- Visualization is a tool our brain uses to center our focus on things we want.
- Visualization is powerful because it grounds us in the specifics and helps us experience the moment of success before it actually happens.
- Creating a physical representation of your visualization (a vision board) can help maximize the power of visualization and help you get clear on what you want to achieve and the steps you need to achieve it.
Imagine this: You’re 27 years old and preparing to interview for your dream job. You’ve worked hard, proved your abilities, and shown innovation and ingenuity. But you don’t feel prepared for the interview.
What do you do?
Conduct a mock interview, of course.
Tag a friend to play the part of interviewee and imagine how the real day might go. This, of course, helps you prepare for off-the-wall questions or potential pitfalls to avoid, but it also helps you imagine the best-case scenario.
You picture yourself accepting the offer and the feelings of elation that follow. You imagine the look on your spouse’s face when you share the news. You feel the peace of mind that comes with the bump in income. The next day, you crush the interview, and get to experience these feelings twice.
This is the power of visualization.
Visualization isn’t a new technique, and it’s one even the most pragmatic of entrepreneurs use, often without realizing it. Whether prepping for your dream interview or imagining your dream vacation in The Maldives, visualization is a tool our brain uses to center our focus on things we want. Beyond a vague New Year’s Resolution to “increase revenue” or “grow in my career,” visualization grounds us in the specifics and helps us experience the moment of success before it actually happens.
For example, you might set a goal to increase your annual revenue by 35%. Then you create a vision board about what that additional 35% revenue represents in your business and your life. Does it look like a reinvestment into a diversified project? Is it a safety net for future dips in sales? What does it feel like?
Maybe it feels like peace of mind or the ability to take time off to spend with family. Maybe it looks like the financial freedom you need to have creative brainstorm time. Visualization answers the why so you can focus on the logistics: how, when, and where.
But emotions are fleeting and even visceral memories can feel distant when the pressure of day-to-day life creeps in. This is where the physical representation of your visualization comes into play: the vision board.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
Ditch your preconceived notions
Forcing a visualization session can feel, well, forced. It might seem unnatural to carve out time considering what a far-away goal will feel like after you achieve it, but research continues to show its merits.
In a 2003 study, researchers compared two groups of people: Those who carried out virtual exercises in their heads and those who performed the physical exercise—in this case, finger abductions.
In the physical group, strength increased by 53% compared with 35% in the virtual exercise group. But the results compounded, with an increase of 5% in the virtual exercise group nearly four weeks after the study was completed. Visualization is a common tool used by athletic greats like Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan.
Prepare yourself physically
Just as you would stretch before a workout or run through enunciation drills before giving a speech, so also should you physically prepare for making a goal-setting vision board.
Make a cup of tea or coffee, find a comfortable place to spread out and play some of your favorite hit-you-in-the-feels hits in the background. Set aside a few minutes to take some deep, measured breaths through your nose to calm your mind and release any tension in your body.
Even a quick five-minute guided meditation can go a long way. This looks different for everyone, so do what feels right for you. The point is that you feel calm, relaxed, and excited to start visualizing your best future.
This is the fun part, or it should be.
Visualization is about letting yourself feel without restraint. But without practice, visualization can feel awkward at best and paralyzing at worst. Start by asking yourself a few questions and write down or record your immediate response. Don’t edit it.
- Where do I see myself at the end of next year?
- What is the single greatest thing I want to accomplish?
- What is one thing that no longer serves me in life? What would it look/feel like for that to no longer be present in my life?
- Where am I when this goal is achieved?
- What is my first feeling? What does my facial expression look like?
- How would I tell my friends and family? What would their responses be?
The idea is to capture the sensations around completing your goal so you can experience it as if you were in that moment.
Get your hands dirty
Take your visualization one step further by making it permanent. Create a vision board that represents the specific emotions and images that come to mind when you imagine your goal fulfilled.
If a 35% revenue increase gives you peace of mind and the time to spend on creative tasks or with family, add photos, drawings, or even colors that remind you of those feelings. Again, there is not right or wrong way to create a vision board so make it yours.
When you’re setting big goals, the key is to revisit them often.
Maybe your trajectory has changed and you need to update the timeline. Maybe the definition of the goal has shifted slightly and you want to adjust what the final picture looks like. Maybe you’re just feeling the Monday blues and need a reminder of what you’re working toward.
Whatever your goals, the power of visualization can help you get clear on what you want, what it looks like once you achieve it, and how to stay motivated along the way.