“Visualize your goals.”
It’s like a “self-development” industry platitude by now, but nonetheless, a very, very important habit to implement into our lives.
One could say, visualization is an optional activity – something woo woo, law of attraction, and “new agey” stuff. This is because it seems like such an unsophisticated activity…
What? Am I suppose to look at pictures of stuff I want? Write down repetitive words? Put pictures around my work space?
It seems almost silly to devote time, no less a whole schedule, towards it.
However, not doing so, would be a huge mistake.
This article will heavily emphasize the importance of Visualization.
This article hopes to explain how the habit, which is to put into your mind what you want through practices which I will go over in the later sections, helps you stay on track towards your goals.
The middle of this article will be pointing out flaws in our human nature, such as the inability to resist urges, that these visualization practices will remedy.
But first, an argument for the importance of small, seemingly insignificant habits… Since, Visualization is one of them.
Often, it is these small, seemingly insignificant, habits that eventually make the biggest difference to our lives.
For example, I started rubbing my contacts to clean them after I take them off for the evening. It’s a good habit that I wished I implemented earlier.
Alas, I was too much of a lazy, nihilistic, punk…
Starting to implement this small habit now though – I could potentially save myself from an eye infection that renders me a blind man.
In which case, the pain of regret – of not implementing just a small seemingly insignificant habit – would be far more soul-crushing than even the worst consequences.
Another example of a small – seemingly insignificant habit that turns out to make a big difference in your life is, while driving, checking your blind spot when you switch lanes.
That courteous glance over your shoulder before you signal and proceed to merge into the next lane is a great habit.
As a side note, when this is done in the wrong order – when people start to switch before shoulder checking – it is a recipe for disaster or at least the cause of a few close calls. At the very least it instills murderous road-rage within me.
Yes, this habit doesn’t seem to make a big difference, especially because if you don’t do it, it may seem like you are getting away it time and time again.
Sometimes, for quite a while.
But it is only because the odds are in your favor. All it takes is for that one unfortunate day when the odds have caught up to you.
That one day – this seemingly insignificant habit will make a big difference to your life, and maybe the lives of others depending on how fast you’re going. These lives may never be the same again.
I hope, in this article, to answer the question: Is the habit of “visualizing your goals” one of these life-changing small habits that may give you amazing treasure or even insure you against future disaster?
If it is, perhaps, the one life-changing decision that you need to make is scheduled time for the next 3 days and set up your visualization habits.
To understand the effectiveness of visualization we need to understand…
What Happens When We Visualize?
By now, you’ve certainly heard of the basketball visualization study done at the University of New York. In short, these Masters students discovered that mental imagery of shooting free throws was as effective as physically practicing.
Put into the context of what they’ve discovered, visualization does not seem like an insignificant habit at all.
Visualization was as good as doing the thing in reality.
Of course, this study was done around the subject of Basketball and perfecting the skill of shooting free throws…
When we visualize our goals, on the other hand, what we achieve is not progress in a skill-set but a shift in state of mind. Or state, as I’ll refer to it from now on.
State is Everything
Humans are pretty complicated organisms – but in a lot of ways, we are still no more sophisticated than a dog.
What I mean is, a dog can only exist in one state, and until there is some sort of stimuli, or through force of will, he won’t budge from that state.
You can observe this with a good dog owner. A good dog owner trains his dog to be in the state of attentiveness towards him during times that he demands it.
This way, the dog will be receptive to commands and other cues and not random stimulus from the environment.
On the other hand, a shitty dog owner does not regulate the dog’s attention, and the dog is left to act out his desires whether it is running towards other dog’s or getting aggressive towards things make him nervous, peeing on everything… etc.
The dog is left to play out whatever state it finds itself in.
Well, such as how dog’s can only exist in one state at a time, humans are the same way. We just have a lot more complicated states to get stuck in…
Alas, we can only exist in one state at a time. Each state having very sophisticated end-goals and scenarios.
You may have experienced it when you drove all the way to the drive-thru that was 5 kilometers away…
This is after you’ve told yourself to eat healthier for the hundredth time. Alas, It didn’t matter, not even during that whole 15 minute drive – you were on a war-path.
Whether it is a coping mechanism for far darker things in your life, or just plain overwhelming hunger, the state you were in took you on a dark path towards impending failure. What could you have done differently?
Maybe you could have implemented…
Similar to trigger sounds, like a clicker or something vocal, to snap your dog’s state back to attentiveness towards yourself, we can incorporate triggers in our environment that snap our state towards pursuing what is meaningful in our lives.
This is a small insignificant habit that can make a huge difference in your life.
Having written down your long-term goals on a huge whiteboard, or having relevant images around your work area or room, could potentially save you from entering into destructive zombie-like states that have never served you well.
A Case Study:
After having a rough day at work, apologizing profusely for things that you had nothing to do with but because you are accountable, and feeling undignified, you have an irresistible desire to cope.
Now, you go home throw your stuff across the living room, and the overwhelming desire to engage in some retail therapy consumes you – in other words, you want to go spend money because spending money feels good.
It’s the most expedient way about feeling good, so why not?
This desire to feel good is about to supersede your long-term goal of saving up for a down-payment on your future home in the mountains…
Not This Time…
I say – about to – because on your way out to the mall, you see the huge poster of your dream home on it – it has all your long-term goals written on it.
One of them being a new home in 2 years. As a result, you start to imagine yourself getting out of your dingy apartment and moving into a nicer neighborhood.
You start to feel what it would feel like to be in that new home. Spending time with the people you love in that home. Hosting parties in that new home.
Now, this leads you to look over at your short-term goals, which includes the affirmation, “When I feel like spending money, then I’m going to smoke weed instead and work on my business instead.”
These when/then instead affirmations have been a huge benefit to me since I read about them in Robert Cialdini’s book Pre-suason – an essential book for anyone seeking to learn more about the human mind.
And yes, another vice to replace the vice which will sabotage your long-term goals.
Before you judge me – It’s pretty effective, and you should try it!
As long as the “vice” you’re using to replace your long-term-goal sabotaging vice with does not in itself make you fail in your immediate goals… You can get a lot of shit done.
Congratulations – you’ve got yourself out of a state of coping and into a state of thriving.
Small Habit, Big Effect
What happened when you looked at picture on the wall?
Nothing in our line of sight can be not observed. Stay with me, here.
We put words and images and words in front of us so we could trigger the most effective emotions within us – emotions like ambition, pride, and victory.
As a result of the positive emotions that we feel, we progress a little closer towards our long-term goals.
For example, say you spend 100 dollars every time you go on a spending binge… 1 time a week…. for 2 years….
Now, let’s say visualization habits saved you from 3 of those 4 spending sprees a month.
That’s $7200 saved in 2 years. That could be a huge vacation, or a new vehicle you’ve been needing to purchase.
How Do You Know They Work?
Whether it is following a diet and reaching your bodily goals, or learning a new skill set, you will see more progress if you strategically visualize your goals.
Either by force of will or by setting up the right environment for that to happen, you will progress faster with this habit.
If you haven’t started implementing this habit in your life, and you’re not where you want to be – then maybe it is the small habit that makes a huge difference in your life?
We can all use a little more progress in our lives.
It’s definitely worth the effort to find out, in any case.
And even if it isn’t the one thing holding you back, would you not say that it is something that eventually needs to be figured out?
Often times, people neglect actions that may seem trivial to the grand scheme of things – I mean, a multi million dollar earning CEO is certainly not built upon his habit of mere writing down his goals regularly.
And yet, it is proven, time and time again, that the most successful one’s among us are goal-setters.
Maybe, then, it helps them in some way or another 😉
Now that you’ve read this article – a reflection on the importance of visualization – I hope that you are inspired to implement these habits into your life.
There are many ways to do this: It could be a combination of writing down your goals on a daily basis, setting up your work environment and your living environment with visual cues or playing music that uplift you.
Whatever method you used to snap yourself into a useful state, it will require effort to plan and set up – at least in the beginning.
Plan out 15 minute blocks for the next 3 days to get this done.
Said set-up will include going over what kind of visualization you want to take when these cues snap you back into state.
You may not have a concrete visualized image for your goals yet, so this is a good time to finally get that done.
These states of visualization will evoke emotions in you that will snap you into a state that is more conducive to your long-term goals. Therefore, you may want to be very detailed when you create these dream-like states.
Like any practice, you’ll become more proficient as you do it more. Eventually, you’ll be like a train that is glued onto its tracks, unable to go off the rails.
Think about how far you’d be in a year if you reduced the amount of time you f-ed off. That would be nice, wouldn’t it?