Visualization of success is a process utilized by high achievers to succeed. This is probably a concept you are already familiar with and most likely are using in your life as well, but may not even realize it.
Seeing your future as though your goals have already been accomplished does several things to benefit you. First and foremost is clarity. If you have thought through what it is you are trying to accomplish, then you have the ability to actually see yourself as though you have already accomplished it.
As humans, we have the unique ability to play out any scenario in our brain that we choose. We can visualize something happening, and our nervous system doesn’t know the difference if it is made up or actually happening — we have the same visceral reactions either way. This can work to our advantage or disadvantage. We can feel great and excited when we see ourselves succeeding. We also can feel afraid and discouraged if all we can picture is failure.
In 2007 two researchers at Bishop’s University tested the effects of visualization and positive anticipation on the body. They took 30 college athletes and divided them into three groups. The first group went to the gym and worked out to train their hip flexor muscles. The second group only visualized working their hip flexors, and the control group did neither physical exercise nor visualization.
The study lasted for two weeks. At the end of that time, the athletes that went to the gym had increased their hip strength by 28%. But the athletes that only visualized working out had increased their hip strength by 24% — almost as much, without lifting a weight or using a machine!
That’s the power of visualization. The brain can’t tell the difference between an event you have imagined clearly, with emotion, and something that “really” happened. When you see it as though it is already done, your nervous system is getting used to you accomplishing that task. It will make it easier to replicate again and again so when you take the physical action, it will already feel natural and doable.
The next time we’ll talk about the second key to thinking yourself happy: positive anticipation.