Reaching your goals — especially if they're kind of lofty — is always way easier said than done. Success, in any form, take lots of hard work and planning, which is why some dreams can't be fully realized for years. If you want to help things along, however, and actually see some progress, visualizing your goals can certainly make a difference.
I'm not saying this method works like magic, or that success is that simple. But plenty of experts agree visualization can help get your brain on the right wave length. And that can help set things in motion. "Visualization helps our brain send a signal to our body to start behaving in a way consistent with the images in our head," NYC-based therapist Kimberly Hershenson, LMSW, tells Bustle. "It helps give us a clear picture of what we'd like to achieve and a vision that it is, in fact, possible."
In other words, once you put a goal in your head, it's likely your body, actions, thoughts, and life will all fall into line. "As the saying goes, 'seeing is believing,'" Hershenson says. Read on for some ways to use visualization to your advantage, so you can actually, finally, achieve your goals.
1. Visualize What Life Will Be Like Once You Achieve Your Goals
Whatever your goal may be, take the time to visualize what life will be like once you've achieve it. "If your goal is to get a promotion at work, picture your boss calling you into their office and telling you about the raise or title change. Picture the increased salary going into your bank account or your new business cards with an updated title," Hershenson says. This is the outcome, and picturing it can give you a clear idea of where you're headed.
2. Visualize The Steps You'll Take To Get There
It also helps to imagine the process you'll go through to reach your desired outcome. "Imagine all the steps necessary to achieve your goal," Hershenson says. "For example, if you want to be healthier, imagine starting your day with a balanced breakfast, going to the gym in the morning, taking vitamins, eating a balanced lunch and dinner, and getting a good night's rest." Once you have these smaller steps in mind, it'll be easier to add them into your routine.
3. Picture It All In Vivid Detail
Whether you're picturing an end result, or the path along the way, it's important to envision it all in as much detail as possible. "Who is with you? What do they see when they look at you? How do you feel? When you wake up in the morning, what’s your first clue that things are different?" asks coach Lizi Jackson-Barrett. This can serve as incredible motivation.
4. Create A Vision Board
Start collecting images and quotes that represent how you'd like your future self to be. Then create a vision board (either a real one, or online) and give it a prominent place in your life. "Hang it in a place where you can see it and study it on a daily basis," says author and life coach Kali Rogers. "This will help cement your goals and trigger inspiration and accountability to meet them."
5. Write Down All Your Goals
If vision boards aren't really your thing, writing your goals down will have the same effect. Plus, it can help you weed out which ones might not work. As psychic and spiritual counselor Davida Rappaport says, "Once you write your goals down, you can see if they are reasonable and attainable." If they are, cool. Go ahead and move forward. But if not, don't be afraid to revise.
6. Set Mini Goals Along The Way
It's so easy to get tripped on the road to reaching your goals, especially when you don't see instant success. So plan ahead for that moment. "Break up your goal into smaller goals and focus on those, more so than the overall victory," says Rogers. "No one likes to wait a long time to see results, so if you can celebrate the smaller victories, you will have a higher chance of reaching your end goal."
7. Let Yourself Zone Out And Daydream
If you find yourself zoned out and daydreaming, let it happen. "I know it sounds silly, but zoning out in the shower, in your car (not too much!), before you go to bed, after a long day of work — whatever works for you — is a great way to hatch plans to meet your goals," Rogers says. You might, for example, be hit with a bolt of inspiration, or see that path to your goals more clearly.
8. Put In The Work
It would be great if all it took was a moment's visualization and, just like that, your goals were realized. But, as you know, it'll take some honest hard work, too. As Rappaport says, "Look at your list of goals and your timeline. See what is the next logical step on your path and see what steps you need to take to move that one along. Then do it." Do you need to take a class? Or ask for that promotion? Or change a bad habit? The answer is probably yes.
9. Skip The To-Do List
While you definitely want to write down your goals, and create a timeline in which to achieve them, you don't necessarily want to make a long, winding, never-ending to-do list. "Rather, I tell my clients to make a 'to-don’t list,'" energy management specialist Dr. Stephania Sciamano tells Bustle. If something is going to use up your precious time and/or steer you away from your goals, put it on your "to-don't" list. And then avoid it at all costs.
10. Live Your Life "As If"
Always keep your goals tucked away in the back of your head, but also think (and act) as if they've already been achieved. "When you go through your life as if it already happened, your energy/attitude shifts from a 'less than' place to a feeling and attitude of completion/gratitude," says health counselor Claudia Matles. You might stand up a bit straighter, start dressing the part, or begin associating with people who've already met the same goal. Whatever you do, it all helps.
11. Say It Out Loud
Whether you're focusing on long-term goals, or simply want to successfully get through a busy day, it can help to say aloud how you'd like it all to go down. "This may seem weird, but it will help you prepare for your day and gather your thoughts," says fitness expert and coach Joe Pepe. "This works because you not only see yourself completing your task, but you are also saying it out loud as well, thus triggering another part of your brain."
Remember, to achieve your dreams, you'll have to take actual steps towards them in the form of classes, practices, lifestyle changes, etc. But if you visualize success along the way, it can definitely help you get there.
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