My father used to say ‘He’s a real Walter Mitty’ when he was referring to someone he thought was just a day-dreamer who never took any concrete steps to reach their goals. (Walter Mitty was the sad sack loser character in ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’, a short story by James Thurber first published in 1930, which was later made into a film in 1939 and again in 2013.) It turns out that research backs up the plot line that when you just fantasise, you don’t achieve much at all.
What does work, though, is holding positive expectations regarding achieving your goal. That’s because positive expectations are based on experience, and so are more realistic, while fantasies and just wishful thinking. Just thinking about the outcome makes it seem like achieving it will be easier than the reality, so you kid yourself you don’t need to do much work.
What about visualisation, I hear you ask. Yes it’s true that lots of research-based advice says visualisation works. But it needs to be the right kind of visualisation. Using your mind’s eye to project yourself into the futures and see and feel yourself achieving your goal is one kind of visualisation. That’s the fantasy kind that doesn’t work.
Visualising yourself doing what it’s going to take to achieve your goal is visualisation that does work. You can imagine yourself stepping up to the podium to receive your qualification (lessening the odds that it will actually happen ) or you can see yourself studying in the evenings or saying ‘No’ to a tempting night out in favour of hitting the books, for example, which vastly improves the odds.
There are two main reasons that visualising the process works. The first is that it helps you ‘see’ and plan out the steps you need to take to reach your goal and encourages to think about all the many barriers in your way and how to overcome them. The second is that feeling the emotion lessens your nerves.
No excuses now. Think about, and visualise, the process, not the outcome. OK, reaching your goal may not be easy, but it’s a lot easier to reach this way.