There are some wild claims out there for the power of visualisation.
Things like: if you can imagine it, then it will come to you. Of course there’s always been a huge market for telling people things they want to hear, even if it’s complete rubbish.
Still, visualisation can certainly be important in reaching goals. Much research has been conducted in athletics which shows the power of visualisation. Athletes are encouraged to experience their sporting behaviour in advance to enhance their performance.
There is now hardly a sport left that doesn’t have psychologists telling players to visualise their performance.
Visualisation is also used in psychological therapies to help people change their behaviour. Alcoholics, for example, are told to visualise how they will deal with situations in which they’re tempted to drink.
So, we know that visualisations can be effective in helping us reach goals. But visions about the future come in many different forms. How do we know we’re performing the right sort of visualisation?
Popular self-help books would have us believe that mentally simulating the outcome will help us achieve it. So if we imagine ourselves getting that promotion, meeting the partner of our dreams or just giving the house a spring clean, it will make us more likely to achieve our goal.
We’ve already seen the dangers of fantasising about future success. But perhaps a more effective way of visualising the future is to think about the processes that are involved in reaching a goal, rather than just the end-state of achieving it.