Does visualisation really work?
I’d been practising visualisation for years before I first heard of it. It was something I’d just started doing, of my own accord, and then one day I heard the word, visualisation, and I thought, “oh, how funny, that sounds like what I do”!
My first experience with visualisation
My earliest memory of visualisation is from when I was in the Sixth Form at school, I was 17 and getting ready to apply to university. I had been so excited about moving away from home to study, for the longest time, but then I hit 17 and got a serious boyfriend. As with most relationships at that age he was the love of my life and I couldn’t imagine being separated from him. So we talked about applying to some of the same universities, it was a big decision to make but it felt like the right one.
I remember every night imagining the two of us at the same university together, studying different things, with different friends (I didn’t want to live in his pocket, I just wanted to be in the same city!). I pictured us catching up for lunch between lectures, on student nights out and bumping into each other on campus. I used to fall asleep with this image in my mind every night.
Then we both got accepted to the same university. On courses we both wanted to do. With fairly low grades to get in.
Fast forward to the August when I was 18, I got my A level results, he got his results and we’d both got in to the same university! Whilst part of this had come about through applying to the same university and so on, the fact we were both offered places with such easily accessible grades and that we then went on to get those grades, I think is down to my visualisation.*
Using visualisation to give up smoking
The next time I used this technique was at the end of my time at university when I wanted to give up smoking. Around this time I was smoking a good 20 cigarettes a day, more on a night out, and I knew that I didn’t want to go into the world of work as a smoker, so I made up my mind to give up smoking the day I left university.
By way of physical preparation I decided to give up the day I was moving back to my mum and dad’s, as I couldn’t smoke in the house there. The night before I chain smoked all evening in an attempt to disgust myself into not wanting to light up that first day.
But the biggest preparation was visualising myself not smoking and being comfortable with it.
Every night before I went to sleep I would picture myself with all my friends at the pub, everyone around me was smoking but I wasn’t and I felt great! I would have this same visualisation every night for about a month.
The first time I was in a pub smoking situation after giving up I felt so calm and relaxed, as if I’d already been there before. It was the strangest feeling.
At this stage I still didn’t call it visualisation and I still didn’t know it existed.
The first time I heard about visualisation
I first heard of it when I was 28 and learning to scuba dive through PADI.
Part of the training course taught us about visualising our buoyancy in the water, and it was a real eye-opener for me. Partly because it was something I’d always considered to be a bit woo-woo and here was a massive organisation advocating it in their training practices, and partly because I finally had a name for it and also some confirmation that it might actually be a “thing”, and more importantly a thing that worked.
Other winning situations from visualisation
Since then I have used visualisation numerous times and for different reasons and situations, here are just a few of them:
- When my ex-boyfriend finished with me I spent a long time subconsciously visualising this perfect man who I would meet, who would be my soulmate and that we would be crazily in love with each other (I still didn’t know that visualisation was a thing at this stage). Within 3 months of this accidental visualisation I went out for a drink one Saturday night with a friend and met a guy in a bar who I really clicked with. We exchanged phone numbers, had our first kiss a week later, moved in together 3 months after meeting, and after knowing each other for just 6 months we got engaged. Yep, you guessed it, that man is Ben and this year we will celebrate 15 years of being together and 13 years of being married 🙂
- Having had a house purchase fall through on us when living in France I started to visualise the house I wanted – it had to have a downstairs office but still plenty of bedrooms to have family to stay, it had to be in a large village/small town, it had to be new with a garden big enough for a swimming pool. Then one day I stumbled across an advert for a plot of 13 houses that was being built and that ticked every box. There was one left in our price range and it had everything I’d been visualising, that really helped the decision-making process and needless to say we bought it!
- Ben and I made a decision to move to Mauritius at the start of last year. There were huge obstacles in our path – schools, houses, visas and more – so I worked on visualising our life here in Mauritius. Every day I had a little film that ran through my head. I would see myself in this beautiful big house on this stunning island. I was surrounded by Ben and the girls and we were all laughing and having fun. In my little film the girls went to a school they loved and we had a group of incredible friends that we really clicked with. Day in, day out from our decision to move here until we arrived I visualised how it would be. And you know what? We moved out here on the day we had hoped to. We found the best house that we have ever lived in. The girls are at a fab little school that’s walking distance from our house. And we have this absolutely amazing group of friends. We are so happy here, happier than we have ever been anywhere before and I’m sure so much of that is down to visualisation.
- Everyone we met here told us that getting our visa would be a tricky, lengthy process but I kept visualising it going so smoothly. We were told by friends that we’d never get our permit to live here in the time frame we’d set ourselves, but I kept on with the pictures in my head and with my visualisation. We got our permits in record time AND in the usually “dead” period between Christmas and New Year 🙂
Over the years since discovering that visualisation existed I have read up a lot on it, and have been fascinated about what I’ve learnt. It is HUGELY used by sports people and musicians. Often the winners in these two areas are people who practise their disciplines religiously but who also use visualisation techniques to really be the best in their field.
How to use visualisation
So, you like the sound of this and want to know how on earth to go about visualising.
First of all you’ve got to believe in it. If you’re doing it but secretly thinking “this is a load of crap” then don’t bother because it just won’t work.
There are varying degrees to which you can visualise and how you do it is quite personal, but here are some pointers:
- Go to a quiet place at a quiet time. Somewhere you can relax and not be disturbed. I visualise last thing at night before I drift off to sleep.
- Close your eyes and relax, take a few deep breaths.
- Picture yourself where you want to be – in the job you want, with the person you want, cuddling the baby you want, surrounded by the friends you want, living where you want – it will be different for everyone.
- Go deeper, what can you see? What can you hear? What can you feel? What can you smell? You need to be in this moment and living it in the same way as if you had already experienced it.
- First person or third person? You can do either or both. In the first person you can touch whatever it is you want, you can see the scene through your own eyes, you can hear, smell and see everything up close. In the third person you are watching yourself, like in a film, you can see yourself succeeding / winning in whatever it is you are visualising. You can see yourself in the corner office that you are desperately working towards. You can see yourself in a relationship with a fab guy who thinks the world of you. You can see yourself cradling the baby you so desperately want, it’s the perfect mother-baby moment. You can see yourself living the life of your dreams in a whole new location – a new country maybe? Some people argue that it is better and more efficient if you use the first person as you are living it already in the same way you will if it comes about. But I suggest using what works for you, and if in doubt you can use both first person and third person.
- Slowly come back to yourself and feel that sense of happiness at having what you want.
So my challenge for you today is to think of something that you really want – you know what’s on your secret wish list or bucket list. Spend the next month visualising this thing every day. Take the time to view it, feel it, touch it, smell it, hear it. Then come back here and let me know how you get on. I’d also love to hear any visualisations you’ve done in the past and what happened. As always if this article has helped you or if you think it could help others, don’t hesitate to share it – remember sharing is caring 😉
P.S. There is no guarantee with visualisation, you also need to do physical prep – an Olympic runner who visualises getting the gold medal must also train and practise! Also if you want to find out more about my visualisation experiences grab my free video guide to decision-making and facing your fears.
* We split up after a year at university but remained friends.
Thank you so much Sophie! Great to hear about this in detail and how much it has done for you 🙂 This is really helpful for a beginner like me 🙂
Also meant to say that I tried it a few weeks ago focussing on my friends situation here. We are all so busy and I was feeling a lack of social life. Well since then things have changed a lot and I’m feeling much happier! I’ve seen friends I haven’t seen for ages and have also met some new ones! Also got some social dates in the diary 🙂
I’m glad you found it useful 🙂 I am delighted that visualisation is working so well for you, thanks for sharing xx
I love visualisation and I use it all the time in my life. It is such a ‘thing’ as you say that it is even a technique that I sometimes use with clients and it works wonders!
Having said that, I think your P.S. is also spot on and even could be a little more emphasized because I have seen many, many people use visualisation, without taking any actions towards the result they want and expecting that things will fall for them from the sky! Like Anthony Robbins says: “You might believe all you want but going out in your backyard thinking ‘there’s no weeds, there’s no weeds, there’s no weeds’ will not make them go away unless you do some goddam thing about it.”
So, a big YES for me… but not on its own!
I love that you use it with your clients, that’s so amazing 🙂 And yes, it’s like the Law of Attraction where people started going around saying I believe I will be rich, and then are surprised when money doesn’t land in their laps after doing nothing about it!! You’ve got to believe but you’ve got to put the work in too! Thanks for sharing that insight.
Great post. I think I’ve also used visualisation through out my life, but part of me hasn’t believed in it, but I have worked hard on saying things I want in the present tense instead of the future tense so I’m making a start.
That’s definitely a biggie – putting things in the present tense, as if you already have them, instead of in the future tense. Maybe time to play around with visualisation some more?
Thank you for this post! I’m trying to change my career and this is the little boost I needed. It’s funny when I used to mention how my children would look like with my husband, I said that they would be super cute, blonde with big blue eyes like their father but with my almond slightly slanted shape. I also imagined them with my round shaped face as opposed to their father’s long one… So I wanted them to have our best features and… they look exactly like this!
You’re so welcome Anna 🙂 And I forgot to share that I did the same as you! All through both pregnancies I visualised my children looking like my husband but with my temperament (he was devil child but I was angel child, and he has beautiful Mediterranean looks), and I then gave birth to his Mini-Mes both times, and they were pretty much the same, chilled out babies that I was. How funny that the same thing happened for you! Love it 🙂