If you're a very literal-minded or pragmatic person, you might have a healthy dose of skepticism about the power of visualization. And indeed there are many who are not wrong in believing that visualizing success often amounts to little more than a lazy substitute for actually doing something to make that success happen.
But visualization is about much more than just sitting back and imagining that good things will happen. There is actually a huge body of research suggesting that mental imagery can dramatically impact our actions.
New research coming out of Oxford and Cambridge, for example, suggests that your ability to vividly imagine details about a bright future dramatically increases your energy and momentum, which leads, in turn, to constructive action. When our mind's eye can picture exactly what that bright future looks like, it can orient itself in the direction of what we envision.
This is largely because the more vividly we can picture something, the more attainable it feels. Research has found that if you visualize making a shot in sports, for example, your likelihood of making it goes slightly up. More significant is that if you visualize waking up at 5 a.m. to practice, visualize working on your form, and visualize the feel of the ball in your hands right before it leaves for the basket, your likelihood of making the shot rises even more.
Similarly, I have found that when people with a fear of public speaking vividly visualize themselves from a...