Believe It To See It
“Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life.”
“If you dream it, you can become it.”
Think about one of your current goals. Big, small, whatever; it can be anything. Maybe close your eyes so you can really focus on it. Okay, do you have it fixed in your mind? What would it look like for you to accomplish that goal? Can you really picture it? Can you imagine what it would feel like? Can you really visualize the experience?
Lately, I’ve been coming across the concept of visualization a lot. In part, that’s probably due to the fact that my wife has begun practicing it and shares her thoughts on the subject with me from time to time. It’s on my mind, so my awareness of it makes it seem like it’s cropping up more and more. Regardless of why it seems to be more prevalent in my day-to-day, I’m more interested in whether or not visualization is a legitimately beneficial practice. Can it genuinely help me achieve my goals, or is it just wishful thinking?
All that follows is a sincere exploration of a topic that is completely new to me. If you have any knowledge about or experience with the practice of visualization, please let me know in the comments below. I’d love to learn more and engage in a dialogue with you!
Let’s start with the obvious question: What is visualization? If I’m being honest, without really understanding its intent and methods, my more cynical side immediately thinks of visualization as some hippy-dippy, new-agey, happy clappy technique that enables people to just imagine a better life, distracting them from actually doing the work of accomplishing their goals and making that life a reality. Harsh, I know. But living in a world and working in an industry often fraught with scams, I’ve become just a little bit skeptical.
Come to find out, though, I’m not always right about Life, the Universe, and Everything (however, I have it on good authority the answer is still 42). Visualization is not meant to be an ethereal, spiritual journey—though, I imagine it can be for some—but rather a meditative method of picturing what it is you want out of life. It’s not simply fantasizing about what you hope will happen; it is creating a mental image of the goal you seek to accomplish, employing your thoughts to imagine a specific outcome and the steps you will use to get there.
Legit Practice or Manipulative Hoax
One of my first thoughts upon hearing about visualization was that it sounded an awful lot like prosperity gospel rubbish. I had to double check that its sources weren’t ultimately linked to Joel Osteen in some way, shape, or form. On the surface there are similarities. Where visualization says, “Imagine success and it will come to you,” prosperity messages tout, “Pray for success and God will give it to you.” In either case, it seems like the notion of working hard is rejected in favor of something easier. The onus for achieving success passes from the individual and is placed upon some external force or power. After some further research, however, I see that this isn’t what’s really going on with visualization.
Unlike prosperity gospel theology, which at its core is a manipulation tactic that uses God and religion to exploit and take advantage of people, visualization is primarily an individual practice that isn’t about manipulating oneself into false beliefs, but rather helping one clear away extraneous thoughts or unhelpful self-talk and find sharper focus on how to reach one’s goals. And as any Jedi worth his midi-chlorians knows, “Your focus determines your reality.” (Looking at you, Josh Alexander!)
Teach Me Your Ways
So, how does it work? And does is work? There’s actually quite a bit of psychological scientific research backing up visualization as a beneficial technique. Much of what follows comes from this article by Melody Wildling, and I encourage you to check it out for yourself.
As we uncover more about how the human brain functions, science is consistently finding that imagination and reality are inextricably linked in the mind. In other words, the same part of your brain is stimulated regardless of whether you’re physically performing an action or imagining it happening in your head. The reason for this is that thoughts about the past, present, and future all trigger the same neurochemicals, ones that affect things like motor control, attention, and planning. This, in turn, rouses us to action. Since “cells that fire together wire together,” this practice of visualization creates new neural pathways in your brain, allowing you to see new ways forward to accomplish your goals. Specifically, this process stimulates the brain’s Reticular Activating System, which, in part, is responsible for searching your environment for opportunities.
In order for visualization to be truly effective, it’s important to keep a few key components in mind:
· Clear & Measurable Goals—Being as specific as possible about what you want to accomplish will help you create a clearer mental image.
· Detailed Imagination—Envision each step of the process you plan to take to achieve success as vividly as you can.
· Sensory Imagery—Include images of what you see, hear, and smell to help solidify the visualization.
· Proactive Flexibility—Use the doubts and worries that inevitably arise when thinking about the future as tools to make your visualization more flexible. Consider the various challenges you might face and visualize how you will overcome them.
· Write It Down—Engaging multiple senses will activate different parts of your brain, strengthening your visualization. Committing a goal to paper also makes it more likely you will follow-through on it.
In the world we live in today, there are countless opportunities to encounter messages telling us, “No!” or “You can’t!” or “Just give up!” In its simplest and purest form, visualization is a tool to help rebuff this kind of negativity and believe the best about yourself. It’s a way to take just a few minutes out of your day to train your mind, to practice experiencing what you want most out of life. When we take the time to consciously focus our thoughts on our goals, we help instill within ourselves the motivation to do the work and make it happen.
Give It a Shot
If you’re like me, it’s easy to let the daunting nature of what it takes to accomplish my goals overwhelm me to the point of inaction. I can be easily swayed by how impossible something appears to be. Could something as simple as visualizing my own success really make that big an impact in my ability to realize that success? I don’t really know yet, but many successful people—from Michael Jordan, to Jim Carrey, to Oprah Winfrey, to Jay-Z— credit visualization as a part of their achievements. What do I have to lose? If nothing else, practicing visualization will likely help me have a stronger focus on my goals and a better outlook on myself as a person who has value to offer the world. And that’s really not such a small benefit, after all.
In the article I mentioned previously, Melody Wildling offers an exercise for those looking to try visualization for the first time. Based on research by NYU professors Gabrielle Oettingen and Peter Gollwitzer, the WOOP (Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan) exercise involves visualizing yourself completing a goal and devising a plan of action to overcome the inner obstacles that may attempt to trip you up along the way. Here’s a personal example of what this could look like:
1. Wish—Write down a specific goal that is both challenging and achievable.
E.g.: I want to book a $3,000 voiceover gig.
2. Outcome—Visualize the moment you achieve your goal exactly as you want it to happen.
E.g.: I network with a client through direct marketing in need of VO services for an extended eLearning project. I communicate clearly and effectively with the client, providing a stellar audition. The client hires me on the spot without hesitation, knowing I am exactly the voice they are looking for.
3. Obstacle—Identify the internal obstacles, fears, or concerns within your control that may inhibit your desired outcome.
E.g.: I worry about being taken seriously as a voice talent this early on in my career. I’m concerned I don’t know how to adequately negotiate project rates within industry standards. I struggle with imposter syndrome—who am I to claim I can offer a product worth thousands of dollars?
4. Plan—Create an if/then plan for each possible obstacle you identified.
E.g.: “If I worry about my legitimacy as a voice talent, then I will recall the investments I’ve made in training, education, equipment, etc.”
“If I struggle negotiating rates, then I will utilize tools like the GVAA rate guide and stick to my guns about my worth.”
What do you think? Is visualization a beneficial tool? Is it effective in helping people build a mindset that is conducive to success? Do you practice visualization? If so, what has your experience with it been like? Has it had a noticeable impact on your life? I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic and expanding my own understanding of what visualization is all about.
Until next time, friends, keep telling stories!
Voiceover Artist | Storyteller
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