4 Powerful Visualization Techniques To Help You Call In Your Goals
As humans, we have a natural inclination to visualize the future—and that can be a really good thing. Research has found visualization to be a powerful tool for everything from improving athletic performance to managing anxiety. Here's how it's done.
Getting started with visualization.
At its core, visualization is the practice of engaging all five senses—not just sight!—to imagine a positive outcome. It can be done in tandem with other manifestation practices like vision boarding and journaling. Don't be discouraged if you don't consider yourself a visual person; you can still visualize.
And according to hypnotherapist and visualization expert Jane Ehrman, MEd, CHES, all you need to get started is a few uninterrupted minutes and a space that won't distract you. "You want to make enough time to quiet yourself because it's about shifting your focus from the thinking part of your mind, to the creative, imaginative part—and that's in your subconscious," she says. This means that it's not a bad idea to meditate before dropping into your visualization.
When we visualize, Ehrman says it lights up our neuromuscular pathways1, which connect our brain to our muscles. You know how your body tenses up when you imagine something upsetting or anxiety-inducing? That's the mind-body connection at work—and we can use it to our advantage. While visualizing something won't automatically make it come true, it can help your brain start to register what it feels like to have that thing.
Here's a primer on four popular visualization techniques: Try them all out and see which one works best for you.
Guided visualizations are exactly what they sound like: visualizations that you're guided through. They can be done live and in-person, or you listen to prerecorded digital recordings like this guided visualization for overcoming anxiety. Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation, explains they are "a powerful way to deal with your stress in the right now."
If you're a fan of guided meditations, this technique is a good one to consider, as having someone guide you through it can be helpful (especially when you're just getting started). And depending on the subject of the visualization and who's guiding you, you can find guided visualizations on everything from professional success to manifesting a healthy relationship to getting a good night's sleep.
For a visualization technique you can do on your own, Ehrman notes an exercise called "reliving imagery," which involves reliving a positive experience for any number of reasons. Perhaps you want to "remind yourself of your inner strength, or your abilities and qualities," she says. "You take what you lived and experienced then and bring that energy—that empowerment—to the situation now. You imagine how you can live like that now, experiencing it fully in your body, mind, and spirit."
For a future-centric technique, there's something called "rehearsal imagery." This is a great one if you're preparing for a particular task or challenge; Olympic athletes and big-time CEOs have been known to use it before big games or presentations. It looks like "gently guiding our thoughts to visualize the best-case scenario or using our imagination to have a full five-sense experience of how our next high-demand situation would ideally play out," explains Fletcher.
"It's about being able to imagine yourself responding differently than you usually do and changing the story or yourself," Erman adds.
You can pair this visualization with a journaling exercise where you write as if you just completed the future task, using phrases like, I nailed my presentation perfectly and was prepared for everything that came up, for example.
And lastly, there's "evocative imagery," where you imagine the qualities of a mentor, role model, or anyone you're inspired by. Who is a person you look up to, that you want to emulate? Visualize yourself toe to toe with them, as their equal. Imagine that their qualities are within you, and you have all the capabilities they do.
While these techniques won't be a fit for everyone, visualization is one powerful tool that's definitely worth a shot.
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.