How to Actualize (Not Just Visualize) Success

One of our kids is always talking about how they visualize getting to where they want to go in life…and therefore it will happen. Gosh, if only that were the way success and dreams worked, right? If that were reality, every morning I’d be looking at myself in the mirror and telling my reflection that Joanna Gaines and I were best friends and she wanted to gift me with a home remodel (I have a feeling you’d be doing the same thing).

Success in work, motherhood, and life is absolutely achievable…but how do we actually get there?

Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson, social psychologist who researches, writes, and speaks about the science of motivation (she is also the Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center at the Columbia Business School) says,

Don’t visualize success. Instead, visualize the steps you will take in order to succeed. Just picturing yourself crossing the finish line doesn’t actually help you get there— but visualizing how you run the race (the strategies you will use, the choices you will make, the obstacles you will face) not only will give you greater confidence, but also leave you better prepared for the task ahead. And that is definitely realistic optimism.

Ok so let’s break that apart a little bit.

Instead of looking solely at your end-game or goal, take the time to answer questions on the steps needed to achieve it. Instead of “visualizing success” like my hopeful child, visualize the process of achieving the goal. Prepare and plan for your success. What do you need to do to achieve it?

Instead of dreaming of buying a cabin in the mountains, losing 30 pounds, building a social media empire, having kind and respectful children, getting out of debt, or whatever it may be…take the time to contemplate the HOW behind your “thing”.

Write it out. Seriously. We all know the importance of writing things down because we do, the likelihood of them coming to fruition rises exponentially, right? So go grab a notebook and take the time to pen down what actually needs to be done to get there.

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What is your Big Goal? __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What baby-steps do you need to do every day to bring you closer to that goal?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

What can you do today and get started toward achieving it?

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Instead of simply deciding to have a six-pack before summer begins or have one-million downloads on your podcast, you need a plan of action.

Here are some things to remember though:

Practice does not equal perfect. It equals better.

Instead of focusing on being perfect or successful at something, focus on the growth behind it. Don’t allow setbacks or failure to shove you into a slump that tempts you to give up. Setbacks do NOT reflect your self-worth, nor do they reflect whether or not you’ll ultimately succeed. Instead of allowing failing or missteps to whisper shame and inadequacy over you, remind yourself that because you’re working step-by-step to achieve your “thing”, you’re closer today than you were in the beginning. You may even learn something from that supposed failure. That sounds rather elementary, I realize. But sometimes we need those simple reminders.

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Success doesn’t happen overnight but progress does.

I know without a doubt that you’re the type of woman who desires to teach her children about perseverance, grit, and great work-ethic. You’re living it every day. They’re watching you rise to the occasion, put in the sweat and hard work, and they’re most certainly cheering you on every time you dust yourself off and try again.

Share your dreams and goals with them. Tell your family when you fall down and how you’re getting back up. Express what you’re learning from it all. Share the victories and the steps you’ve accomplished. Let them see the gold within the struggle.

Allow them (and yourself) to realize that success and struggle go hand-in-hand. Success rarely comes easy…and that makes it even more worthwhile.

Study after study shows that people who think not only about their dreams, but about the obstacles that lie in the way of realizing their dreams—believing they can overcome those obstacles and planning how they’ll make it happen—vastly outperform those who sit back and wait for the universe to reward them for all their positive thinking.
— Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson

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WRITTEN BY TERESA SWANSTROM ANDERSON: FOUNDER OF THE & SOCIETY, AUTHOR, SPEAKER, DREAMER.