Visualization is powerful.
We’ve been doing this since childhood. You need to do it right.
Visualize the process, not the goal. Books, seminars, courses, and motivational speakers talk about setting goals for success. When it comes to visualization, it doesn’t work. It delays reaching the goal and may even prevent ever reaching the goal.
Want an A on the exam? Visualize the process, not the A. For days, you visualize getting an A on the exam. You visualize the A when you brush your teeth, walking to class, and going for lunch. How could this be a problem? Everyone says this is a good idea. If visualizing the A is such a good idea, let's test it and find out. Tell 100 students to visualize the A on the exam for five days and compare their grade to 100 students who don’t visualize the A. The results: those who don’t visualize the A get a better grade! This is because students who get the good grades spend their time studying for the exam and not spending their time visualizing the A. This not only takes time, but the students who visualize the A have the feeling that they will get the A because the “universe” will help them. This is not a good feeling, it’s a false feeling of success, and a double bad feeling when the A doesn’t appear. Be the process-visualization students about getting an A and study.
Want a job? Visualize the process, not the job. People can spend hours visualizing their dream job – visualize talking about the offer, about the surroundings of the new job, about what they will do with the money, and about the feeling of success. How-to books and motivational gurus tell you this over and over. They give you thousands of success stories. It sounds so perfect, but it’s not. This is a waste of time and will take you away from attaining the job. Take 100 people who visualize their dream job compared to 100 people who don’t. People who don’t spend time visualizing the job used the time on the process of getting the job, and they get the job.
Want to make a million dollars? Visualize the process, not the million dollars. The “how-to” authors and speakers will tell you to visualize a million dollars, and it will appear. They tell you not to worry about how it will happen, the “universe” will take care of how it will happen. Visualize it, write it down, repeat it 100 times every day, post it on the mirror, and visualize the million dollars during meditation. It’s a secret, don’t tell anybody. All of this effort is time wasted. It’s a distraction. Every cell in your body knows what the goal is – no reminders are needed. Visualize the process, this will lead to success and you’ll feel better.
What happens when you visualize the process? Less stress and more enjoyment. The feeling of failure is eliminated because process is not a win-loss situation. Thinking about goals is stressful and not attaining the goal day after day is not good, a bad feeling in the stomach. It's a negative hope of attaining a goal that may never be reached. Thinking about the process is a continuous feeling of accomplishment and engagement not associated with failure or success, it’s not a competition with yourself to reach a goal. Working on the process results in positive feelings, engagement and meaning in life, accomplishments, and positive social interactions. Deal with process setbacks the same way. Don't think about the setback itself, move on to thinking about the process of getting back on track. Working on the process produces a comforting sense of well-being.
Action step: Visualization is good. It’s how we think. Visualize and think about the process for success, and enjoy the journey.
Gary R. Epler, M.D.