself in a very clear mental image in this very situation of finally achieving your set goal.
Further down, we will talk you through an example of how mental imagery and visualization exercises work.
Any visualization technique – and also any meditation technique for that matter – will not work, if you don´t apply the right breathing method in order to bring yourself in the right state of mind to start with your mental training.
However, applying the right breathing is no rocket science as you will see in a second.
Why is breathing so important?
Maybe it helps if you understand breathing as something extremely important for the functioning of our body.
Well – of course, you might think – without breathing we won´t last very long.
But have you ever really observed yourself breathing? Have you ever listened to your body inhaling and exhaling? Have you ever actively felt what different kinds of breathing do to your body and – what is even more interesting – do to your mind?
Breathing is the first thing we do when we arrive in this world and it will be the last thing before we leave. In between these two points in time, we think very little about the automated process of inhaling and exhaling.
Take the time to try it out – it only takes a few minutes. You don´t even have to be in an extremely quiet place on a remote island with the ocean sound in the background and tropical birds chirping. But if you are: congrats! Lucky you! 😉
How to breathe
Close your eyes and take a slow deep breath through your nose.
Exhale again slowly through your mouth.
Repeat at least ten times.
In the beginning, you will be surprised by the cacophony of all the little noises that surround you and how intensively you become aware of them.
A few moments later you might already start to get a feeling of detachment from your surroundings. You hear all the noises and in your mind, you are aware of them, but you accept their presence and you let them go from your immediate consciousness.
You might even feel a little tingling sensation on your skin.
You got yourself into a “higher state of mind” already. That is what we need.
The more often you train this, the easier it will become for you, and the more you will be able to use this as a powerful tool together with visualization.
When should you practice visualization?
As you are already committed to engaging yourself in visualization techniques and using visualization in your daily life to reach goals or enhance your athletic performance, you should try this with a certain seriousness to get the most out of your invested time.
The best times for your visualization practice are in the morning when you are still relaxed, or in the evening before finishing up your day.
However, if you can use some “calm time” during the day for visualizing your goal and you can bring all your senses together – this is also fine!
Just don´t be in a hurry when going through your visualization techniques!
If you have immediate and important tasks to do that prevent you from freeing your mind for the necessary amount of time, then finish those first.
What the pros do
Elite athletes who apply mental training and visualization techniques to enhance performance and focus on their goals, reserve a dedicated session every day for this very purpose.
Additionally, most athletes will use very effective visualizations just before the actual race or their big game where they see themselves as winners through a first-person perspective in the situation after the competition.
What can be visualized?
The answer is simple: anything! You can visualize anything that comes to your mind. You can visualize any goal that comes to your mind. Your mind is the limit.
Just do me a favor and focus on visualizing positive things to make this world a better place 🙂
Why is visualization so powerful?
Ever heard of “muscle memory”?
I am sure you have already heard of “muscle memory”. If not, the very brief explanation for muscle memory is: if you repeat a certain movement pattern often enough, this very movement pattern will become hard-wired into your muscles.
Once it is hard-wired into your muscles, the movement pattern will be executed without consciously and actively thinking about it and thinking about how to get the movement right.
Once the hard wiring process is finished, the movement pattern is there – forever! And you won´t need any additional brain power, effort, or extra focus to execute the movement.
Like muscle memory, but now it´s your mind!
A very similar process takes place when you use visualization techniques.
Each and every one of us has goals, wishes, or simply things we are longing for. Usually, we randomly think about these only when we happen to have the time or when these pop into our minds.
But after only a brief second – or a minute at best – of actively thinking about what we would like to have, we are already consumed again by other things.
This also means that our subconscious mind is never really hard-wired with our goals and wishes.
You could say, we never really show our subconscious mind which importance these things have for us that we want to achieve so desperately.
That is why visualization, mental rehearsal, mental imagery, and visualizing what we want to achieve are so important – because we bring our most powerful everyday partner on board our journey to success: our subconscious mind!
Our subconscious mind
Just like using our muscle memory to hard wire movement patterns into our nervous system, we do the same with our subconscious mind by hard-wiring our wishes and goals with the use of visualization.
It is our subconscious mind that influences greatly our behavior, our way how we interact with others, how we present ourselves, how we approach challenges or competitions, and how we perform in difficult situations.
By telling our subconscious mind exactly what we want through visualization, our powerful partner will reward us by influencing our whole behavior in a way that makes us act and think completely geared towards reaching our goal.
How do you visualize for beginners?
Now, after all we know about visualization, mental imagery and the likes, it is time to try it out.
Remember: Implement your visualization sessions into your daily life. Keep doing it! Do not expect quick results!
It is a kind of “fake it until you make it” – thing.
Set a goal
First set a goal for yourself – this will be what we want to visualize later during our visualization session.
By the way: you can create several different goals, for example :
- people you want to meet
- things you want to purchase
- competitions you want to win
- time or weight limits you want to beat
- jobs you are longing for
Find a good place and breathe just as we described above. Relax and try to find calmness in your mind – detach yourself from your surroundings.
Now it´s time to start to visualize. Try to see yourself in the desired setting. Observe yourself as you act in that setting and also how you interact with others. Try to visualize a very vivid scene full of positive emotions. Observe yourself in that scene how happy you are and how good it feels to have reached your desired goal.
Now change into the first person view in that scene and live through the same positive emotions again.
Enjoy this moment for a while.
Then try to step out of this scene and imagine seeing this very same scene on screen. You take the screen and wrap it up like something delightful you like to eat and you start to eat the scene and swallow it.
Every little piece you swallow has the positivity and power of your visualized scene in it and your body now transports all this positive energy into every cell in your body.
Trust the process
Now open your eyes again and come back into the present moment. Continue your day…
If you apply this method regularly you will see the results!
Trust the power of your subcinscious mind! Trust the process!
In their work with elite athletes, sports psychologists all over the world have used visualization already for a very long time to improve their athlete´s athletic performance, giving them a competitive edge to let them reach their goals, like becoming a decorated olympian – just like Michael Phelps for example.
You can use the same powerful visualization techniques and visualization tools to enhance your sports performance or achieve any other goal in your life.
Make your dreams a reality! Try it – you don´t have to invest anything apart from some time! You have nothing to lose!
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Maybe you are interested in nutrition related topics – then please check out our article about how much time you should wait after eating and before a workout here.
Another interesting article about viusalization might also be interesting for you here.