Broadly speaking, visualization is all about generating a mental picture that helps you achieve your goals. In some cases, it serves as motivation. In others, it allows you to relieve your anxiety and increase your focus.
In any case, the right visualization techniques can help you succeed—no matter what you’re aspiring to achieve.
What Are Visualization Techniques For?
Let’s take a look at some of the common ways visualization techniques are applied:
- Motivation – Most of us have experienced difficulty in finding motivation. Visualization can remind you what you’re trying to accomplish, and inspire you to keep working hard to achieve your goals.
- Confidence – Picturing yourself in a successful or powerful position can conjure feelings of confidence that you’ll be able to achieve this. It’s a neat mental trick that yields a powerful effect.
- Rehearsal – In some applications, visualization can be used to rehearse a scenario before it unfolds in real life, essentially giving you a “practice run.”
- Anxiety Reduction – Visualization is also beneficial for stress management if you can use it to assuage your intrusive thoughts or clear your mind of distractions.
13 Best Visualization Techniques (And How to Use Them)
Now let’s dig into the most powerful visualization techniques—and how you can use them to get better results in your personal and professional life.
1. Visualize Yourself Succeeding at Your Goal
This is the easiest visualization technique and the one that most people start with. Simply visualize yourself succeeding at your goal.
You might picture yourself crossing the finish line of a marathon race or see yourself shaking the hand of the CEO after a major promotion. As long as you have some kind of visual in your head, you’ll be able to derive motivation and confidence from the experience.
2. Establish Triggered Visuals
Our minds are notoriously good at connecting experiences together; it’s why even a faint whiff of a scent can trigger a powerful memory and a flood of emotions. You can set yourself up for success by creating your own triggers.
For example, you can spend time exposing yourself to some kind of sensory input, like listening to a song you love while visualizing something positive. Then, when you need to perform, you can replicate that sensory input and capitalize on the visualization.
For example, you might train for a powerlifting competition with a specific playlist, and play that playlist during the competition to call up the visuals you rehearsed.
3. Create a Vision Board
Our first two examples involve the classic form of visualization: internally visualizing a scenario. However, some people suffer from a condition known as aphantasia, rendering them unable to conjure mental imagery.
If this describes you or if you simply prefer something more tangible, consider creating a vision board. A vision board is typically a collection of photographs and images that remind you of your goals and narrow your focus.
For example, if you’re trying to lose weight, you might create a vision board of images of your goal body. Put it somewhere so that you can see it regularly. This works similarly to an analytics dashboard commonly used in business. That which is measured and monitored is improved!
4. Write Yourself a Check
Another effective visualization technique in a physical environment is to write yourself a check (if your goals are monetary in nature). For example, if you want to become a millionaire by age 40, you can write a check to yourself for $1 million and have it framed.
This is a strategy famously used by comedian Jim Carrey, who wrote himself a $10 million check dated 10 years in the future.
5. Use a Notecard to Make Your Goals Physical
If your goals aren’t monetary in nature but you’re still looking for a way to make your images more grounded in the real world, consider writing your aspirations down on a notecard.
The best way to frame these messages is with intention and confidence. Instead of writing “My goal is to improve my relationships with my family,” write, “I will improve my relationships with my family.”
Again, put these notecards where they’ll be seen regularly to consistently remind you of their existence.
6. Create a “Happy Place”
This visualization technique is best applied as a way to mitigate stress and anxiety. If you frequently find yourself overwhelmed or unable to perform when trying to accomplish something, consider coming up with a “happy place” you can visit and use as a method to destress.
For some people, a happy place is being isolated on a boat in the middle of an open pool of water. For others, it’s in the middle of a mosh pit at a punk rock concert. It doesn’t matter what your happy place is, so long as thinking about it soothes your negative feelings and eases your racing thoughts.
7. Convert Your Desires Into Beliefs
Most people frame their visualizations as things they want to happen, rather than as things they believe will happen. If you want to be successful, it’s important to make the change. Converting your desires into beliefs is an important and effective visualization technique.
If you’re already visualizing hypothetical scenarios, all you need to do is shift the way you consider them. Instead of imagining them as a form of wishful thinking, convince yourself that this is a form of predicting the future.
This is what is going to happen if you stay committed to your goals.
8. Rehearse Potential Situations
In many fields, it’s beneficial to use visualization as a way to rehearse potential situations you may face—especially if those situations are stressful or unpredictable.
For example, let’s say you’re planning to initiate a difficult conversation with your boss about a topic that’s been bothering you for months. Visualization can help you imagine your boss’s response to everything you might say and plot out different branches that the dialogue could follow.
If done right, this can help reduce your stress, making the worst-case scenarios seem more manageable, while simultaneously equipping you with better skills for navigating the situation as it unfolds.
Just be careful not to rehearse so much that you become unprepared to deal with developments you didn’t see coming.
9. Visualize Multiple Potential Options
Most of the time, the best way to utilize visualization is to picture a single option; you win the race, you lose the weight, you get the promotion, etc. But it may also be helpful to visualize multiple potential options.
What are all the ways this could pan out? What are the best-case and worst-case scenarios?
Again, this is a way to moderate your fears. Just don’t spend too long visualizing negative outcomes, or they may come to dominate the narrative. Always shift back to a more positive mindset.
10. Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes
Chances are, there’s someone you look up to or someone who has achieved your desired goals in the past. Consider using visualization to put yourself in their shoes. This visualization technique allows you to establish a connection with their strongest (or weakest) moments.
For example, what was Steve Jobs thinking when he was originally ousted from Apple, and how was he able to recover? What was Muhammad Ali thinking when he beat Sonny Liston?
Choose a role model you find interesting, and study their path to success or victory—just don’t let survivorship bias cloud your judgment too much.
11. Flesh Out Your Visualizations With Sensory Experiences
At this point, you have the strategies and direction necessary to engage in positive visuals that motivate, inspire, and empower you. Now, let’s focus on a couple of strategies that can help you improve the quality of those visuals.
One key way to make your visualizations seem more “real” and allow them to affect you more strongly is to flood them with detailed sensory experiences.
What is the temperature in your visualization? Who is around you, and what are they wearing? Is there music playing in the background, or can you hear the ambient noise? What are you smelling?
The richer your visualizations are, the more powerful they can become.
12. Add Positive Energy Into Every Instance of Visualization
Positive thinking is shown to have massive psychological benefits, such as reducing your stress and improving your mood.
Accordingly, you should be framing your visualizations with positive thoughts. If you feel a negative thought intrude your mind in response to your visualization, combat it with a corresponding positive.
For example, you might think to yourself, “who am I kidding? I’ll never be able to accomplish that.” Meet that negative thought with a positive twist: “I may not have been able to accomplish that in the past, but I can now” or “I may hit some major obstacles along the way, but I will accomplish this.”
13. Picture a Happy Memory From Your Past
Most visualization techniques are all about the future, setting you up for success or helping you play out hypothetical scenarios. But it’s also occasionally useful to visualize the past.
Think of a happy memory or a place you used to love; visualize yourself surrounded by people who have loved and supported you, and imagine how you felt in those moments.
It may be just what you need to get through a tough situation.
Through visualization, you’ll be able to boost your confidence, motivate yourself, and decrease the stress and anxiety you feel as you face new challenges head-on. The more you practice it, the easier it’s going to get.
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Featured photo credit: Simon Migaj via unsplash.com