Updated: Jan 3, 2022
You’ve probably heard about visualizing as a personal development tool. Or maybe your sports coach used visualization to help motivate you and your team. But did you know that there’s a scientific basis for how visualization works? Neuroscientists have found that visualization actually changes the brain and can set you on the road to success.
Rewire Your Brain
You may not realize it, but there is a powerful part of your brain that already prioritizes what you need to know. The Reticular Activating System (RAS) protects your brain from being overwhelmed by the millions of bits of information that flood it every day. It acts as an email filter, discarding what you don’t need to know and prioritizing important things. The RAS is influenced both by your childhood messages and what you ‘tell’ it that you want to know. Ever noticed how, once you decide you want a new car, you see that model of car everywhere? That’s your RAS saying ‘look at this’!
The car did not just up because I had something to do with it. I told my brain what was important to me, and my brain brought to me what was important to me. I now had eyes to see that car. My brain is going to bring that to me because it was important to me. A woman suddenly notices another woman wearing their same exact pair of shoes, clothes, or hairstyles.
Another description of the RAS is it’s like a filter between your conscious mind and your sub-conscious mind. It takes instructions from your conscious mind (like “I need to hear my baby”) and passes it on to your subconscious mind. Your mind then becomes diligent and alert to your request. Therefore, in a very loud environment, a sleeping mother can still hear her sleeping baby make the slightest noise in another room. Her RAS is switched to what is important to her, her baby.
Using visualization enables you to hack your mindset and refocus your thoughts from negative doubts to a clear positive vision of where you want to be. Instead of anxiety about where you are now, you can visualize an alternative reality and hack your RAS to start priming you for success. Keeping your goals literally top of mind will help you focus on achieving them.
Harness Your Brain Chemistry
Your brain works with a complex system of hormones and other chemicals. You can manipulate things like your dopamine feedback loops to focus on successful behaviors. That good feeling when you win is all about the rush of dopamine that floods your brain as a kind of chemical reward. This is what keeps you motivated to try and achieve bigger and better goals.
You can harness this dopamine reward system by stretching your challenges. Aim to get two new clients this week, three the next, and so on. You are feeding and encouraging your motivation by priming your dopamine loops. And as a bonus, it makes the work more fun!
Using visualization enables you to hack your mindset and refocus your thoughts from negative doubts to a clear positive vision of where you want to be. - Vince Morales
Use Your Memories
Scientists have found that you can edit your memories to focus on the good ones. Instead of remembering past bad experiences and then feeling less confident, you can bolster your motivation by remembering past successes.
You can take the sting out of bad memories by playing them over and over in your mind, visualizing them getting smaller and smaller until they disappear. Conversely, you can turn up the color and volume on good memories. Make them IMAX sized in your mind and enjoy how they make you feel. Use that vision to fuel your motivation.