The Use of Visualisation to Achieve Career and Personal Goals

The release of Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 self-help book The Secret started a worldwide conversation about the law of attraction and positive visualisation. Byrne claims that as we think and feel, a corresponding frequency is sent out into the universe that attracts back to us events and circumstances on the same frequency - or, to put it simply, “like attracts like.” In The Secret, Byrne explains how readers can use this law of attraction to their advantage to obtain health, wealth and happiness. While the phenomenon surrounding this best-selling book inspired much doubt and criticism, some of the thinking behind it does have roots in research.

The Benefits of Visualisation

The idea of visualising success is not a new concept in the world of professional athletes. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali always stressed the importance of seeing himself win fights long before matches ever took place. Michael Phelps, Jessica Ennis-Hill, and Jonny Wilkinson all use visualisation techniques to enhance their physical performance. In fact, research shows that mental practices are almost as effective as true physical practice. One study found that brain patterns activated when a weightlifter lifts hundreds of pounds were similarly activated when they only imagined lifting. Research shows that mental practice, in conjunction with true physical practice, is more effective than either technique alone. Herein lies the key difference between Byrne’s The Secret and the true benefits of visualisation - we shouldn’t simply think positive thoughts and then do nothing to make them happen.

Techniques for Visualisation

First, it’s important to figure out exactly what you want to achieve. Dedicate some time each day to thinking about what you want in your career, relationships, finances, home, health, and anything else you might want to improve. You don’t need to spend hours on this - 10 to 15 minutes should be sufficient. The important thing is to make it a habit. As with learning any new skill, repetition is key.

When you engage in this visualisation, it’s important to get as detailed as possible. Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney tends to ask the club’s kit man what colour shorts and socks the team will wear the next day to enhance the accuracy of his psychological preparation. If you’re imagining a professional success, engage as many of the five senses as possible. What are you wearing? Who are you with? What is your surrounding environment like?

Once you have a clear picture of what you want, you may find it helpful to create a vision board. A vision board is a collection of words, images, and items that represent your goals and desires. You can build a physical board on cork board or poster board (or simply hang images near your desk), or you can create a digital one on a site like Pinterest or using a tool such as iMovie. Your vision board can include pictures of people who inspire you, places you want to visit, and of course, pictures of yourself. Make sure to include only images that give you a strong, positive feeling when you look at them. If you want to work for a specific company, try including their logo. Or, you can use images associated with your desired career - for example, if you want to be a CFO, add a picture of the sort of office you imagine having. If your vision board starts to look a little crowded, you could consider creating multiple themed boards - say, one for career goals and another for travel. Most importantly, make sure to look at your vision board every day. Read aloud any quotes or affirmations you’ve added, and acknowledge what you’ve already accomplished.

While it may not be enough to simply send good thoughts out into the universe and hope for the best, adding visualisation to your daily routine can help open your mind up to new possibilities, encourage you to take risks, and get you ready to take the necessary steps for achieving your goals. Use a vision board to guide your visualisation, and make sure to spend a little bit of time each day reflecting on your goals and progress. When you’re ready to take action, you’ll have a clear blueprint for building your future.