Having a clear image of what you want to achieve is key to success. But fantasizing about success may be a recipe not just for disappointment but for failure. Psychologists at the University of California gave a group of students a visualization task. Half the students visualized the goal outcome — getting good grades. The other half visualized the goal process — good study habits.
Those who visualized themselves studying got significantly better grades.
Those who visualized good grades didn’t just do worse, they studied less and were less motivated. Basking in all that visualized glory may have actually persuaded their brains that the goal was already achieved and nothing more was required.
It’s not just students, those who spent the most time fantasizing about getting a job applied for fewer jobs, were offered fewer jobs, and when they finally got a job received lower salaries.
Visualizing works when you use it for planning and anticipating obstacles or as a form of mental rehearsal. Like a virtual practice session, it builds our skills and reduces anxiety. There is a lot more value in visualizing a job interview than visualizing getting a job. The one prepares you the other could just be wishful thinking. To adapt an old Chinese proverb: “A man must sit with his mouth open, visualizing for a very long time before a roast chicken flies into it.” Sure we need a clear visual of that roast chicken. That’s part of what motivates us to go and hunt it down.
But if you only focus only on the goal, you take your eye off the ball and miss the goal. Besides, the moment of triumph is just a moment. The long-term joy and growth is in the process of achieving the goal even more than the goal itself.
I may have been unable to visualize that cassette recorder into existence but something better happened. I got a job, saved up some money and bought one. I discovered something far more powerful than the law of attraction. I discovered the law of action.
Visualize your goals, just make sure you spend even more time visualizing the action you’re going to take and even more time — taking action!
Now experiment on yourself.
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Justin Cohen is a professional speaker and author of four books & seven audiobooks. As a leading authority on human potential, with a postgraduate degree in Psychology, Justin Cohen speaks and trains internationally in the fields of motivation, sales, service and leadership. He has presented in nearly twenty countries, and in virtually every industry to an average of 10 000 people annually. Justin is a Certified Speaking Professional and a Southern African Speaker Hall of Fame inductee. For more go to:
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