The Power of Visualization
When you’re driven to achieve something, do you ever spend time imagining yourself taking each step of the way to succeed? Whether you’re picturing yourself attaining a new personal best running time, nailing a presentation in a crowded room, ingraining a new habit, or any other goal you have in mind, visualization can act as more than just a confidence and motivation booster. Recent behavioral, brain imaging, and clinical research has reshaped our understanding of just how powerful visualization can really be. These studies have shown that visualization, or mental imagery, functions as a weaker, subtle form of perception that activates the same brain regions and neural pathways as physically performing the activity. This essentially means that when you’re picturing yourself getting that personal best in a sport, delivering a presentation, and so on, the corresponding brain areas responsible for performing those activities are actually being activated and are reinforced to help prepare you for manifesting your visualized goals! Pretty remarkable! But how can we make the most of this to have the best chance of making sure our mental visualization isn’t just a fantasy vision?
The primary model used to ensure effective mental imagery is PETTLEP: which stands for physical, environment, task, timing, learning, emotion, and perspective. These aspects of realism should be considered for optimal outcomes because they make the mental imagery more immersive and translatable to the real world. Let’s use the running example: physically, one can imagine the flow of how their legs and arms will repetitively move throughout the run as well as the sweat that will start to form as the run proceeds. The environment – lets say a familiar running trail with slight changes in elevation. The task is to complete the run and for the timing let’s say the goal is a 7 minute mile. Throughout the process you’ll learn when you start to get tired, how your form may get sloppier, and how you react to the fatigue. Emotion is tied to this as you may struggle to find motivation through the strain. Lastly the perspective element is crucial to both imagine yourself from the first person performing your desired outcome and as a spectator watching from the outside.
Visualization is a powerful tool to achieve your desired outcomes in any domain in life. It acts as more than just a confidence and motivation booster, but also a protocol backed by neuroscience to prime and train your brain for the results you want to actualize! The ideal time to spend using mental imagery for optimal results is about 5-10 minutes at a time. Remember repetition and attention to the 7 PETTLEP aspects is crucial in this time. To wrap up with a quote by the social psychologist Bo Bennett who’s well versed on the topic, “Visualization is daydreaming with a purpose”.