Visualizing Success

This is the final article from the four-part series Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone: 3 Keys to Confidence.  

Thai BeachI’m in Thailand dripping sweat from the first of two two-hour Muay Thai training sessions today. As class ends I make my way to the wooden steps leading into the boxing ring. Climbing over the ropes I put extra attention into the feeling of the canvas on my feet. For the next 10-15 minutes I’ll be leaving the gym and head to the ring of in the crowded venue I’ll be competing at in a few short weeks.

Using my imagination I create an atmosphere much like the one I’ll be fighting in. I visualize the series of events I’ll be going through, from climbing in, to touching gloves, to the fight itself. Before I know it I’m standing face to face with my opponent. We touch gloves and the fight is on.

The fight doesn’t go the distance in my mind, instead I’m in and out in a few rounds. In these few rounds we both throw and land tons of shots. I block and move as much as I kick and punch. Swinging at the air I see a chin, a body – two legs. I eat them up with my kicks. I lift my leg just in time to block a counter, pinning my opponent against the ropes. Unloading, the fight ends before the round is out. I’m in the center of the ring, my hand raised high.

Visualization at Work

“One reason we can change our brains simply by imagining is that, from a neuroscientific point of view, imagining an act and doing it are not as different as they sound. When people close their eyes and visualize a simple object, such as the letter a, the primary visual cortex lights up, just as it would if the subjects were actually looking at the letter a. Brain scans show that in action and imagination many of the same parts of the brain are activated. That is why visualizing can improve performance.”

― Norman Doidge, The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science

As explained above by Norman Doidge, creative visualization is the practice of using your imagination to create physical structures in your brain that are congruent with those needed for success in your chosen undertaking. It’s really quite incredible – by using our imagination we can literally mold our minds to be more like the mind of someone who has already done what we want to do. What’s even more, this mental exercise has been around for ages and is used in just about every sport known to man. It’s a wonder so few know how much of an impact visualization can have on our lives. By the end of this article you’ll not only know how to do that, but also how to use visualization to directly increase your confidence just when you need it most.

The Visualization Process

There are numerous ways to approach visualization, some systems get very detailed with the process, but for now we’ll just learn the basic framework. It’s important to note that science has found that visualizing the process of your success is much more effective than just visualizing the end result. We’ll explore both in the exercises below.

Exercises

In order to complete these exercises you’ll need your confidence boosting goal from Goal Setting to Grow Your Confidence, a timer, a quiet place to sit or lie down, and 5-10 minutes without distractions.

Setting Up

  1. Once you are sitting or lying comfortably in a quiet place, set your timer for 5-10 minutes. Not worrying about time constraints will help you relax.
  2. Take 3-5 deep breathes. (Once you get the process down you can close your eyes from here on out.)
    • Through your nose, breathe in deeply, as you pay attention to the feeling of your chest expanding
    • Exhale slowly through the mouth, feeling the air leave your lungs
    • Again, in deeply through your nose..
    • And exhale slowly
    • Repeat this 1-3 more times

The End Result

Bring your goal to mind and imagine what it would be like to accomplish this goal. How does it feel to accomplish this goal? Can you amplify that feeling? Let’s give some attention to the details.

    1. What are you wearing? How does it feel touching your skin?
    2. Are you sitting or standing? What’s your posture like?
    3. Where are you? At home? In your office? At school?
    4. Who else is there with you? What are they doing? Are they praising your success? Do they even know? It’s your visualization, might as well make them.
    5. What other details can you notice? Perhaps there is a number on a screen that you’ve been working towards or an amount of weight you are lifting. What specifically is going on around you?
    6. Do you hear any voices in your mind? Are they words of encouragement? Positive self-talk? How would it feel to turn the volume up on any of those voices? Perhaps you hear negative self-talk or negativity from someone else in the room. Let’s ask them to leave or turn the volume of their voice down.
    7. Stay in this visualization for a moment, really taking in the feelings associated with succeeding at your goal. Feel them. Amplify them.

The Process

I want you to rewind from where you are in your visualization to where you are today. As you do this, identify any obstacles or challenges you may have to overcome along the way. How would you do this? What would it feel like to overcome them? Keep doing this for any obstacles that come up.

Back to Real Life

As you return from your visualization, bring with you all the positive feelings and emotions you experienced. Keep feeling your success not as something you’re going to accomplish, but as something you have already accomplished. Return to this feeling as you move through your day, especially when doing any activity specifically related to this goal.

Time and Place

You can repeat this process anytime, anywhere. Mornings are great because they start your day off on the right note. Evenings are awesome because it’s the last thing you think about before you go to bed. You can certainly do both if you feel inclined.

Another great time to practice this is right before you take action on your goal. Doing this helps you remember what you’re working working towards and why, giving you an opportunity to imagine your way through the days tasks before you even sit down to work.

Visualizing Confidence

In Changing States we talked about how to see yourself with unlimited confidence, which in itself was a visualization exercise or sorts. You can use this process to amplify the sights, sounds, and scenarios that surround your most confidence self to accelerate the embodiment of that experience.

A Few Things to Keep in Mind

Visualization Must be Repeated Frequently

Visualization requires consistency. Just like working out, you can’t do it once and leave the gym jacked, it takes time.

I find it’s easiest to add new habits in the mornings or evenings which is another reason why I mentioned those two times above. Here’s an article on how to develop a morning routine, something you will find extremely helpful as you continue down this path.

Visualization is NOT a Replacement

Yes, this process will help you move towards your goal, but it is not a substitute for consistent action. I encourage everyone I work with to commit to a minimum of 15 minutes working towards their goals every day. If you’ve laid out your list of ‘How’s’ from the last article, it should be EASY.

Commit. Create a life you love.

Conclude

Well, that brings us to the end of this series. I hope you’ve found these articles helpful and are already stepping outside of your comfort zone and growing into your best self.

Remember confidence is NOT something you are born with – it can be learned! By putting yourself in a state of confidence, setting goals to build your self-belief, and now with visualization you are well on your way to looking at each challenge that comes your way as an opportunity to grow.

Hey, real quick before you go – I would love your feedback on these articles. I’m new to writing out these processes and would greatly benefit from hearing anything you liked or didn’t like about this series. This survey is a great way to do that.

Also note, this 4 part series was just a sample of some of the things that will be in my Confidence Building Course in the future, so if you want to see anything there that was missing here, let me know.

Questions and comments about the material covered here can be left in the survey as well or in the comments section below.

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