How Visualization Can Help You Climb the Career Ladder

The idea of creating a visual image map in your mind’s eye toward achieving your goals is nothing necessarily new—the concept that, if you can visualize yourself achieving a goal in your mind, you can manifest it into your reality…

While I talk more about visualization in Episode 078 of Productivity Paradox, athletes have been using visualization techniques to bring success for years… And research has shown that the same methods can be implemented in a variety of arenas to increase success in one’s career.

First, why is visualization so powerful? When you see and feel images that represent your desired outcome—whether it’s earning a promotion or working your dream job, the cognitive dissonance in your brain increases – which is a great thing! The discomfort created by dissonance sends a direct message to your brain that you are not giving up on your goal, and in turn… you will begin to figure out ways to make success happen.

Because, as it turns out, the more we routinely and intentionally visualize our success in our mind’s eye and allow ourselves to believe that our goals really are attainable, our brains respond by increasing the motivation necessary to make it happen: over time, we become more and more tenacious in our efforts to achieve our goals.

So, how can you make visualization work for you in terms of your career success?


  1.     Create an Image –  

Visualize what you want in extreme detail. It could be a career that uses your strengths and talents, managing your own business, successfully working on your business every day, or anything else that makes you feel successful… The key here is to write down as many details as you can!

Just as you would put your mission statement up where you can see it, read over your vision often (and keep it visible!). This helps your brain create a filter for seeing when opportunities or events fit into your vision, which will steer you in the right direction and encourage you to take on challenges that will lead you toward your desired outcome.


  1.     Be Realistic (but Get Excited!) –

When choosing your vision, be careful to include realistic visualization—meaning, rather than simply daydreaming about your dream job, envision the steps you might need to take in order to land the job in the first place. Ask yourself what needs to happen in order for your goals to become a reality and visualize the small steps you need to take to get there.

Research has shown that, when we just imagine ourselves having reached our goals, we can trigger a relaxation response in our brains similar to how we feel when we actually reach a goal… So, instead of focusing on the big picture, be sure to focus on all of the smaller details that make the picture possible!

When we consider not just perfect, wild success, but also see how we overcome realistic obstacles, setbacks and failures—especially in the workplace, our visualization doesn’t just placate us… it motivates us to power on and reach for the next rung on the ladder of success.

Once those pieces of your vision start to manifest themselves in your life—Get excited! Motivate yourself even further by celebrating those small wins throughout your journey, and reflect often on what parts of your day lined up with your vision and what you got excited about to keep your momentum going.

Did you apply for a promotion at work? CELEBRATE!

Finally come up with the mission statement for your small business? CELEBRATE!

Any small win poses an opportunity to celebrate, and to boost your confidence and provide you with the motivation that you need to keep moving.


  1.     Visualize Daily –

While it’s important to visualize your goals daily to help get your brain in the right frame of mind, you don’t need to spend all day thinking about them. Rather, I encourage you to create a daily habit that takes 10 minutes or less to visualize success for yourself. Once your 10 minutes are up, let go and refocus on the present.

Over time, as you continue to visualize success for yourself, your brain starts to shift and look for ways to achieve your goal because it’s become a habit to visualize your achievement… Your mental filters change, and you start seeing the world in a way that allows you to put the pieces together, bringing you closer to your desired outcome.


  1.     Take Action –

One problem that people often run into with visualization is that it can be difficult to visualize something if you’re not currently experiencing it. To overcome this, taking action is key.

Regardless of how large or successful the actions that you take are in the long-run, by taking action you’re proving to your subconscious mind that you’re moving in the direction of your goals, which makes achieving them seem less far-fetched.

So, for example, if your ultimate career goal is to become the CEO of a major company, a small actionable step you could take is conducting research on someone you admire that holds a similar position. You could also take a class to boost your skills, reconstruct your resume to make it more attractive to prospective employers for companies you might want to work for… or, it could mean starting your very own small business.

As long as you’re taking action, you’re creating a positive feedback loop of action and motivation necessary to ensuring success.


  1.     Stay Flexible –

Life has a way of surprising us, so I encourage you to have confidence in yourself and your ability to reach your career goals… while maintaining an open mind about what the journey may be like in their pursuit.

The key here? Be prepared for your picture to change as you go along… Leave room for life’s pleasant surprises! It may take some time to get into the swing of your own visualization practice, but I can guarantee… it’s worth the investment and I encourage you to try it out for yourself!

What are some career goals you have envisioned for yourself? I’d love to hear about them and the ways in which you make visualization work for yourself in the comments below…

And, if you’re interested in learning a little bit more some of the other benefits of visualization and the research behind it, I invite you to check out Episode 078 of Productivity Paradox as we round out season six!



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Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton