So, you’ve decided you want to set some goals. You realize the benefits of setting the bar high and are ready to take on the challenge to stretch yourself and level-up your life. You’ve got your BHAG and your reward system for tracking your goals in place, you’ve mapped out your mini-miles stones, and you’re clear on what it’s going to take.

All of that, takes place at a conscious level.

We human beings are proud of our ability to think. It’s our conscious thoughts make us who we are and are wrapped up with our identity. But, what about the other part of cognition? What about the un-conscious mind and harnessing it in our BHAG quests?

Most of the goals we pursue, we do so at an unconscious level. There are positives to this as the processing power of the unconscious mind is enormous, and compared to the unconscious mind, our conscious mind is the poor cousin. Think in terms of the processing power of a supercomputer versus your old school calculator. If you consciously focus on your goals, with consistency your unconscious mind will take over and steer you in that direction. And, once these processes are automated (this is what the unconscious mind is brilliant at) they become second nature and operate in the background. What’s more, your subconscious mind is some 10 seconds faster than the conscious mind! It has a role to play in levelling-up your life and achieving your BHAG‘s. Apart from being consistent in our focus, what else can we do?

This is where visualization can help.

Visualize yourself achieving your BHAG. Be as specific as you can. Ask yourself the following questions. What will it feel like when you realize your BHAG? What does it look like when you have completed it? Visualizing is an essential part of successful goal setting. Can you smell it, or taste it? It’s important to engage all of your senses. What do you see coming from the achievement of your goal? What are the rewards? Both intrinsic and extrinsic? Importantly, why do you want to do it? Why matters! It will help in the Pre-programming and preconditioning of your brain. This tells your brain ‘this is what you want’ and so it looks for opportunities to fulfil and accomplish that. In this way, you are programming your brain to think about ways to get there. 

Neuroscience reveals your brain can’t tell the difference between what you do and what you visualize. As far as your brain is concerned they are one and the same. Brain scans are how we know this. This is why it’s been crucial in sports for quite some time: The brain sees it as another run through. Michael Phelps winner of 8 Gold Medals in a single Olympics would routinely ‘watch’ a videotape in his mind’s eye and visualize his perfect race. Phelps visualized everything from his strokes, the walls of the pool, his turns, the finish, what the water felt like and even what it felt like to rip off his swimming cap at race end. 

This practice got him both present and mindful. Phelps made the experience as real as possible and he did it consistently. He left no detail to chance. Neither should you.

Think of it as a deliberate practice to becoming talented. In large part, it’s due to the way you go about it and become highly skilled, through practicing each segment and then putting it all together. It’s the same principle in operation. When we are focused on something, the brain views and codes it differently, we, therefore, experience it differently. A BHAG feels like a stretch and hard to get to. Yet, when you are present to and working on the goal or game, we can experience joy and flow state and visualize the next step making it manageable. Doing so encodes the brain to what we need it to do and take you closer to levelling-up your life and achieving those all important BHAG‘s.