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How to Harness the Power of Visualization

How to Harness the Power of Visualization

Research has found that people who imagine themselves performing a task can improve their performance, without ever lifting a finger. Think of visualization like mental rehearsal or a hyper-focused daydream, but with more selective intent.

Written by:Tara A. Collison, Ph.D.

Research has found that people who imagine themselves performing a task can improve their performance, without ever lifting a finger. For example, Guang Yue, an Exercise Psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, found that people who performed a mental workout — entirely in their mind’s eye — increased their muscle strength over three weeks by 13.5% versus 30% by the people who actually performed a workout. 


This study shows how mental practice, or visualization, leads to results that are nearly as effective as actually working out. What about when you combine practice with visualization? You can expect to maximize the likelihood of making your goals a reality.


Visualization is certainly effective for physical tasks — Olympic athletes have hailed its success for years —  but it also works for more ambiguous goals, too. Where do you want to be in five years? What position do you want to take on at work? What kind of qualities do you aspire to embody? Think of it like mental rehearsal or a hyper-focused daydream, but with more selective intent. While visualization may be more complicated than a simple daydream, it’s not so complicated that you can’t implement it into your everyday routine.


Put it Into Practice

Be Specific

What element of your life do you want to change or improve? Be selective. For example, if you are a golfer, instead of picturing winning the game, narrow things down. Envision sinking the putt. Go a step further and try writing down what you want to manifest as well imagining it. When writing and reading, your brain is painting a vivid picture. This forces you to get detailed and really see the image in your mind. 

Be Emotional

The process of writing down your vision leads to this step — tap into your limbic system and become emotional. Emotions serve to make your visualization more powerful. Use all of your senses as you picture what you want to achieve. What will it look like, smell like, taste like, sound like? Put yourself into the scene. What would it feel like? 

Be Habitual

Practice visualization frequently, at least once a day. Don’t waste time or energy ruminating on how much work is left to do. Stay in the present, focus on your vision, and keep making small choices that serve your purpose.  Make the practice a regular part of your daily routine and it will become like a reflex.

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