Visualisation of your goals (a.k.a daydreams of you being a superstar) actually gets you to your goals, faster.
Grounding breaking research shows that visualisation significantly improves performance, across all disciplines, from brain surgery to music.
The Visualisation Studies
The power of visualization was explored in one notable study that appeared in the North American Journal of Psychology in 2007, whereby athletes who mentally practiced a hip-flexor exercise had strength gains that were almost as significant as those in people, who actually did the physical exercise (five times a week for 15 minutes) on a weight machine.
Visualisation can be applied to physical and mental challenges – for instance, public speaking. The same 2007 journal reported that those who mentally rehearsed maintaining assertiveness or composure, before a public speaking slot challenge reported equal attainment in public speaking goals, to those who physically practiced. Envisioning composure during public speaking may also decrease physical symptoms of stress, like an increase in heart rate or stress hormones just before the big presentation.
How Visualisation Works
We experience real-world and imaginary actions in very similar ways, explains Aymeric Guillot, Ph.D., a professor at the Center of Research and Innovation in Sport at University Claude Bernard Lyon, in France.
This is because when we visualise doing an action we activate many of the same neural channels that we use when we physically perform the action. For example, simply envisioning a movement elicits nervous-system responses and causes increases in heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure – i.e your body is tricked into thinking you are physically practising said task.
Therefore, when you repeatedly imagine performing a task, through visualisation, you condition your neural pathways and the action becomes familiar when you go to perform it; it’s as if you’re carving a groove in your nervous system.
Finally, if the hard science isn’t enough to persuade you about visualisation, on a purely psychological level, envisioning success enhances motivation and confidence. So, what are you waiting for?
**Caveat – visualisation on its own will not help you to reach your goals. All studies direct that visualisation works as a complimentary tool – not a substitute to physical practice.