Harvey Mackay ColumnThe old saying goes: If you can dream it, you can do it. I think that’s more than just an axiom.

I believe that visualization is one of the most powerful means of achieving personal goals. To have an idea or dream, and then see how you can make it happen, helps shape your plans and defines your goals more clearly.

Many people, especially athletes and celebrities, have discovered the amazing power of visualization and have used it to enhance their careers and achieve their goals and dreams.

Actor Jim Carrey wrote a check to himself in 1987 in the sum of $10 million. He hopefully dated it Thanksgiving 1995 and added the notation, “for acting services rendered.” He visualized it for years and in 1994, he received $10 million for his role in “Dumb and Dumber.”

Oprah Winfrey openly used visualization techniques on her talk show. She often talked about the power of the subconscious mind and goal-focusing techniques. Oprah said, “The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams.”

Nobel Laureate Jonas Salk was asked how he went about inventing the polio vaccine. His reply: “I pictured myself as a virus or a cancer cell and tried to sense what it would be like.”

When I was 13 years old I dreamed about owning a factory. Then when I actually owned the factory, I visualized selling the largest and most prestigious account in town – General Mills. And I finally did it.

One of the most well-known studies on creative visualization in sports occurred when Russian scientists compared four groups of Olympic athletes in terms of their physical and mental training ratios:

  • Group 1 received 100% physical training.
  • Group 2 received 75% physical training and 25% mental training.
  • Group 3 received 50% mental training and 50% physical training.
  • Group 4 received 75% mental training with 25% physical training.

Unbelievably group 4 had the best performance results, indicating that mental training or visualization can have significant measurable effects on biological performance.

Similarly, for many years Russian gymnasts dominated the Olympic Games. The Americans trained just as hard, but they couldn’t compete with the near flawless Russians. It wasn’t until many years later that the Americans and others discovered that the Russians used sports psychologists to help with mental training techniques. They spent a few hours each day visualizing their routines with perfect landings, twists and jumps. Today, most top athletes use the power of visualization to perform at their peak.

People who soar refuse to sit back and wait for things to change. They visualize that they are not quitters. They will not allow circumstances to keep them down.

Florence ChadwickBack in 1952, Florence Chadwick became the first woman to ever swim the Catalina Channel. She had to make two attempts before she achieved her goal.

On her first try, she quit after swimming 21-and-a-half miles and finishing only a half-mile from shore. The reason? It wasn’t the freezing cold water. Or the fear of the sharks circling around her. Or even her fatigue. She told reporters later that it was because she couldn’t see the shore through the fog. She had lost sight of her goal. Two months later, she swam the channel again – this time with a clear mental picture of the shore that lay beyond the fog. She not only became the first woman to swim the channel – she beat the existing world record by two hours!

History teems with tales of experts who were convinced that the ideas, plans and projects of others could never be achieved. But then someone else came along and accomplished those dreams with a can-do attitude.

The Italian sculptor Agostino d’Antonio worked diligently on a large piece of marble. Unable to produce his desired masterpiece, he lamented, “I can do nothing with it.” Other sculptors also worked this difficult piece of marble, but to no avail. Michelangelo discovered the stone and visualized the possibilities in it. His “I-can-make-it-happen” attitude resulted in one of the world’s masterpieces – his statue of David.

Are you reading these stories with the aid of an electric light? Consider the plight of Benjamin Franklin. He was admonished to stop his foolish experiments with lighting. What a waste of time! It was absurd to think anything could outdo the fabulous oil lamp. Thank goodness Franklin “saw the light” – and made it happen.

Mackay’s Moral: If seeing is believing, visualizing is achieving.

About the author Harvey Mackay

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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