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The only thing separating you from reaching your goals is your imagination, right? If you can simply see yourself reaching your objective — crossing the finish line of a marathon, sending your novel off to an agent, landing your dream job — you will achieve it. Visualisation techniques like the Secret sound like they should work, but so often they don’t.
Visualisation doesn’t inspire us to jump higher, but rather causes us to become complacent.
According to a straight-forwardly titled paper “Positive fantasies about idealised futures sap energy,” visualisation doesn’t inspire us to jump higher, but rather causes us to become complacent.
“One reason positive fantasies predict poor achievement is because they do not generate energy to pursue the desired future,” the authors conclude.
People also become more easily deterred by setbacks because in our fantasy version, nothing went wrong.
Instead: Use your imagination, but realistically.
The authors of the paper recommend trying “critical visualisation,” where you imagine “realistic obstacles, setbacks, and other decidedly not-so-positive factors,” as David DiSalvo summarises in Forbes. For example, you could imagine what would happen if you don’t get a dream job or have to postpone travel plans. Doing this helps you not get wedded to one specific outcome and it keeps the journey to your goal achievable while being more realistic.