You’ve probably heard that visualization can help you achieve your goals. Many athletes like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Tiger Woods and Russell Wilson are known to use visualization. You might even yourself. Visualization is effective, but research shows that it depends on the way you do it…
One study tested the effectiveness of process versus outcome visualization. For 5 to 7 days before an exam, students were asked to either visualize themselves studying or visualize achieving their desired grade or self monitor themselves (the control). The researchers found that the process group studied more and got better grades that the outcome group (8 points) and the control. Interestingly, the outcome group not only under-performed the process group, but also the control. This shows that visualizing the outcome was actually harmful! Other studies have backed up this finding. Psychologists believe that visualizing success tricks your brain into thinking you’ve already achieved your goal and so decreases motivation.
Visualizing the process, meanwhile, helps you plan a path to your goals, reduces anxiety and increases confidence. So, instead of visualizing yourself sitting on the beach with money raining down from the sky, think about the steps that you’d need to take to get there (like renting a helicopter).