My last blog mentioned some ineffective visualization techniques however that in no way discredits visualizations overall… The “poor” visualization technique referenced was for problem solving. Here’s a quick example. Let’s say you lost your keys. Which visualization technique is going to be more beneficial?
- Visualize the future and how finding your keys is going to make your life better and easier and relieve stress.
- Visualize the past to determine the last place you recall having your keys through the point at which you knew they were missing.
Simple test, right? Obviously the second method is going to work and the first is completely worthless because how in the world is that going to help you? It won’t.
Since this is a business blog, let’s project that into our realm. Is visualizing something abstract like “getting rich” or “being successful” or “being happy in life” any different? Well you can imagine what it’s like to be all or some of those things, however how does that help you achieve them? As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t.
Visualizations work in limited scenarios and here they are:
- To train your brain and in turn your body to get better at a physical task. There is a great article in Psychology Today that explains the studies that have been done to back this up. In one study, Dr. Guang Yue had average people start weight training by going to the gym daily and had another group weight train by visualizing training every day. The group who went to the gym increased muscle mass by 30% however the group who simply visualized weight training increased muscle mass by 13.5%! Just by using their minds!
- To problem solve (by visualizing the past or present). As I mentioned in the example above to find your keys. This can be used to solve all sorts of problems from improving your next lap at the racetrack by reviewing where you were slow on your last lap, to improving code you’ve written for a computer program.
- To create something entirely new. In other words, visualizing a design, idea, or invention that hasn’t yet been created to help determine how all the parts, components and pieces will fit together. This obviously doesn’t guarantee a perfect design, but can help.
- To motivate yourself. Visualizing the wicked burnouts you’re gonna be doing in your new ZR1 or how the sand is going to feel between your toes when you make that month-long trip through the Mediterranean are definitely motivators. When your mind feels that a dream or goal is that close to being a reality it helps motivate you to trudge through the difficulties of today to get there.
That’s a relatively short list and so is certainly incomplete, so it’s probably more important to point out the main weakness of visualizations:
Visualizations haven’t been proven to help solve problems by visualizing your feelings or circumstances once the problem is solved. Self-help guru’s would have you believe that visualizing anything can make you produce it. In one part of The Secret a wealthy gentleman tells a story about realizing a house he’d been visualizing years before was in-fact the house he was living in now. He hadn’t even realized it until he found this picture years later. That sounds like a powerful testimonial for visualizing “being rich” or “successful”, but it’s a lot more specific and really falls into #4 above. Even that may be a bit questionable, though because he couldn’t be visualizing that one too regularly or you think he would have remembered it, right?
To clarify a beneficial visualization from a worthless one, consider the study above where people visualized lifting weights and gained 13.5% more muscle. If instead they visualized being ripped or how it would feel to walk on the beach with their perfect new body do you think it would have made a difference? I don’t think so either. That’s obviously the equivalent of visualizing wealth and happiness. It’s too abstract and therefore worthless.
I just added The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe by Lynn McTaggart to my Amazon wish list so I’m still keeping an open mind. Maybe McTaggart will present me with some evidence to prove that “The Force” does indeed exist and that you can simply “think things into existence” as the self-help guru’s preach. Until then, I’m going the way of Michael Jordan and skipping the daily affirmations and the visualizations of success.
To your success, Bryan