If You Envision It, It Will Come
It’s not just mumbo-jumbo: visualize your positive future and you’ll have an easier time reaching that peak performance. There’s a science to visualization that runs much deeper than reading a copy of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.
Studies have shown that concentrated visualization efforts work because your subconscious mind does not like the conflict that exists between your current situation and what you’re visualizing. It will try to resolve that conflict and move toward your visualized reality. Your subconscious is like the mediator, trying to arbitrate for a way to get to what you’re seeing.
Your subconscious programs your brain to start opening your awareness to resources that are already around you to resolve the conflict. It does this through the RAS section of your brain (short for reticular activating system). The RAS section acts like a giant filter that basically chooses which stimuli you notice and which stimuli you don’t.
Have you ever learned a new word and then all the sudden you hear that word three or four times throughout the day? That’s your subconscious and RAS allowing the new word to now filter through.
This new allowance filtering means your subconscious mind actively starts to use resources to create solutions to resolve the conflict. You’re seeing opportunities all around you now because you have a focused vision about where you want to go and your subconscious wants to get you there ASAP. All of a sudden, you start remembering old contacts and overhearing ideal conversations you need. Just like that.
With the awareness and solutions starting to marinate and little accomplishments and synchronicities popping up all over the place, your subconscious starts creating new levels of motivation. The first little step of conflict resolution felt so good, it wants another one! And then another, and another, and ... you get the big picture.
Related: The Power of Business Imagination
By now you should be perking up and paying close attention. However, you’re an entrepreneur, you’re smart, you want some case studies, right?
Ever hear of Natan Sharansky? He was a U.S. computer specialist who spent almost 10 years in prison in the USSR after being accused of spying. As you can imagine, there isn’t much to do for nine years in a USSR solitary confinement cell, so he decided he had to focus on something to keep himself sane. In an interview after his release, he said he decided to start playing chess against himself in his own mind. If that’s not brilliant enough, he focused all his energy into believing he could be the best. He said, “I might as well use the opportunity to become the world champion!” Remarkably, in 1996, a free Sharansky beat world champion chess player Garry Kasparov.
Pro-athletes are also famous for visualizing success. Golfers are particularly apt to do it, which makes sense given the highly mental nature of the strategic game they play. Tiger Woods claims to have been using it since his pre-teen years. So does world champion golfer Jack Nicklaus, who has said, “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head.”
Maybe it works for prisoners and pro-golfers, but what about entrepreneurs like you and I?
Sara Blakely, the billionaire entrepreneur and founder of Spanx, is a fan of visualization. “I believe you can take mental snapshots of your future and what success looks like to you," she has said. "If you mentally see yourself in a scenario, you’ll start to make decisions in your life that get you there.”
Of course, it takes action to back up your visualization, but if you know where you want to go, it’s very likely you can trick your subconscious into getting you there.
Matthew Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of YoungEntrepreneur.com. He is co-author, with his brother Adam, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Vancouver, B.C.