Visualization Leads us Astray?

Watched a video by a psychologist from a California university recently. Her research showed that dieters who visualized their desired state (future healthy, weight appropriate outcome) were more likely to cheat on their diets and fail at their goals. It was theorized that by envisioning oneself successfully achieving your goals (weight lost) your mind becomes convinced you are already there and therefore “can afford” to cheat a bit. And those who visualized the future success state were more likely to quit their diets.

The points, directly or indirectly stated are:

  1. Visualization is an ineffective mental game technique.
  2. Visualizing future successful states/outcomes/goals leads us to complacency and give-in and or give-up on our goals.
  3. Visualization is not effective at driving behaviors (motivating us).

While it is well substantiated that our brains cannot detect the difference between vivid imagery and reality it is a mistake to use the above mentioned research results to also state it is a useless mental game tool.

Amongst other practices in a sound mental game, and a huge oversight in this study, is the use of process goals. It is good to visualize your future success. It is good to reinforce where you are going. But day to day, it is process goals that will keep you on track to realize that visualization. Process goals are the actions, the steps, the things you do everyday to get you where you want to go. If you solely visualize – then you might as well just be dreaming. It is like saying “all I have to do is think positive or say affirmations to myself and I’m done.”

Fact: No mental game technique stands alone. This research points out that relying on a single technique is a weak mental game.

Fact: Virtually every elite athlete uses visualization as part of their formula for success.

Fact: If it didn’t work for most of the people most of the time, it would have been passed over as a mental game tool long ago.

Fact: If you want to be mentally tough, resilient, motivated, resourceful, focused and at the top of your game (whatever that is) then you should incorporate imagery into your repertoire.

Fact: Your repertoire must include many mental game techniques to allow your to be the most flexible in the most situations. And only from daily practice on both your physical and your mental game will you perform at your best. It requires a comprehensive mental game program not a single tool or technique.

Need some help with that? Drop me a line.

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