“Most people live in a restricted circle of potential.” - William James
We’ve heard that if we want to improve, we’re supposed to write down our goal, visualize it happening and believe it will come true. But why?
A Cleveland Clinic Foundation study compared, “people who went to the gym with people who carried out virtual workouts in their heads.” Researcher, Guang Yue, found a 30% muscle increase in the group who went to the gym and 13.5% increased muscle strength by those conducting mental-only exercises.
Believing it, seeing it in your mind, literally helps make it happen.
This Psychology Today article, goes on to say, “Brain studies now reveal that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions. Mental imagery impacts many cognitive processes in the brain: motor control, attention, perception, planning, and memory. ...It’s been found that mental practices can enhance motivation, increase confidence and self-efficacy, improve motor performance, prime your brain for success, and increase states of flow ...”
Is believing in your yourself, and fantasizing about success, really enough? Successful people often seem near narcissistic with their belief and confidence, but do the Steve Jobs and Elon Musks of the world find their edge in their egoism?
They key is not overinflation of the ego. In fact, PsychologicalScience.org tell us narcissism is not an indicator of success long term. Scientists say it is actually about how you believe in yourself. Success comes, not from believing you’re an infallible superstar and visualizing said infallibility, but from believing in your potential to be a superstar and visualizing successful steps towards the goal. More specifically, it’s about the a belief in the intrinsic self and a refusal to doubt your ability to learn, grow and achieve new skills and goals.
The current thought leader on this concept, Carol Dwerk, refers to this phenomenon as the growth vs. fixed mindset. In one scenario, you believe you are a superstar (or not) with capabilities X, Y, and Z. In the other, better scenario, you believe in your potential to be a superstar with malleable capabilities that improve with work. She says, “When you believe your capabilities, intelligence and creativity can be cultivated through learning and practice, failure and risk are simply stepping stones and not stones thrown at self worth.”
This feeds right into another scientifically proven key to success. Self compassion. But before you tell yourself it’s okay to eat a cookie or skip working toward a goal today, don’t confuse self compassion with self indulgence. According to this UC Berkeley study, it’s about compassion towards yourself when you make efforts and fail, since as we all know failure inevitably happens. Self compassion is about a “forgive and move on” attitude and it’s a trait shared by people who believe in a malleable and capable intrinsic self.
So what does this all mean for achieving goals and success in life?
You really can do amazing things. Make your mind know this as truth and it will be true.