Visualization: See Your Way to Your Goals


By: , SparkPeople Blogger

When I began my journey 4 years ago, I never thought too much about how long it was going to take to get to my goal. In the past whenever I gave myself a specific time frame to reach my weight loss goal, when the time drew nearer and I wasnít remotely close, I felt discouraged and more importantly like a failure. Trust me, more times then not, it was only a matter of time before I was back to square one.

I believed that as long as I changed my eating habits and added in some good pockets of exercise the changes would happen. Which they did, but I had to realize I needed to keep my eye on the bigger picture and that was to totally change my lifestyle. This is where working on the mental side of my journey by developing techniques such as positive self-talk and visualization allowed me to achieve my goals.

My introduction to the technique of visualization actually began as a homework assignment from my running coach last summer. Every night before going to sleep he asked us to take 5-10 minutes visualizing our runs for the day. We were to visualize our form, speed, breathing, the wind against our face, the smells, etc. You should have seen the looks Coach Lee got for his class. But as a former NCAA swimmer, he had been taught this technique while competing and touted it as a way we could all improve without running another step.

In my haste, I came home and googled this technique and WOW, visualization (see page 3) is something that many athletes of all fitness levels use. In fact I picked up on this when watching the 2008 Olympics. I noticed the divers walking through their routines on the pool deck while the gymnasts did the same on the gym floor. Itís as if they were in a world all their own.

Visualization, often referred to as mental imagery, is so powerful that it can truly catapult us to our goals faster than almost any other technique. And donít think this is just for athletes. Everyone can benefit from this technique. When you visualize yourself eating healthy, you will eat healthy. Visualize yourself making it through your workout; you will make it through your workout. Visualize yourself being successful and you will be successful.

The irony is the brain essentially produces the same chemicals during visualization that it does doing the actual task at hand. Psychologists have shown that when we incorporate all five senses-hearing, taste, smell, touch, and seeing, into our visualization practice, our chance of success sky-rockets.

While this technique hasnít turned me into an Olympic athlete, it has allowed me to conquer some of my fears while working on becoming a better runner. Just like positive self-talk can lead you well on your way to achieving your goals, the same is true with visualization.

Have you ever used the technique of visualization? Do you believe techniques such as visualization and positive self-talk are just as important as diet and exercise when embracing a healthy lifestyle?

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  • 149
    I use visuals all the time! - 4/19/2017   4:10:10 AM
  • 148
    "In the past whenever I gave myself a specific time frame to reach my weight loss goal, when the time drew nearer and I wasnít remotely close, I felt discouraged and more importantly like a failure."

    This is me! I try to stop, but it's hard seeing little to no progress even though I'm trying my best. I can't get the deadlines out of my head. - 5/7/2010   9:25:06 PM
  • 147
    The Gabriel Method is all about relaxation and visualization. A great technique to help us! - 2/17/2010   12:21:23 AM
  • 146
    I have always had a hard time "visualizing" anything.. hubby is great at this.. he can walk into a "fixer upper" and see the rooms exactly as he wants them.. I see a yucky room with peeling wall paper.. and I am the optimist of the two of us..LOL
    I can however, be inspired by reading inspirational stories and that is how I stay motivated.
    I did make my collage so that does help, cause I just can't see things in my head, but I can see what I want to be with picutures and words.
    - 2/16/2010   5:33:50 PM
  • 145
    I haven't really used it too much in my exercise, but ever since my 11 year old son was born, I have always had him visualize making himself better if he wasn't feeling good. It has always worked! - 2/16/2010   2:26:01 PM
    I have heard of it and have heard that it works. I am having a hard time concentrating. Any suggestions on how to create a vision of something you have not experienced. I am not being funny. I want to "see" as a healthy, fit person. - 2/16/2010   2:16:44 PM
  • 143
    Yes I believe this works. I read a book in 1980's called "Creative Visualization'. I don't remember who wrote it but it was very good. As an RN I use visualization in my careplans as a tool to decrease stress, anxiety & pain. - 2/15/2010   11:28:47 AM
  • 142
    I truly believe in the power of visualization and have found it to be helpful in various situations. It's a matter of practicing and continuing to use it as one of my tools and techniques to reach my goals and highest potential. The more I do it, the more natural it becomes. Again, consistency and a decision to do it. - 12/12/2009   9:15:15 AM
  • 141
    I tried this technique at my first NCAA championship swimming meet, (actually called AIAW in the 70's). I won two NCAA titles! But it took time and quiet so I didn't use the technique often. - 12/11/2009   5:35:44 PM
  • 140
    It does work! - 8/7/2009   1:58:35 PM
  • 139
    When I was young and in plays, I often found myself visualizing the whole play as though I were onstage before I went to sleep. I saw myself doing everything perfectly. I think it helped. - 6/11/2009   12:54:25 PM
  • 138
    cool, thanks for the reminder!! - 6/1/2009   9:02:09 AM
  • 137
    I've done this. When I read "The Secret" a couple of years ago, it described the '76 Olympics and the technique used to help the runners win the gold. I did some - enough to see the difference in my professional life. I wanted leave my job, but leave FOR another job that was rewarding and fulfilled my passion. I succeeded. However, I did not continue to practice every day and that job soon started to wear.

    But I am a firm believer of visualization, positive self-talk, prayer, meditation, and optimistic attitudes. When my life is in balance, I see, feel, and think differently. I will make sure I will do some tonight. It requires letting go and believing while receiving.

    jay - 5/31/2009   8:24:22 PM
    Thaks for this.I have used visualization in the past and it has worked.We' re always visualizing.What I need to do is check what i'm thinking about.I can think myself healthy,happy and thinner just as I created my current body. - 5/25/2009   11:57:28 AM
  • 135
    i used visualization last night while i was laying in bed. it really relaxed me, and i fell asleep so fast! i will do it every night! - 5/24/2009   1:13:37 PM
  • 134
    I have used visualization many times in the past. Problem is, I always put my weight loss focus on how I should look to others, and if I didn't get to please them, I was broken and frustrated. I'd emotionally eat and put on more weight.
    The difference is: I'm losing for myself, not just for others. If I don't exercise, it's dealing with me and how bad I feel, not how others feel. Others don't care if I work out or what I eat. It's me. I visualize feeling good because I can fit into clothes that I haven't been able to barely squeeze into for years. That makes me want to work harder! - 5/11/2009   3:19:37 PM
    Iíve heard about this a few times but never really gave it a try. But this sounds really motivating and will definitely give it a try! Thanks! - 4/6/2009   9:36:19 PM
  • 132
    I've just started working on this myself. Just this week I posted pictures on my Sparkpage of myself at my current weight and at my goal weight. Rather than feeling badly when I look at the goal weight picture, I'm using it to remind myself of what I'm aiming for and yes, I *can* look that good! I found the section on positive self-talk very helpful as I think I struggle with that the most. Even though I'm doing all the right things, I have thoughts doubting whether I'll ever get there. I love the statement at the end of that section, "It's time for a new personal best." It's time for *my* personal best! - 4/5/2009   10:25:27 AM
    It reminds me to focus on my Goals in this way:

    Phillippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
    - 4/3/2009   3:13:47 PM
  • 130
    I do not use visualization...or at least I didn't until today. I am going to use it prior to working out this afternoon. I think this and positive self talk are key in weight loss. I say this because when I don't see myself reaching goals, I give up and start sending negative messages to myself. Not good...Time to change! - 4/2/2009   9:00:57 AM
  • 129
    Visualization is very big in the Pagan community. I've used it a lot. Strong visualization is a key to performing "magick" or "spells". A couple people below mentioned that it is part of praying -- magick, prayer, & visualization are all largely the same thing. The more clearly you can visualize what you want, the better. Seeing it as actually happening or exisiting is the best.

    It really does work, though I have a hard time clearly visualizing things sometimes as my brain will often wander off and think of things that could get in the way of what I want. That's something I've been working on lately. Visualization has helped me a lot when I can get myself to really do it well. - 4/1/2009   1:46:11 AM
  • 128
    I've tried on a number of occasions visualization techniques without much success. My mind wanders and I can't seem to focus on what I need to focus on. I do find positive self-talk particularly useful. I tell myself that I am going to do my workouts, going to eat the right foods and that I am finished eating when all the food on my plan is done. It usually works. - 3/31/2009   10:32:11 PM
  • 127
    I am living this right now. I use visualization at work with my clients . I am a mental health therapist and I practice mindfulness and imagery regularly. I really enjoyed reading your article and will practice using visualization as a part of my weight loss regimen. - 3/31/2009   3:16:58 PM
    This is the secret to effective prayer. While praying, keep things positive and visualize the steps to success. Work through the process with God. - 3/31/2009   2:35:38 PM
  • 125
    Years ago, my dad read a book called, "The Power of Positive Thinking." A couple of years ago, there was a book on the market called "The Secret" which reminded me a lot of the visualization that one needs to "bring" good things to oneself. I believe in visualization. I think that thinking positive things, and calming one's inner vision to accept the good things in life (like when one meditates) is the key to getting what you want/need in life. I should work on this!! Thanks for a great article. - 3/31/2009   10:54:48 AM
    I am a VERY visual is how I learn ( I even became fluent in sign language in about 6 months because of how visual I am)...BUT I never tried to visualize things like eating or walking...I am going to try this and see how I do...I bet it will really work! I am excited to try!! - 3/31/2009   8:00:28 AM
    P.S. I meditate, which helps tremendously with stress and such. It seems in visualization, instead of emptying your mind, you focus on what you want to achieve concretely. I have three important things I want achieve, consistently eating right, consistently exercising, and improving my business after dealing for several years with a medical problem that made it impossible for me to work full time. Does anyone think visualization can help with the last goal? - 3/31/2009   12:04:55 AM
    Over the years I have dabbled in visualization to no avail. I didn't stick with it. I'm up for trying again. How long should one spend on each sitting? Can you combine visualizing two or three goals during one sitting? Would love to hear from those who have been successful. Cheers, Strawberry*moon - 3/30/2009   11:57:43 PM
  • 121
    I try to visualize but my mind does wander. When I really focus, I truly believe this works. I have even used some visualization when I am running, to help me get to the end of the run. Thanks for the reminder about how important this is. - 3/30/2009   8:43:23 PM
  • 120
    This helps in work and motivating for exercise...Thanks - 3/30/2009   7:38:30 PM
    I have been using visualization for 20 years now and it has helped me tremendously. I have a high level stress job and through visualization I have been able to avoid professional burn out (common amongst my colleagues). It has helped me with getting myself into shape and to loose all my excess weight. But above all it is the benefits of leveling my HBP that has been the greatest reward.

    It is amazing once you start practicing visualization and as you master it how deep and intense the experience can be. The level of concentration and detachment I can reach through visualization has helped me tremendously to focus my toughts and goals. - 3/30/2009   4:43:11 PM
  • 118
    I believe this technique got me to the 40 lb lighter version of me today. I think visualizing myself more fit really inspired me to BE more fit. The more I visualized it, the more I felt it. Visualizing it just took me to the next steps of better diet, and more exercise. After countless weight loss tries, this is the very first time I actually did it! This is also the very first time I visualized it first! I'm glad to say, it worked for me. - 3/30/2009   3:37:36 PM
  • 117
    not too good at this but I keep trying.
    I have a wandering mind.
    I have been practicing Tai Chi, I think this might help.
    I have "copied" pages on how to visualize, exercis, I read a lot and don't follow through.
    that is why I am on SparkPeople.
    Thanks for the article. - 3/30/2009   2:34:38 PM
  • 116
    Have been using this all winter for my golf swing....will find out soon if it worked!! Also, visualizing how I can look someday keeps me going on the treadmill!!!! - 3/30/2009   2:02:55 PM
  • "GRAMMA"
    Thank you for this interesting article. I have used this method since young teen years, but never thought of practicing it in regard to weight loss in a serious way. I can see the value in trying it. - 3/30/2009   12:59:30 PM
  • 114
    Visualization is something I do constantly - it's when I plan too much that gets me into trouble.
    I have no problem at all with taking my goals and planning for 5 or 10 years - it's when they don't happen at the time that I planned that they should is when I get upset. So, I make most of my goals life-long - if I've met a goal, I continue on with it if I'm enjoying myself and if I'm not, I take a break from it but know that I am coming back to it. - 3/30/2009   12:47:48 PM
  • 113
    Visualization is a technique used to help people who have trouble falling asleep also. I worked in Sleep Research and learned about this method years ago. Additionally, I use this method when I am stressed and need to take a few minutes of deep breathing, visualizing and letting the stress ooze out of me. - 3/30/2009   12:05:46 PM
  • 112
    I haven't tried visualization yet in regards to my workouts - 3/30/2009   11:57:51 AM
  • 111
    I took a sport psychology class in high school and visualization is a great tool. The downside is, you can be bad at visualization and it takes practice like anything else. I don't usually use visualization, because my mind runs away with itself. If I visualize a job interview by the end of it I've usually put my foot in my mouth and walk away without the job. If I visualize my 5K, I end up falling, having an asthma attack, etc. I brought this up to my professor and he said, some people are bad at visualizing and you just have to train yourself to get rid of negative thoughts. Easier said than done. - 3/30/2009   10:53:12 AM
    Thank you for the article. Great idea! - 3/30/2009   10:09:38 AM
  • 109
    This is also a valuable aid to prayer. In praying the rosary one may visualize each of the scenes in Christ's life and see ones self there. this a a fabulous way to grow in relationship with Christ. In prayers of asking for strength seeing ones self in the attitude desired can really be powerful . So, in all our areas of life I think visualization can be a powerful prayer in moderate eating , perserverance in physical exercise and virtue and doing good. - 3/30/2009   8:57:49 AM
  • 108
    I visualise running when I'm stuck in a car or at work on the bus.
    I need to improve my idea of my life. The idea of visualisation, using positive imagary has really got me excited. - 3/30/2009   7:48:45 AM
  • 107
    Thanks for sharing this great tool to leaning to live a healthy life. - 3/30/2009   7:36:25 AM
  • 106
    Thanks - Great article. - 3/30/2009   7:33:15 AM
    Great article thanks - 3/30/2009   2:27:29 AM
    YET ANOTHER USEFUL TOOL...THANKS! - 3/30/2009   2:06:56 AM
  • 103
    As an oncology nurse, I use visualization with patients who are having nausea despite being on multiple medications. We also use it when giving the transplant pts. their cells back, they visualized the cells migrating to the bone marrow and "set up housekeeping". It works really well. - 3/30/2009   1:59:04 AM
  • 102
    Visualization is a powerful tool! Especially when paired with relaxation and/or meditation. I often encourage the clients I see to create their own scene by writing down descriptively and precisely an ideal place for them to use by taking a mental vacation and visualize this place by thoroughly re-experiencing it through the use of all of their senses.

    It quickly restores a sense of peace and empowerment.

    Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams - 3/30/2009   12:34:38 AM
  • 101
    Great article, thanks. I believe in visualization and positive self talk. When I had a dream of becoming a professional saxophone player, I made a page made up of things I cut from a magazine..used pictures and words. I used all positive images and words. I was able to see myself playing my own gig and getting paid for it and it worked. It was the most wonderful feeling , I did this with getting healthy and reaching my goal too. I have always been able to think as if I had already achieved whatever it is I was working towards by making these cologes. (Not sure of the correct spelling) - 3/30/2009   12:11:52 AM
  • 100
    YOGA relaxation is a good way to "see" yourself successful. - 3/29/2009   11:49:58 PM

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