Creative Visualization: 29 reasons why you should visualize your goals

Creative visualization is incredibly powerful and yet most people use it only unconsciously. Unfortunately, because whether you want to get a lean figure, be super charismatic or want to run the next marathon of New York, it all begins with visualizing your goals first. Creative visualization activates your creative unconscious mind which will start generating creative ideas to achieve your goal. Creative visualization also programs your mind so that you will receive and recognize the resources you need more readily. By visualizing your goals, you will activate the law of attraction, because creative visualization re-programs your mental filters. You will be much more aware of people, resources and circumstances you need to achieve your goals. Creative visualization also builds your self-motivation so that it will be easier for you to follow through and achieve your dreams. There are at least 29 reasons why you too should use creative visualization to achieve your goals, so please read on:

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Natan Sharansky, who spent nine years in prison in the USSR after being accused of spying for the US has a lot of experience with creative visualization. While in prison, he played mental chess. "I might as well use the opportunity to become the world champion!” Remarkably, in 1996, Sharansky beat world champion chess player Garry Kasparov!

As long as I can remember, I have used creative visualization myself. Both for visualizing my goals as well as to better communicate concepts to others. The first actual memory is me teaching my mother to play the piano when I was eight years old. I drew pictures of the keyboard on paper to show my mom, for example, a B flat dominant 7 chord. Nearly every meeting I have had as a project manager I drew something on the whiteboard to explain the ideas I had in my head. At one time I felt totally handicapped because the company I worked for had removed all the whiteboards! So, I took a pile of white print paper from the nearest Xerox machine, because I had to draw. It was impossible for me to not draw! Probably because I am a visual thinker. And I use visualization to connect ideas in my head in a logical way. I use it also to create larger chunks so that I’m capable of seeing things from a broader perspective and also see relationships which were not clear earlier. Thus giving me the chance to take better decisions.

DESIGN YOUR LIFE

Creative Visualization - b

Do you want to live your life by accident or on purpose? I hope the latter! In that case, you need a plan and you need to have a solution for every roadblock you encounter. Furthermore, you need to take the right path among all choices you have and stick to that until you are successful. Creative visualization will be of big help to accomplish all that and more.

Let me explain:

1. Use creative visualization if you don't know what to do

Sometimes you don’t know what to do next. Creative visualization can help you draw out the context of what you are doing and then look for omissions. When drawing the context on paper, it will give you the chance to look at it from a distance which will often give you the solution you need.

2. Use creative visualization if you are stuck

If you are stuck and you don’t know how to find a way out, then it is probably because you are thinking too detailed. Let creative visualization help you to get unstuck, by finding solutions you didn’t see earlier.

3. Use creative visualization if you have too many options and don’t know what to choose

We live in a time of way too many options. We can do everything if we only have the time. But time is limited for each and every one of us. So, you have to make choices which mean setting boundaries and saying no to everything else. But how do you do that? Well if you use creative visualization to see the consequences of choices A, B and C then it will be easier for you to weigh the different scenarios and choose the best one while saying no to the others.

4. Use creative visualization if you get overwhelmed

So, you chose the right scenario and said no to the other scenarios. And now you get overwhelmed by all the actions you have to take and all the consequences of your chosen path. But not if you use creative visualization to design your way to your goal and put everything into place. You will start to see the relativity of your worries and break down to big steps into smaller ones, making the very first step easy to take. And after you took that very first step you will feel fulfilled and happy about that first result and you will be ready to take the next step and the next and the next.

5. Use creative visualization to develop mental toughness

Develop the ability to say NO without feeling guilty. Distractions are attacking us all day long. Internal distractions and external distractions. But if you want to follow through on your goals you have to learn to say no to all those distractions. Why don't we say no? We have a fear of missing out on something. But ... if your goal is a burning desire stronger than everything else, it will be very easy to say no. And to create that burning desire you only need to use your creative visualization to visualize your goal as vivid and intense and long as you can.

Creative Visualization - Say NO - Animated

REALIZE LONG-TERM GOALS

Creative Visualization - c

If you have designed your life, then the next step is to live your life to the max by achieving your long-term goals. Therefore you need to stay focused on your long-term goals long and well enough until you have accomplished them. With every endeavor in life, you will come across opportunities and threads, but you will only see them if you recognize them. 

You must see it before you can believe it.

6. Use creative visualization to stay focused

One of the benefits of creative visualization is that it will be easier to gain focus and to stay focused.

Adam Scott: "I know exactly what I am doing at 6:20 AM on a Saturday morning over five years: I will be finishing my Dilbert cartoon that I started earlier that week."

It is easier to focus on a picture than on an idea of 1,000 words. The end goal in mind will motivate you to persist in pursuing your goal.

Visualizing your goal will direct your mental filters towards your goal, meaning that all your mental energy will be bundled to pursuing this aim.

If you visualize your goal in a positive way, then it will always increase your focus. If you visualize on a negative outcome ("I don't want to fall into that trap"), then your mind will not be focused on your goal, but instead to the opposite.

Creative Visualization - Drawing a Dilbert

7. Use creative visualization to increase your awareness for opportunities

One of the benefits of creative visualization is that you will have more awareness for opportunities you will encounter along the way. Why is that? By Visualizing your goal, you create a unique pair of glasses. This pair of glasses filters out every piece of information which is not relevant for your goal but shows you every part which is relevant. Therefore your conscious awareness will only be filled with the relevant information, leading to more opportunities.

Creative Visualization - Visualize!

8. Use creative visualization to increase your awareness for threads

By visualizing your goal, you get a much better understanding of the road you have to take. Therefore you will be able to see the possible roadblocks which lay ahead of you. These are risks which might turn into threads. So, you better find upfront a way to avoid them. And you better find a solution for the case that it will not be possible to avoid them. Every challenge in life is nothing but an AHA moment, if you have created your roadmap upfront.

Expect roadblocks,
know your territory
and build a roadmap.

9. Use creative visualization to create a better roadmap

As already explained in the last point, you need a roadmap to successfully accomplish your goals. But how do you create the perfect roadmap? This is done by creative visualization on your goal. Make a mindmap or other visualization on paper of what it takes to realize your goal. This will help you to have more understanding of what it takes and what the possible roadblocks are. It will help you to connect the dots between your current situation and your goal.

10. Use creative visualization to create better requirements

With the right visualization resulting in the right roadmap it will be much easier for you to create requirements for your project. Requirements are the details of your roadmap which have to be fulfilled in order for you to achieve your goals.

Suppose that your goal is to get a confirmation of your customer for your project plan. If you would visualize the process between now and the actual agreement by your customer, then all kinds of requirements will pop into your mind. For example to bring a bottle of wine with you to celebrate the milestone.

IMPROVE PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES

Creative Visualization - d

11. Use creative visualization speed up the rehearsal process

If you are doing a physical activity, like for example playing the trombone, water skiing, are doing driver's lessons for your driver's exam, rehearsal is important because you need to build new neural paths in your mind and to ingrain them by repetition. This can be done by doing the physical activity over and over again, but this has it's limitations. For example you only one hour driver's lesson per week. Or after an hour of tennis you are physically exhausted. This is where creative visualization can make a huge difference, because whether you are rehearsing the activity mentally or physically, for your brain it doesn't matter, because the exact same neural pathways are triggered in both situations.

So, by mentally rehearsing the activity over and over again using creative visualization as your tool, you will have the chance of having much more repetitions in a smaller amount of time, without getting physically exhausted.

12. Use creative visualization to train your muscle memory

The purpose of physical training is to train your muscle memory. But what is muscle memory? It is a specific path of neural connections in your brain, which if fired, will trigger the exact muscles in the right order to do what must be done. Visualization of the physical activity will support the actual physical training. Because while visualizing the exact same neural path is triggered. In fact with visualization the triggering of the neural path will be much more precise due to more focus. If am studying a new piece on my trombone, I am continuous changing from physical to mental training, so that my physical training will improve my visualization and that my visualization will improve my physical training.

13. Use creative visualization to improve your feedback loop and detect errors and flaws immediately

One of the benefits of Visualizing physical activities is that you will be able to better detect errors and flaws. This is because in your imagination you will be able to play your inner movie as slowly and as quickly as you want. Waterskiing for example will be very difficult in real life to do this very slowly because then you will sink into the water. But in your imagination it is possible to do this in slow motion. This will give you the availability to study your movements in much more detail. And as soon as you detect an error or flaw in your movements you can immediately stop the movie and rewind 15 seconds and do it again, but now better. And again. And again. Until your movement is perfect. This is of course something which is impossible without visualization.

14. Use creative visualization to create automatic reflexes

The quality of your physical movements are for a great deal dependent of the quality of your automatic reflexes. When I am studying my trombone at home I can play perfect D flat scales but when I have to use them as part of an improvisation they don't come out that smoothe. This is because although I am conscious capable of playing the D flat scale, I am not capable of playing it unconsciously, on reflex.

Have you ever seen the Karate Kid? "Wax on, wax off". This was the endless repetition to create automatic reflexes. This training would have been much more effective and efficient if it would have been accompanied with visualization techniques.

Creative Visualization - Wax On Wax Off

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Creative Visualization - e

15. Use creative visualization to improve your communication

One of the ways to improve your influence is by improving your communication skills. The power to come across effectively and to be understood immediately is key for gaining more influence. One of the most effective ways to improve your communication skills is to visualize your message. If you visualize your message, then you will be understanding your message better yourself. And the level of which your audience will understand your message is directly related to the level of how you are understanding your message. Imagine yourself in a strange city. You want to go to a very special museum where they have an exhibition of the 16th century painter famous for his trees, but you can't remember the name of the painter and you don't know the name of the museum. What will you ask an innocent stranger on the street? Stumbling with your words you will probably not be understood. This is because you don't have a clear picture in your head of where you want to go.

So, imagine that you are communicating your project plan for your team. If you haven't visualized the outcome of what you want to present in a clear and specific way, then you probably will be like me when I was a director of our local brass band. I came unprepared once on the day we would be rehearsing a new piece of music. I had no clear picture or sound in my head of how the new piece should sound like and what the role of each instrument should be. So, everyone did his best to play the piece of music, but because I did not come across at all of how I wanted it to sound like, it was a mess.

Visualization is important for you to better understand your message, but it can also help you to get your message across by drawing out your visualization on a whiteboard or showing it as a powerpoint. You know what say:

A picture can say more
than a 1,000 words.

16. Use creative visualization to create an instant connection with your stakeholders

To gain more influence you need to have a good connection with your stakeholders first. And what better way to get that connection quick by visualizing a perfect relationship between you and your stakeholders before you have even met them.

When investigating the crucial drivers behind what make agents excellent at keeping customers satisfied, no matter what the starting point of the customer was, it turned out that this was the way the call center agent was visualizing his relationship with the customer. I let every agent draw a picture. The picture should be the answer to the following question: "How do you see your relationship with the customer?" Agents who scored above average with regards to customer satisfaction were visualizing themselves in a close and harmonious relationship with the customer. While call center agents who scored below average visualized either nothing or just a very theoretical long distance cold relationship with the customer.

So, if you want to gain more influence with your stakeholders by creating powerful connections with them instantly, you better visualize a close harmonious relationship with them.

17. Use creative visualization to recognize resistance and deal with it upfront

Have you seen the movie Next where Nicolas Cage plays a Las Vegas magician who can see into the future who is pursued by FBI agents seeking to use his abilities to prevent a nuclear terrorist attack? He plays in his mind various scenario's of the possible future until he has found the one scenario with the right ending. All other scenarios will fail, but that one.

This is an ability we all have to some extent. We can visualize various scenarios until we have the one with the least resistance. In real life, you only get one shot, but in your imagination, you get endless shots to take. But what if you have dealt with the possible resistance in your mind in such a way that you can prevent the resistance to take place anyway? That would be even better. You can deal with resistance upfront by working out the best scenario for you to deliver your message without getting resistance.

Resistance is part of the game when it comes to communicating your message to your stakeholders. But what if you would have dealt with the resistance already once or twice in your mind? Then dealing with this resistance in real life will be much easier, don't you think?

Creative_Visualization - Visualize multiple versions of the future

18. Use creative visualization to develop a powerful body language

You probably know that 95% of your communication is determined by your body language. So, if you want to have more influence, then you need to improve your body language in such a way that it supports your message. But how do you control your body .... language? How do you tell your body what to say and how to say it? That's quite difficult, isn't it? But luckily there is a solution, and that is creative visualization. By visualizing yourself bringing your message across in a very powerful and convincing way leading to your stakeholders fully agreeing with you, you will program your body language to support your message in the best possible way.

19. Use creative visualization to be more present

We all have belief systems which result in judgments we have about certain people or situations. However, as an influencer, you cannot afford to have those judgments because they are affecting your body language in a negative way. This results in you having less influence on your stakeholders. That's why it is a good practice to be more in the moment of things because then you will look at how things and people are really instead of how you thought it would be.

So, how will you be more present in the moment? That's right! By using creative visualization. For two reasons:

  1. If you can visualize yourself in a given situation where you will be totally aware of what is happening right there and right now without getting your cognitive bias in the way, then you will be more present.
  2. By visualizing a certain situation upfront, you will be much more in control when the situation actually takes place. This will leave you with much more conscious awareness of what is happening. The result is that you will be more present.

"Happiness is the key to life, my mother always told me. So, that's what I wrote down when I went to school, and they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up?
HAPPY!
When they told me that I did not understand the assignment, I told them that they did not understand life.”
- John Lennon

20. Use creative visualization to recognize emotional signals with your stakeholders

You have probably heard of the importance of emotional intelligence for being more influential. One of the important aspects of emotional intelligence is to recognize the emotions of other people so that you can relate to that and thus create a deeper connection with them.

The key to recognizing the emotions of your stakeholders is to read the body language of your stakeholders. But what if you are totally caught up with the discussion which is going on and doesn't have any conscious attention left to also notice the micro movements in the face of your interlocutor? Then it will be very hard for you to see the emotional changes your interlocutor has.

That's why it will help you to use your creative visualization upfront to visualize the meeting you have and already "study" the body language of your interlocutor so that you can more easily recognize the language patterns of the body of your interlocutor.

21. Use creative visualization to have more understanding of your stakeholders

If you want to gain more influence, then you first need to understand your stakeholders. Because if you understand them, you will be able to better format your message in such a way that they will adopt your viewpoint without resistance.

To better understand your stakeholders, it helps when you use your creative visualization to draw a picture of the situation of your stakeholders. This will help you to check your assumptions by asking the right questions. It will also help you to find blind spots and to create a profound map of your stakeholder's way of thinking. And with a map, it will be easier for you to find the right angle for your message.

I once did a project at a large Call Center (1200 heads) which found customer service and NPS (Net Promotor Score) extremely important. I investigated the agents who scored above average with regards to their personal NPS and agents who scored below average. It turns out that agents who generate very satisfied customers resulting in an NPS score above average are the ones who were visualizing the situation of the customer and filling in the blanks by asking the customer specific questions. The agents who scored below average did not visualize at all.

22. Use creative visualization to improve your negotiation

The best negotiators are the ones who are continuously finding a way to their advantage. If they get a big fat bold NO from their interlocutor, they don't settle. Instead, they say "Ok, this road leads to a dead end, so I have to find another path which will result in success."

The way to go is to be creative and find as many ways possible towards your goal. If you have found 12 possible ways, and you got a No to the first route, then you immediately switch to the second. And if you get a No again, then you switch to the next path. And as a parent I know that after six No's it is nearly impossible to keep saying No. So, eventually you get a YES!

But first, you need to develop lots of creative solutions. For which you need your creative visualization because this will allow you to see really all those possible pathways to your goal.

23. Use creative visualization to be always two steps ahead of the other

Gaining influence is like thinking like a chess player. You need to think at least two steps ahead of your opponent so that you can anticipate what is coming. The best way to do this is to use your creative visualization because this will allow you to visualize the various scenarios of what might be the next move of your opponent. This will give you the possibility to better evaluate and react to what is happening.

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BE MORE CONFIDENT

Creative Visualization - f

24. Use creative visualization to get more self-motivation

No matter what you do in life, there is only one person who can motivate you and that is ... (drumroll!) ... YOU!

I was once confronted by the mentor at my daughter's school with the question what I was going to do about the fact that she was more often than not late in class. I replied that I was discussing this of course with my daughter, like extensively, but that I was not able to push my daughter forward the whole to walk quicker from class A to class B. So, the only thing I could do is to motivate her to motivate herself to walk faster and be in time.

But how do you motivate yourself to do something? Creative visualization will help you do this. Create a picture in your head where you accomplish your goal. Make this picture as vivid, bright and motivating as you can and look at this picture as often as you can. This will burn a high motivation towards your goal in your "mental glasses."

25. Use creative visualization to create AHA moments for yourself

Sir Isaac Newton discovered the Law of Gravity by watching an apple fall from a tree. This created an Aha moment for him. But what if he was not there at the exact moment the Apple felt off the tree? Or if he was not paying attention at that precise moment? Then he would not have recognized the falling apple. But even if he was there and paying attention to the falling apple, what made him connect that precise moment to the Law of Gravity? The reason is that he had directed his mental filters towards the matter he was studying already for months. He would not have come to his discovery if he had not been ready.

If you have visualized different scenarios upfront, you will be much better prepared and handle the situation with much more flexibility. Or as Louis Pasteur has put it (1854): "In the fields of observation chance favors only the prepared mind.” Or as Johan Cruyff, the famous football player has said: "You only see it, when you got it.” Life is full of surprises and it never goes the way you thought it would.

So, use your creative visualization to create Aha moments, because:

Life is only the replay of your imagination.

26. Use creative visualization to develop your 6th sense with improved conscious awareness

Whether you call it your sixth sense, gut feeling or intuition, we all have to power to tap into a source which goes outside our conscious reasoning. It might be an instant dislike to somebody you just met or a bad feeling (or good) of something about to happen. It might be a hunch. Your sixth sense gives you information without having consciously thought about it. But how do you cultivate this? How do you trust your gut feeling? According to scientists, intuition is a form of quick information processing which can be practiced and developed with the right attention.

So, the better you can develop a conscious awareness of what is going on and interpret that information, the better you will be able to use your intuition. And the best way to do that is to use creative visualization upfront so that you can create larger chunks in your brain, which makes it easier for you to recognize immediately what is going on.

27. Use creative visualization to take better decisions by seeing the broader perspective and detect relationships which were not visible otherwise

Our success is highly correlated with the decisions we make. So, if you want to have more success then you only need to take better decisions. But, there are problems when it comes to our decision-making.

First of all most decisions we take, are made unconsciously. We don't even know that we made a decision. Making decisions unconsciously has significant advantages, don't get me wrong. I mean I really don't want to deliberately debate with myself what I will eat for breakfast, what I will wear, how I will drive to the office, which route I will take, do I take the stairs or the elevator and so on. No, all those kind of routine activities goes on autopilot. This will leave enough conscious awareness for me to think about more important decisions. But what if I want to make it a habit of taking the stairs instead of the elevator, because I want to be in better shape? Then I don't want to make this decision on autopilot anymore because otherwise, I might find myself in the elevator without even knowing it. The solution to this is that if you want to install a new habit, you use your creative visualization to create a mental picture of you walking the stairs thus helping you to recognize when you take the wrong decision and then correct it.

The second problem with our decisions is that we often don't see the whole picture resulting in a less effective decision. This is where you also can use your creative visualization to take a step back from the situation and oversee the whole playground. Maybe you now see relationships or movements you were not aware of before. Now you are much better equipped to take the right decision.

IMPROVE YOUR DEEP WORK

Creative Visualization - g

Most of us do what is called deep work. This is the type of work for which you need to focus and concentrate for a longer period on one subject. Whether you are studying, writing a project plan, writing a blog post or creating a new cartoon, for all these kind of activities, you need to be very focused to complete the task successfully. And this is where you can use creative visualization to help you.

Let me explain:

28. Use creative visualization to stay focused

You know what they say: a picture can say more than a thousand words. So, instead of holding a thousand words in your conscious mind, you only have to hold one image. This creates enough space for other ideas in your conscious minds which will help you to better focus on the task at hand.

29. Use creative visualization to have more concentration

With any deep work you do, you always have to deal with a large amount of unstructured data. It is your job to structure the data by connecting the dots. But that is only possible if you can oversee the whole. This is where creative visualization can help you because by visualizing all the ideas you are working on and drawing it out on paper, it is much easier for you to focus on it. So, instead of holding it everything in your head, draw it out on paper. This gives you the chance to view it from different angles and levels of abstraction.

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Creative Visualization

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Will you also benefit from using creative visualization for your goals?

To conclude this article, I want to challenge you to start using creative visualization for your own benefits right now. In all areas of your life are endless possibilities to improve your results by first visualizing them. I have only shown you 29 examples, but in reality the examples are infinite.

So, start using creative visualization right away to visualize your goals and double your results!

Life is only the replay of your imagination. So you better imagine something great!

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Please share in the comments box below how you are using creative visualization yourself and what benefits it has brought you, so that we could all benefit from your learnings!​

Thanks!

Until we meet again: Happy Visualizing and ... Stay Focused!​

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Harry Heijligers
 

Harry Heijligers has more than 25 years of experience as a Project Manager and more than 17 years of experience as an NLP Trainer. He has a Dutch blog about NLP here: HarryHeijligers.com. If you'd like to know about the Smart Leadership Hut, please check this: Smart Leadership Hut.

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