How To Visualize Your Success

Have you ever heard of visualization? Of course you have. Everybody’s heard of visualization and everybody partakes in it whether they realize it or not. How it works though is an altogether different matter. I want to take a closer look today at the mechanics of why visualizing works without necessarily delving into concepts and theories that cannot be proven.

The brain has great difficulty in distinguishing between what’s true and what’s imagined. There is an oft-cited example of an experiment conducted by Australian Psychologist, Alan Richardson. He took some basketball players and split them into 3 equal groups. One group was told to practice their free throw technique twenty minutes per day. The next group was told to spend twenty minutes per day visualizing, but not attempting free throws, and the final group wasn’t allowed to either practice or visualize. At the end of the test period the group that had done nothing remained as they were, but both the other groups showed similar degrees of improvement. The people who only visualized playing basketball were able to perform almost as well as the ones who had actually practiced.

“How can that be so?”

Firstly, the people practicing would miss some shots. Each time they missed they had in effect, practiced how to miss. The people that were visualizing would be hitting every basket so they were building up the feelings and memory of how to be successful.

Forging a Path Through a Meadow

Imagine walking home from a new job. You suddenly realize that there is a meadow of long grass that will cut 20 minutes off your walk. If you live in New York you’re going to need a great imagination for this one.

The first few times you can barely see which way you had walked the previous day. However, after 10 or 20 times you can clearly see a pathway starting to form, and after 100 times all the grass is worn away and there’s a farmer with a shotgun and large dog waiting for you at the end. Let’s presume our gun-toting friend is a big softie and he allows you to use that route as long as you want. What are the odds that next time you try a slightly different direction? Slim to none would be my guess. After all, you know this way works and you have a lovely easy path.

On the other hand, if Farmer Giles starts taking pot shots at you and sportingly lets the dog try and shoot you too, before releasing it to sink its gnashers into your rear end, then you’ll probably find a new way home once you’re released from hospital.

The next time you’re walking home you opt against reacquainting yourself with Fido and spot another meadow further along the road. The same process then begins to take place only this time the original path you made has started to grow back.

How We Create a Path in Our Mind

That is what happens when we form thoughts in our mind. The first time we have a new thought it is a weakling of a thought that has sand kicked in its face by stronger thoughts and beliefs. Each time you re-think it though it grows in strength as the physical pathway becomes more and more well defined. Not only that, but if it is a belief that contradicts one you already hold, the older belief starts to atrophy and die.

This also explains why we have the same thoughts over and over again and why people have difficulty snapping negative loops of thinking. The pathway has been established and it’s just easier to continue following it than trying to think about something new and form a new connection in the brain.

Making Visualization Work For You

Visualization is an incredibly successful and simple way of speeding up the process by fooling the unconscious into believing that you have already done something before you have. That’s what the basketball visualizers were doing, fooling their own unconscious into thinking they know how to hit basket after basket. Of course this in and of itself will not turn you into an NBA star, you do actually have to practice as well, but it will help you succeed more quickly.

All you need to do to be successful at this is to visualize yourself doing something, as you would like to do it. Profound stuff, huh? Seriously though, that is all there is to it. How long you do it each day will affect the speed of change and it’s really not advisable visualizing your success for 20 minutes per day and then spending 10 hours worrying about failing and replaying negative stuff in your head. It kind of defeats the object.

You can also incorporate the ‘fake it till you make it’ method in with your visualization to help speed up the process. This is simply a matter of pretending you are already proficient at something before you really are. Again, it’s simply a way of tricking your unconscious and getting it to do what you want it to do.

Some people have difficulty with this process and tell me it’s being unrealistic. Well yeh, maybe they’re right, but who cares? If you want to be shackled by the chains of realism then go ahead, knock yourself out, but let me tell you this. There are few highly successful people out there that haven’t used this method or visualization at one time or another. In fact, successful people don’t care too much for reality; it just gets in the way and slows them down. What about you?


This post was adapted from part of a free eBook called Know Yourself – Change Yourself written by Professional Life Coach Tim Brownson. Tim is owner of A Daring Adventure and if you’re so inclined you can read more of his ramblings at ‘The Discomfort Zone’.

Image by Gregor Y.

43 Responses to How To Visualize Your Success

  1. Shanel Yang says:

    I’m all for visualizations, plenty of them, all the time. I don’t stop at visualizations either; I put them into words in my diary. As Suze Orman taught, “Our thoughts create our destiny.” I want to share a few of my posts that elaborate on this theme:

    Great post! Thanks, Tim!

  2. vered says:

    I used visualization in the past to overcome fear of public speaking. When I read about it in your ebook (or was it in your printed book?), it reminded me of how powerful it can be. As skeptic as I usually am, I completely believe in the power of visualization.

  3. Tim,

    This article resonates my feelings about the impact of visualization. I’m building a hotel as I write this. I used to drive by this location for years when I worked for GE. For last two years, I kept visualizing a hotel at that location. It’s amazing but my visualization has given birth to a beautiful hotel. :)

  4. Jennifer says:

    Shame on you Tim for making me think and giving me practical things to do that work. I wish you would stop producing such good material to read that produces good changes. :)

    I love this. I have been thinking about the value of visualization lately. It is so crucial. I think it could easily be said that anybody that has succeeded at anything has visualized what they want – and visualized it very clearly. I like your suggestion of taking 20 minutes each day to visualize. I believe a person will be MUCH more productive when they actually work if they do this.

    Thank you for this great post!

  5. Carole says:

    Great post! It couldn’t have come at a better time, and I”m going to print it out and stick it… just kidding!
    ; )

    But seriously: visualization absolutely DOES work, and I think those who don’t believe so haven’t given it a fair chance. I mean, you can’t just picture something ONCE and POOF — there it is….

    I honestly believe I have my husband and baby because I kept a very clear image of this life in my head at a time when it seemed it would never happen. SEEING things the way they could be encouraged me to act in ways that helped bring it about…. Does that make sense, or am I babbling?

  6. I’ve been visualizing for about an hour a day ever since going through Get the Edge by Tony Robbins. He talks about picturing something in your mind as though you already had it and were grateful for it. It’s about adding as much color and emotion to really make it come alive. And of course, it’s about going out and making it happen too!

  7. A great portion of our learning and forming good habits is actually “unlearning” and “unforming” bad habits.

    Neuroscientists are now proving with science what the greatest thinkers and philosophers in history have known for thousands of years: We have the ability to change the structure of our brain with our thoughts — by thinking about thinking…

    “As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

  8. Ali says:

    This is going to sound like a stupid question, but does visualising need to be visual to work? I tend to get stuff into my head by writing it down, and I’m wondering whether I’d be better to write rather than just imagine.

    By the way, if you’ve not read Tim’s blog, I STRONGLY recommend it. As you can probably tell from the above post, he’s an incredibly funny and insightful guy. He explains things that I’d always gone “uh?” about in the past … and the wisdom and inspiration in his words was one of the main things that gave me the courage to finally quit my job (yesterday!) to go after my dream of full-time freelance writing and website creation.

  9. Tim Brownson says:

    @ Vered – Public speaking is one of THE best examples for using visualization and one I have used myself many times.

    @ Shilpan, wow man, how cool is that?? Good for you and I hope it goes as well as you hope, er I mean, visualize 😉

    @ Jennifer – I like to keep people busy! Fact is, visualization is no different to daydreaming and we all do that, so we may as well daydream BIG!

    @ Carole – ROFLMAO! That was so funny. Of course nobody else has a clue what you’re talking about and I’m presuming that you read my Twitter post about blog comments this morning. And of course you’re right you need repetition for this to work.

    @ Eugene – Agreed, you have to do something at some stage. I tried doing nothing for 30 years and it didn’t really work

    @ Ali – That is a brilliant question and thanks for asking because, no it doesn’t. As long as you can create the same internal state that is all that matters. In other words if you are very auditory, create the sounds most strongly, if you are kinesthetic go for the feelings and if you are auditory digital which is what I think you’re referring to, then the written word or even internal conversations can work equally well. Having said that, the more rep systems you can involve the more realistic the experience and the easier it is to con that unconscious mind.

  10. Carole says:

    Yup: twitter, it ’twas. : )

  11. I’m doing it every day now! Thank you, Tim, for another one of your great articles to help others get what they want out of life!

    Doc KC

  12. Carole,

    What you say makes PERFECT sense. Having a clear vision of what you want and almost “willing” it to happen seems so surreal, but look at you…a GREAT inspiration to prove that everything Tim wrote here is true and can truly lead someone to everything their heart desires!

    Doc KC

  13. Marelisa says:

    Imagination is very powerful. We can you our imagination to worry–which is basically visualizing that something negative is going to happen–or we can use our imagination to visualize a great future for ourselves. I think it was Einstein who said: Imagination is the preview of life’s coming attractions. I’ve been using the Silva Life System to help me visualize and it’s a great tool. I loved this post Tim.

  14. I am faking it till I make it right now as I sit here in my sweat suit and don’t exercise today. LOL

    I think if I put on the running shoes I might just get out there even!

    Great article. Stumbling and digging!

  15. Laurie says:

    I keep visualizing myself teaching with my new canyon. Visualizing definitely helped me to design it. I would lay awake at night and think it through to find the best desogns that would work. Then I would change things in my mind and let the image run again. Hopefully I have visualized it into a great teaching aid. We’ll see when it is delivered!

    I also wonder if some people who are great at visualizing would use the Law of Attraction as their reason something happened when it was really the power of positive thinking and visualization. Totally a different thing to me.

  16. Evelyn Lim says:

    Hey Tim, it’s interesting that we seem to be covering similar topics around the same time, in more than one occasion. I’m wondering if I’ve been visualizing you when I’m writing my posts as well…just kidding!!

    You’ve done a great job with explaining about how visualization works. Well, using the Law of Attraction to explain it, adds the dimension of the metaphysical for those who want to find out how the positive thinking really works.

    So in response to Laurie, it may be sufficient to know for a start that visualisation can work. Perhaps, by the very process of consistently manifesting what you want successfully, you will then begin to understand the first principles of thought (that makes up law of attraction). Then, you can say for sure whether or not such a law exists, because you have investigated it on your own and not because someone else have said it to be true.


  17. SaiF says:

    Hey Tim!

    This is great stuff bro =)

    I really like your parting shot!

    Haha! It’s true!

    Reality always gets in the way when I’m trying to build something up and darn how I wish I could live in a virtual reality world!

    Hey Tim, any tips for blocking this reality and focussing on the one I visualize?

    To Constant & Never-Ending Improvement,

    The World’s First Teen
    Personal Development Video Blogger

  18. Tim,

    Thanks for this really articulate explanation of how and why visualization works! You’re getting right to the heart of the matter.


  19. “…successful people don’t care too much for reality; it just gets in the way and slows them down.”

    Ain’t that the truth! Successful people realize that “reality” is very subjective and that we can control our mind into creating our own, beneficial reality.

    Get writing Tim.

  20. Justin says:

    Good post.
    I find it effective for my badminton (racquet game).
    I usually visualize before I sleep.
    And it certainly improves my playing performance.
    Hope I can improve my career and financial performance soon.

  21. Thanks for telling it like it is Tim. I visualize quite often just before beginning a poker tournament. I see a picture of me playing at my highest level. Like life it’s really not the cards that determines the winners but how the hands are played.

  22. Susan says:

    Thank you for reminding me of the power of visualization.
    I practice the teachings in the Law of Attraction and I will now be adding visualization that practice.
    Great post.

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  24. Tim Brownson says:

    Thanks for commenting everybody. Apologies for not replying but I’ve had a torrid 24+ hours with toothache. It’s sorted now, but had me in a great deal of pain and my frantic visualizing of green meadows and solitary beaches didn’t help much!

    Just goes to show it takes practice 😉

    @ SaiF – I’m not 100% sure what you mean bud by blocking ‘this’ reality? If you mean your current reality, then imho you can’t, it is what is it. If you try and block it out you’ll probably strengthen the negative parts you don’t care for. Accept what it is and then start to make changes from that position of acceptance. Hope that helps. E-mail me if you want to take it further.

    Happy 4th July everybody!

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  28. i think the answer to it is … Do not care about how terribly or badly you did yesterday’s work,
    or how to perform tomorrow’s task, rather concern yourself with how you can get today’s work/tasks done..its all about what we think…

  29. Cath Lawson says:

    Hi Tim – I was looking for something you wrote a while back and wound up here instead. You seem to be everywhere these days.

    This is fascinating stuff. I’ve used visualisation a lot but never really understood why it worked – I was glad it did. The fact that the team who only actually visualized playing basketball could perform so well is amazing.

    I think this article will persuade a lot of cynics to give visualisation a try, because you’ve explained how it works a lot better than all those how to books.

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  32. Lydia says:

    Visualization to a better you!


  33. prom gowns says:

    I can see that you are an expert at your field! Excellent read!

  34. Hakan Akbas says:

    Hi Tim,

    I just found your post by chance, after surfing on visualization.
    Your story meadow analogy of the mind, I will be definately sharing it with my students.
    I have been using visualization for many years, with many successes. Now experiementing with visualization tools like mind movies.

  35. very good methods for visulisation

  36. Zelda says:

    Hi Tim,
    I happened to find your blog and actually wanted to download your e-book ‘Know Yourself – Change Yourself’, but it seem to have been removed.
    Could you let me know how to download it?

    Thank you


  37. Chris says:

    It is difficult not to think something negative from now and then, even when you visualize more than once a day and even if you try the as-if method.

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  40. Darlene Hildebrandt says:

    your link to the so called free ebook doesn’t work, that book doesn’t seem to exist any more

  41. saharsh says:

    i want o reach indian cricket team…but i dnt know how to visualize…i have a very positive feeling within me that i will reach there but i even want to visualize so that i reach there faster… i just cannot see the picture of me playing for india…help me please…please mail me on

    lots of love…
    saharsh :)

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