Visualizing your goals

Scorecard; are your goals holding up?

Everyone sets goals; it is the most effective methods of getting things done. Health and wellness goals, work goals, relationship goals and financial goals are among the top categories of goals which people make every year. While many people make goals and resolutions, most struggle with following them.

Perhaps you set goals at the beginning of the year with every intention of keeping them but with the first quarter over, your resolve has waned. You slipped up once and now you’re back to old habits, your goals journal tucked away in the corner of your desk to resurface next year for another go-round. If this sounds all too familiar, then it may be that visualization is the extra step you need to sustain your resolve and follow through on all your goals and resolutions.

Seeing is believing

Visualization is a powerful tool that has been used for centuries by successful people in all spheres of life, to achieve their goals. In fact, most top athletes are trained to visualize their goals right before a competition.

So, what exactly is visualization?

Visualization is a simple technique of creating strong mental images of a future event or desired outcome. Now, this is not to be confused with mere hoping or daydreaming about your future. Visualization, done properly, is a systematic method of performance improvement backed by scientific studies. It works because neurons in our brain interpret imagery as equivalent to real-life action, and so they send signals to our minds and bodies that enable us achieve the desired outcome.

Taste the victory; plan the steps

There are two kinds of visualization: outcome visualization and process visualization. As the name implies, the former involves seeing yourself at the finish line. Creating an image of victory in your mind. Let’s say you are currently overweight and your goal is to lose 10kg in six months. Outcome visualization will involve creating an image in your mind of what you will look like if you weigh 10kg less than you do now. See yourself taking selfies; imagine how much healthier you will feel. Imagine shopping for new clothes in your desired size – maybe window-shop in real life. Outcome visualization enables you to "taste the victory" which in turn boosts your confidence and makes you even more desirous of achieving the goal.

The second kind, process visualization, is creating mental images of the steps required to achieve the goal. Using our 10kg weight loss example, process visualization will involve breaking down the goal into actionable steps and seeing yourself take those steps in your mind. Actionable steps in this scenario may be working out every day, following a healthy diet, etc. Visualizing the process of achieving your goal alerts you to potential pitfalls and enables you put in place practical steps to address these pitfalls. It activates your creative subconscious and you begin to come up with practical ideas to make your goal happen.

How to visualize your goal

  1. Determine your goal: To visualize a goal, you first need to determine what that goal is and be as specific about it as much as possible. Make sure your goal is realistic, with realistic timelines. If your goal is to lose 10kg in 48hours, you can spend the first 24hours visualizing that goal and nothing will happen, because it is simply unrealistic.

  2. Choose a quiet environment: To get the best out of practicing visualization, it’s best to be in a quiet environment, away from external distractions and in a comfortable position. Every time you get distracted, it takes a little bit longer to get back into it.

  3. Picture yourself achieving or having achieved that goal: Close your eyes and see yourself standing at the finish line. Utilize all your senses for this – what does the room in your picture smell like? What are the colour of the walls? The fabric of your clothes; how does it feel like on your skin?

  4. Picture yourself taking the necessary steps to achieve the goal: Next, picture yourself taking the required actions to achieve the goal. Visualizing the process helps you see and plan for potential pitfalls. If you need to wake up at a particular time every day to work out, picture yourself doing so. You might then realize that this will be difficult because you usually go to bed late. So, visualize yourself going to bed at a particular time each night that allows you to wake up at the time you need to, to be able to work out. If you’re not an early riser normally, visualize yourself setting an alarm each night. You also can set a time that suits you, the process should flow and you shouldn’t make it hard on yourself to achieve it.

  5. Transfer the images from your mind into reality: Write down a sentence or two that captures the goal you’re trying to achieve and post it in a visible place, like your dressing mirror or workstation. You can also print out a picture/image that summarizes or speaks to your goal. Using our 10kg weight loss example, you can print out an image of someone who looks the way you would like to look. In addition, when writing your goal, write it like it’s in the past as if you already achieved it. E.g. I’m so glad I lost those 10kg, I feel lightweight and healthier than ever before.

In conclusion, it is important to note that visualization does not guarantee success, neither is it a replacement for hard work or execution. Nevertheless, thrown into the mix, it is a powerful tool to help you achieve your goals for 2021 and beyond.

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Dania Nwizu is a creative entrepreneur based in Lagos, Nigeria. She spends most of her time writing, telling food stories and walking on water.

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