Visualization to Achieve Your Dreams

September 26, 2013

th-1Visualization is recognized as a powerful tool that has the potential to help you achieve your aspirations and goals. It is the process of imagining events or objects in your mind’s eye with the faithful belief that what you are seeing is actually becoming your desired reality. Some people dabble with the process despite an underlying doubt of its efficacy, in some measure wondering if it’s all just a bunch of superstitious nonsense. Whereas, others passionately practice visualization with an absolute conviction that doing so will enhance their futures, and assist in materializing their dreams. So does it work?

Jim Carrey once told Oprah Winfrey during an interview that as a struggling actor he would use visualization techniques to acquire work. He also said he visualized a $10,000,000 paycheck being given to him for “Acting services rendered.” Three years later, he indeed received a check for his work in Dumb and Dumber…in the amount of $10,000,000. But he doesn’t regard the practice as magic. Carrey said, “I would visualize things coming to me. It would just make me feel better. Visualization works if you work hard. That’s the thing. You can’t just visualize and go eat a sandwich.”

Superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger shares similar convictions. He used visualization techniques to fulfill his aspirations of becoming a body builder, imagining he would win the title of Mr. Universe, and following up by behaving as if he had already won it. He indeed manifested his vision, taking the Mr. Universe title just a few years later. As for his fellow gym mates who would say, “I want to train because I think that if I get muscular enough, maybe I can enter a body building competition,” Arnold says, “You can detect right away those that are going to be shaky, and that will fall behind, and those that are very hungry, and that hunger you will have to develop. You gotta create a goal for yourself whatever that may be, a short-term goal and a long-term goal, and you gotta go after that. And if you don’t see it, and if you don’t believe it, who else will? The body is very important, but the mind is more important than the body….So you gotta go to the gym and feel like every rep that you do is getting you one step closer to that goal to make that vision that you have turn into reality.” 

Next, Arnold applied the same mental technique to his goal of becoming an actor. “So now you apply that principle into acting….Let’s visualize what am I shooting for. Okay, I want to be another Clint Eastwood. So that’s what I’m going after. And that same principle works. Even though there are so many people around that would say you will never make it because you have an accent, because your body is too big, and your name is Schwarzschnitzel or whatever–you know, who can pronounce that? But you know it doesn’t matter if anybody else knows, if anybody else believes in it. But all that matters is that you know. And you know that that principle–visualizing yourself as a star–will work and all you have to do now is go towards that vision.” For Arnold, the practical work included going to acting class everyday as well as working on his accent.

Research has shown that creative visualization is most powerful when it’s not pure fantasy, but rather when it focuses on seeing yourself putting in the proper work to achieve your success. Expecting success as a result of persistent effort, and addressing real obstacles, can motivate you to keep moving forward; whereas, putting hope into unfounded fantasy can actually prevent the necessary work from being accomplished. So, while an Olympian swimmer might benefit from envisioning him or herself swimming past the other competitors and tagging the wall first, an amateur swimmer would do well to focus on the fundamentals of each swim stroke. Keeping your visions at your level will help you establish positive behaviors that have a better chance of becoming habits. Positive habits help you overcome many challenges by allowing yourself to make several attempts to get it right.

So, aspiring actors–or I should say wildly successful and highly revered actors who are living the dream–what do you think about visualization? Do you believe these actors’ devotion to the power of mental pictures was actually vital to achieving their goals? And do you make a point to practice creative visualization yourself?