The trouble with visualising goals
It’s well and truly the season of goal setting. As many of us are focused on having our best year yet, the internet is full of advice on how to get really connected to your goals and achieve them.
A popular technique is to visualise the end result of your goal. We hear of athletes visualising themselves crossing the finish line of the event they are training for. We also hear a lot about successful entrepreneurs who visualised themselves in their future mansion and built their way there.
One of my favourite visualisation stories is that of the actor, Jim Carey. He shared with the media that before he got his first Hollywood role, he wrote himself a cheque for $1 million, and carried it everywhere he went. This cheque-writing technique and spin-off ideas from it have since been shared in a few self-help books.
These techniques are popular and with good reason, but while visualising is a great technique for many – I’m sure that it doesn’t work for everybody.
If the thought of trying to visualise your big goal, write a big cheque, design your future mansion or make a vision board of your future life leaves you feeling a bit lost, then I want to put your mind at rest.
I think that one of the reasons that visualising as a technique is so popular is that much of the population are visual learners, or have a strong, visual imagination.
But if you are not such a visual person, then for you this kind of activity might not be very useful. So today I wanted to share some other approaches to getting clarity on your goals – other ways of “seeing” the path ahead if you will.
Most of us have at least a rough idea of where we want to head in life. But sometimes getting that idea crystal clear, like we are often told we should do, can feel a bit overwhelming. It might even feel impossible to you - and that’s OK. It doesn’t mean you can’t move forward.
Understanding what you want and setting goals
Whether you're clear on what you want for your future or not, here are some tips to help.
If you feel clear about your goals:
- Hearing your goals
If you are not such a visual person, then hearing might be a stronger sense for you. Try writing down your goal, then reading it back to yourself out loud to let your brain really take it in. This technique works for many students revising for exams too.
- Chunking those goals down
If you find the idea of your big goal overwhelming, then simply breaking it down into smaller goals. Treat the smaller goals as milestones or benchmarks along the path to your big goal.
For example, if your big goal is to get onto the property ladder, then your first smaller milestone goal might be to save enough for your deposit. Your next milestone might be to find a mortgage broker or choose a lender, and so on.
Keeping your goals smaller can be less overwhelming, and of course, this also gives you more wins to celebrate along the way!
If you are not so clear on your goals:
Another reason that people struggle to visualise their future or the outcome of their goals is the worry about getting it ‘wrong’. Sometimes the idea of putting a plan down on paper, or designing it in your mind’s eye, makes it feel a little too real and too permanent.
If you are a little bit worried, even just subconsciously, that this goal isn’t 100% right for you, or that you might change your mind along the way, that can put you off even getting started.
So I want to reassure you that it’s OK to change your mind, to not be totally sure, and to update your plans along the way. In fact, this flexibility is sensible and allows you to adjust your course as life inevitably happens all around you and certain variables change.
Above all, it’s worth saying that you don’t have to have that next goal waiting in the wings at all times. Sometimes the pressure of feeling like we should always be striving for something can take over and stop us living in the moment.
We are human beings, and it is completely OK to just be sometimes. There is a lot to be gained from living in the moment, taking stock and gathering your thoughts before moving towards your next goal. So if you feel the urge to take a pause, then I encourage you to listen to that instinct. It’s never too late to set another goal, so it can wait until you are truly ready.