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What are the benefits of visualization?

Visualization is the process of forming mental images and pictures of the desired future. Those who have dreams and visions of an ideal future life visualize more naturally than others. Visualization is not idle, fruitless activity like daydreaming but in fact, it can dramatically increase a person’s chances to turn his dreams into reality.

How visualization affects the mind

To our subconscious mind, imagination is real. By that I mean it can’t differentiate an imagined event from a real event and considers both as the same. Therefore whatever it is that you visualize or imagine, your subconscious thinks it is actually happening.

That’s why visualizing that you are eating your favorite dish can be mouth-watering because your subconscious mind thinks you are really eating it and hence activates your salivary glands. Or when you recall a happy memory, for the subconscious mind you are literally ‘re-living’ it and that’s why you find yourself smiling just as you did when it happened for real. 

Our subconscious gets programmed by what it sees i.e. we form beliefs based on the information we receive or the information we imagine. In the post about beliefs, I pointed out that beliefs are the programs of the subconscious mind meaning that our subconscious mind lets us behave in ways that are consistent with our belief systems.

Once you do a certain behavior, the program to carry out that behavior gets installed in your mind. The more you do that behavior, the more efficiently that program will be carried out. Now the cool thing about visualization is that you can form the beliefs you want without actually having to do the actions in the real world. By doing them in your mind, you can still program your mind with the beliefs you want.

Let’s say you have to deliver a public speech. You've never given a successful public speech before and you're feeling reasonably anxious. Here’s how visualization can benefit in this situation:

Before you actually deliver the speech, imagine you are giving it successfully as many times as you can. Imagine every detail- the words you will say, the reaction of the audience as they applaud you, the posture that you’ll hold, the gestures that you’ll make, etc.

When you do that enough number of times, your subconscious mind will be convinced that you are indeed capable of delivering a great speech even if you've never done that before! And when you actually go for the speech your subconscious will let you behave in a way that is consistent with your newly formed belief- "I can deliver great speeches".

Many athletes. entrepreneurs, artists and other performers have admitted that they had visualized their achievements many times before they actually made them.

Note that visualization is not some kind of a magic that fulfills your desires. It is just a way to prepare your mind for the desired behavior, to prepare your mind for success.

This can be extended to any type of goal. The images that you form during visualization act as commands to your subconscious mind.

Motivation as a visualization benefit

Okay, so visualization allows us to perform in a way that’s consistent with the way we visualize. Where does motivation fit into the equation?

We are motivated by emotions and when we visualize we also experience the emotions that are associated with the thing we are visualizing. By visualizing how your life will be like if you did or didn't reach your goals, you can motivate yourself tremendously. You can both positively and negatively motivate yourself by visualization (the methods of motivation). 

For instance, if you have a goal of becoming financially independent then you can either visualize the kind of life you will live and the way you will feel when you become financially independent (positive) or you can imagine yourself as a homeless person living under a bridge who failed to attain financial independence (negative).

When you imagine the latter, your mind will scream “NOOO” and you'll be strongly motivated not to end up like that. In fact, many believe that negative motivation is more powerful than positive motivation.

Another reason why visualization can motivate you is that it brings a distant goal right in front of your eyes. We, humans, are designed to go for short-term rewards. Therefore, we find it hard to stick to long-term goals. One of the most important benefits of visualization is that it not only allows us to keep our long-term goals in sight but also reminds us how good we'll feel once we accomplish them.

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