While it's not a new concept, visualizing success can easily be derided or met with skepticism as simple flights of fancy, or as an exercise in futility. However, for generations, it has been a common practice of athletes, entertainers, and entrepreneurs have also been using visualization as a way to reach their goals. Muhammad Ali, Jim Carrey, Sarah Blakely, and Tiger Woods all famously saw their goals achieved years before they arrived. Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, reportedly visualized his dreams and wrote it down 15 times in a row every day, and within a matter of months, his goals had been reached. There are theories as to how it works: by being able to paint a concrete picture of what success looks like to you, it becomes less abstract and more obtainable to you. When you remind yourself every day of what your true goals are, you focus more on the things you really want to achieve. When you know what you're looking for, your brain is programmed to be more receptive to possible opportunities that are aligned with your goal. Though it will feel a little strange at first, there are multiple ways to start visualizing your goals. Here's how to start dreaming so that you can take your dream from the dream to the concrete stage.
Write your goals down on paper
Those who feel intimidated by the idea of trying to conjure up a picture-perfect image of what success means to them may want to consider putting pen to paper to figure out what they want in life. There is some effectiveness in being able to synthesize all your goals into a few words. By setting a constant reminder for yourself of what you hope to accomplish most, and routinely engaging with your goals, the rest (including the necessary hard work) can fall into place. And by being able to communicate your goals into words, you can more easily imagine them for some on-the-go inspiration.
Talk to yourself
Before children even have the faculties to talk to others, they talk to themselves. In their private dialogue, they make sense of the world, and form thoughts for themselves. When they have developed speech, that's when they can fully direct their thoughts outwards - with their parents, family members, themselves, friends, or even with imaginary friends. It has been found to be beneficial for adults to talk to themselves, and it serves many purposes. Private speech (that is, talking to yourself) is used to give oneself an internal pep-talk, to analyze past events, to weigh both sides of a decision, to release pent-up stress or aggression, to rehearse important conversations, to practice important speeches and presentations, and to fantasize about the great, and promising future. Forms of aspirational private speech can include literally planning out an acceptance speech for a big award, imagining the big presentation that'll net you a promotion, rehearsing a conversation with your biggest role model, and anticipating questions that the media might ask about the release of your magnum opus. By letting yourself get carried away talking to yourself, you're pepping yourself up, getting motivated, and seeing yourself through a very logistical (and therefore, less overwhelming) aspect of your future success. If you are engaging in negative self-talk in your head, you may even need to say, "shut-up," out loud to stop your own negative narrative running through your thoughts.
Imagine your goals from your personal perspective
For some people, imagining future success is easy. It's something to occupy your mind on the daily commute, in the shower, before falling asleep, procrastinating from work, and otherwise killing time. It's like shooting a movie in your head, only less expensive. But in the movie of your life, remember that you are the actor, the director, and the writer - the camera should be adjusted to your perspective. So don't imagine Reese Witherspoon or George Clooney as the leading actor, imagine you -- and try to imagine the camera going through the movie from the first-person perspective, starting from where you want to start, and ending when you're most happiest. By seeing the world through your proverbial happy, successful lens, you can best anticipate the steps it will take to get to where you want to be, and can make the actual event more accessible to you. Don't be afraid to fail.
Don't leave out any juicy details
As Mies Van der Rohe said, "God is in the details. Like the most compelling novels, the most resonant movies, the best produced songs, and the most polished buildings, perfection lives in all the small things that people don't devote too much attention to, let alone appreciate." The same can be said about dreams: when you are making the lay-up of your dreams, or accepting a best humanitarian award, what shoes are you wearing? Who is in the stands, watching your shining moment from ten feet away? Are you trembling, or more assured than you thought you'd be? It's these details that make these moments of glory worth savoring -- even if it's just in your head. By polishing the small stuff, you can deepen the richness of your Big Picture.
Visualize short term, and long-term goals
Of course, rehearsing your acceptance speech for the Oscars alone isn't necessarily going to get you there, no matter how much precision you spend imagining the red beadwork pattern on your Valentino number. Long-term goals are only attainable once you have an idea of the short-term: imagine your first play before your first blockbuster; better yet, the hours spent in rehearsal or the drudgery of a first draft. You can romanticize the process, but you should always acknowledge it. Make sure that every goal includes a viable outcome as well. Focus on profit if you're a business. Visualize success. By having a visual idea of what you're getting yourself into in order to reach your ultimate goal; or simply by setting milestones for yourself and seeing them pass in vivid detail in your mind's eye, you are setting yourself up, brick by brick, for ultimate victory. Of course, we all realize that you have to take the actual steps along the way to make these dreams actually happen. You can't just dream, you have to do the work to make your dream work.