As we grow older and our lives seemingly become entwined about our work, we tend to lose sight of our big dreams. When each day is spent clearing small items off a never-ending list of things to do, sometimes what you really need is a personal vision to strive for continually. Without that, you’d be like a skilled metalworker without a prototype—metal fabrication techniques can create anything but need the guidance of a 3D model made with computer-aided design (CAD). The following methods will help you flesh out a specific personal goal and direct your efforts to make it happen.
Often, we face an immediate roadblock to progress in the form of self-inflicted negativity. This is different from being self-aware and recognizing the areas where you need to improve; negative self-perceptions thrive on the struggle, sap at your willpower and confidence, and ultimately defeat your efforts to get better.
Positive affirmations are a powerful tool to help you stay focused and motivated, drowning out the self-doubt and pessimism. Not only does it help reaffirm your progress each day constantly, but you can also use this method to affirm a successful outcome even if it hasn’t happened yet. By repeating affirmative statements, such as “I enjoy this exercise so much, I’m feeling healthy and strong,” you convince your mind to change its self-image and stimulate the brain’s reward-processing mechanisms, encouraging further positive action.
Across all levels and types of sport, athletes can feel immense pressure to perform. In a highly competitive environment, despite spending years of practice to hone their skills, even the world’s top athletes can struggle with the mental challenge of achieving results. We might not be Olympians or professional athletes, but we can all feel a lot of pressure to reach our goals. Anyone could benefit from practicing visualization training; a young Michael Phelps used this technique to mentally rehearse for races, hundreds of times before the actual event.
Visualize your goal from different perspectives, engage all senses to make the experience more vivid, and anticipate a variety of situations—not only the best-case scenario but ones where a few factors don’t go your way, for example. This way, your mental preparations will help your mind “buy-in” to the vision that you will succeed, and you can shrug off pressure when it’s time to perform.
Using physical representations
Making goals come into focus can be difficult if you feel that they are still so far away. One method for bridging this gap in our minds is to use physical representations. For instance, if your vision is to get into good physical shape and reconnect with nature, you can print and frame a photo of someone hiking up a mountain trail or use photo editing software to place yourself inside that image. Keep the picture around where you can see it and be inspired each day, and this physical representation of your goal will help make it seem closer. Similarly, writing down a few short phrases in your journal to remind you of your vision every day will continue to make it seem real in your mind, until the day when you do arrive at your destination.
By applying these methods, you’ll capture a detailed vision for your personal goals, which will make them seem within reach, inspire you with confidence, and help you fight off the pressure as you work your way towards ultimate success.