Anyone who has watched an exciting basketball game is familiar with some version of this moment: A player hits a dramatic shot to win the game and then a reporter asks the player how he or she did it. “That’s how we drew it up,” the player might say. Or maybe, “I saw it going in.” Or, “I believed that I could do it.”
Now, these answers might sound a little cliché. But there’s a powerful technique behind this way of thinking, which can also be usefully applied to the goals you set in life. You don’t even need to know how to dribble a basketball to do it.
The power of visualizing success
So what if, instead of hitting a game-winning shot, you are trying to play guitar or learn to knit? We admit that there might not be quite as much glory in playing “Classical Gas” or putting together a cable-knit sweater, but the power of visualizing yourself accomplishing your goal is not just a powerful motivator. It helps you see what success looks and believe in the possibility.
Success is starting a process
Say you wanted to take up running. We all remember from gym class that running is a tough thing to motivate yourself to do — after all, you quite literally have to propel yourself forward when all you want to do is stop.
Picturing yourself running is probably not going to get you flying off the couch. But envisioning yourself finishing a 10K race with a friend and then eating an enormous plate of pancakes is a much better option. Your goal gets more specific and you can begin to believe and invest in the process of getting there. (Plus, you know, pancakes.)
So what’s in your picture?
Some people believe there is a mystical quality to the practice of visualizing success. That if you imagine a certain thing happening, the universe falls into place to make it so. Now, we’re not quite so sure about that. But what we are sure about is that by giving yourself a realistic, tangible-seeming symbol for your efforts — a pair of jeans you’d like to fit into, a vacation you’d like to save for — you can return to that image again and again for inspiration, especially as you encounter obstacles and battle setbacks.
So let’s set the picture of what you want at the end of your goal. Ask yourself: What will look like? How will it feel? What excites me about the possibility?
Be specific. Is it the rush of crossing the finish line, the joy of feeling exhausted and sore from your efforts, or that plate of pancakes? Now hold that image in your head and carry it with you as the hard work begins.