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If you want to experience incredible transformations leading to substantial accomplishments, positive visualization can help.
You just have to make sure you make them multi-sensory and based on one simple quirk no one else talks about.
The best part is that this form of visualization is really simple and fun to do.
Are you ready?
Dive in and please enjoy this actionable list of easy steps and positive visualization exercises.
What Is Positive Visualization?
During the weeks leading up to my dissertation defense, instead of feeling my palms sweat and my knees shake, I visualized.
To make sure the practice was positive, I built in the proper outcomes based on a secret ingredient you’ll learn today. That ingredient is called multi-sensory visualization and it is very powerful.
I added breathing and muscle relaxation to ensure I was really present.
Getting really tuned in with my body.
That means consciously feeling my feet on the floor. It means following the passage of air in and out of my lungs. And it means mentally noticing that the experience of having thoughts is itself physical.
All the worry and the strain could be dispelled simply by acknowledging it was there and directing oxygen at dispelling it.
Then, while going through the grueling rigors of the exam, I kept focused on my body. And as I answered questions, I positively imagined getting my degree.
I didn’t just “see” this happening in my mind.
No, I made it multi-sensory by hearing the sounds of clapping from the audience attending my exam.
I felt the handshakes.
I experienced an imaginary version of the emotions that come from success.
I even tasted and smelled the celebration sushi dinner we planned for after the exam.
To give a simple formula:
Body + multi-sensory imagery + a focus on positive outcomes = Mindcrafting.
Here’s the best part:
When you have a positive experience, you can craft it as a tool for use later.
For example, I have revisited the experience of successfully earning my PhD on that day many times.
To do so, I put it in a Memory Palace. That way it has continued to grow in effectiveness over the years whenever I need positivity on demand.
In case you’re wondering, this positive visualization practice is scientifically valid. Here’s just one of many excellent studies by Dr. Tim Dalgleish on using a Memory Palace for positive visualization.
Positive Visualization: A Working Definition
You now know that this form of visualization is powerful and can be reused many times. It is also defined as:
- A pleasant alternative to “monkey mind” thinking that wears you down with stress
- A multi-sensory experience
- A mental experience that incorporates the entire body
- An imaginary event that is used before, during and after a goal
- A process-based resource that you can benefit from on demand
7 Positive Visualization Techniques And Exercises
As you can guess by the fact that I’m sharing this information, I successfully passed my final exam and was awarded my PhD.
Here is a list of the different visualization meditation routines I use personally. They are all science-based and will serve as a starting point for you to build your own “stack” of visualization tools.
Again, please understand that the core technique I have been using improves mood and has been successful in helping people with mood disorders, PTSD and more.
That core technique is called the Memory Palace and is well worth learning. But before we dig into it, let’s start with some fundamentals of visualization so you can make sure you do it in a way that is actually positive in nature. This aspect can be a bit counterintuitive, so the granular details really matter.
One: Focus Your Visualization Exercises On Practical Outcomes
As Richard Wiseman notes in 59 Seconds, many people who visualize slow or ruin their progress.
They set impossible goals.
For example, a person with a particular skeletal shape might never be built like Schwarzenegger.
Yet, some will persist in creating such impossible visualizations instead of focusing on seeing themselves getting their shoes on and going out for a run.
Likewise, a person who has not made a dollar in their life as a business person is spinning their wheels visualizing themselves as a billionaire, let alone a millionaire.
It’s much more practical and therefore useful to direct visualization at learning how to make that first sale instead. That you can visualize the next most logical step in the process of reaching your goal.
Here’s another way to look at it, and this is the secret ingredient that matters most:
You want to base your visualization practice on your existing competence.
As psychologist Jordan Peterson lays out in Maps of Meaning, your path to learning and experiencing more success is secured if you take what you’re already good at and focus on the next step forward.
This point is important because you have in memory the skills that it took to get where you are now. You visualize what they are and then you imagine just the next step.
Of course, that next step can be optimized, so let’s talk about how next.
Two: Visualize Milestones Supported By Systems
Now that you know what not to visualize (impossible goals), let’s make sure that when you break down what you’re going to visualize, you have the support you need.
Few goals involve any kind of direct path. Most things worth achieving require you to successfully bring together multiple moving parts.
To visualize in ways that help you keep the big picture and the granular details in mind at the same time, it’s important to break goals down into milestones.
For example, when I wrote my dissertation, 100,000 words was an overwhelming number. Visualizing a printout the size of a phonebook did not help me.
However, what did help was visualizing myself organizing my outline, then writing 1000 words a day.
I also visualized myself following a simple writing system. If I put my computer to sleep, I would have the document I was working on open so the next time I logged on, it would be the first thing I saw.
Then I started following that system. (By writing this post, I’m following it now too.)
To help myself even further with that massive document, I recorded a simple guided visualization for myself. This quick recording focused on the feeling of accomplishment of both doing the writing and having finished the project.
Whatever goals you are trying to visualize, break it down into smaller parts. And focus on creating and then following simple systems. That way you don’t need to wait for motivation.
Instead, you just follow the steps involved in the system. And you’ll know those steps very well thanks to the power of visualization.
Three: Make Sure Your Visualization Experience Is Multi-sensory
It’s a quirk of the English language that we say “visualization.” What we really mean is multi-sensory imagination.
For example, when I visualize myself writing the millions of words I’ve produced across my career, “seeing” the action in my mind is barely part of the process. There are even people with aphantasia who can’t see images at all.
Instead, I focus on the feeling of the keys as I type. I hear how it all sounds and enjoy the taste of my favorite teas.
The deeper into all of your sensations you can go, the more you’ll get out of the experience. It is truly inspiring and helps you notice more of the nuances involved in so many pleasures we usually dismiss.
Here’s more on how to visualize clearly when you want to reach the next level.
Four: Make Sure Your Positive Visualizations Are Actually Positive
A big problem a lot of people have is they disguise negativity in their visualization efforts.
For example, some people will follow a visualization script that says, “I get a raise and the promotion I finally deserve.”
This kind of visualization encodes negativity because it implies entitlement. You might well “deserve” it, but nothing in this example visualization follows the rules we’ve laid out above.
An alternative would be a multisensory visualization that focuses on existing competence and systems that lead toward getting a raise. For example:
I feel great as I prepare my notes for the meeting with my boss. I enjoy listing the positive boosts in revenue I’ve generated for the company and specifically connecting them to the evidence of my contributions. I remember to explain my plans for improving myself further by mentioning the new professional certification courses I’ve joined and am completing in my free time.
Notice how the goal of getting the raise remains, but the emphasis is on the performance in the meeting. The focus is on the positive demonstration of why the raise makes sense, not why the visualizer is entitled to it.
Five: Script Your Visualizations
The best way to make sure your visualizations are in fact positive is to write them out.
Sure, it would be nice if someone knew you well enough to tailor-make a visualization for you.
But that’s not realistic, and you gain so much by doing it yourself.
For one thing, writing your own visualizations is itself an immersive positive visualization exercise. By putting what you want to create into writing, you externalize it, which gives it more dimensions as it grows in your imagination.
And the writing process helps you “stress test” that what you want is actually true and as positive as it should be.
Six: Choose The Right Time And Settings
When it comes time to practice the visualization itself, make sure you’re comfortable and won’t be disturbed.
I suggest a variety of locations, both in your home and in outdoor environments.
It’s important to have fresh air, greenery and a bit of exercise to stimulate what is called “diffuse thinking.” This is what leads to those eureka moments where even more dots connect.
Seven: Visualize Frequently Enough To Make A Difference
The main problem I see with people who aren’t getting results from visualization is that they give up too soon.
Or they don’t practice frequently enough to really learn the nuances you’ve discovered today.
After all, we know that reading is not enough. You have to practice the right visualization exercises and you need to do so consistently.
The question is… how do you rig the game and expand your mind sufficiently enough that you cannot fail?
There’s no cookie cutter answer here, but I do have some tips:
- Have a big enough “reason why” and test that reason (writing your visualization of the reason is a good place to start)
- Schedule a time to practice with something like The Freedom Journal
- Practice at least 4x weekly for 90 days
That might seem like a lot of practice, but in the grand scheme of things, it is nothing. You’re going to live those 90 days anyway, and the neurochemistry of habit formation shows how repetition is key.
Without getting too deep into the science of neurons and dopamine, I “visualize” it like gardening:
You have cellular connections in your brain that are like vines. (Vines are positive habits.)
The strength of those vines comes down to your consistency in showing up to water them and clear away the weeds.
More weeds are always coming and water, if not fertilizer will always be needed.
Be consistent with your visualization activities and you will improve how you’re doing it and experience more successful outcomes.
The Ultimate Truth About Positive Visualization Exercises
In a phrase:
They work, if you do the work.
The good news is that this “work” is easy and fun.
But if you struggle, you now have powerful guidelines that can get you over the hurdle.
And if you find it hard to remember when and how to visualize, or you want to recite potentially dozens of positive visualization routines from memory, here is my FREE memory training course:
So what do you say?
Are you ready to dive in and visualize with renewed success? Which of these tips are you going to explore first?
I had an audition for a musical and, in addition to rehearsing the song, I did positive visualization where I saw myself singing powerfully and nailing it. I didn’t worry about getting a callback or getting the role, but having a great audition.
I walked in with confidence and sang the song, but it did not go nearly as well as I had visualized. I am an experienced singer with many years of experience. I don’t understand why it didn’t work.
Thanks for this and sorry you didn’t get the part.
Did you use the visualization techniques described on this page? It sounds like only the “seeing” part was involved.
Also, did you have the opportunity to study the other people at the audition and the person who ultimately got the role? They often leave clues that can help you for the next time.
Remember: Even incredibly accomplished people often don’t get the parts they want. And they often go through dozens, if not hundreds of auditions to get there. Visualization is not just about this or that outcome, but also the stamina needed to get back on the horse when things don’t turn out as we wish.
Thank you, Anthony.
I did the “seeing” part along with rehearsing it on my feet with movement. It was not so much about getting the role (although that would have been great), but having a good audition. I felt I didn’t sing nearly as well as I usually do. I did not get to see the others during their auditions, as they were conducted individually.
Thanks for your follow-up.
I’m not entirely sure what to suggest other than giving it another go and perhaps adding more of the positive visualization elements discussed here.
If it’s any consolation, my TEDx Talk didn’t go as I had envisioned it either – far from it. It’s still done well, but the answer to thinking about it in any other way than things turned out is kind of the opposite of visualization.
Some people call it Karma Yoga, which is the practice of letting go of the outcome of things. There may be no explanation coming to explain how things turned out as they did or didn’t and so just letting them be as they were can be profoundly useful.