Meeting Goals through Visualization

“It is a psychological law that whatever we wish to accomplish we must impress on the subconscious mind.” ~ Dr. Orison Swett Marden (1850 – 1924) physician, writer

The power of our thoughts and the effect they have on us is well documented. We now know why and how our thoughts influence our feelings which, in turn, influence our actions and create our results.  

By understanding and applying the metaphor of the conscious mind as the ‘rider’ sitting atop a massive ‘elephant’ (subconscious mind), we can more easily meet our goals in any area of life we choose.

We can meet our goals more efficiently when we learn and use tools to manage our thinking.  One of the tools that can help manage our thinking is visualization. The elephant represents what is often referred to as the ‘reptilian’ brain or our subconscious. But it is the conscious mind, represented by the rider, that gives us the power to visualize.  

Brain science proves that visualization is a very important tool that is readily available to us to influence our subconscious. It’s important to remember that the rider does not and cannot control the elephant. The rider can only influence the elephant.

Below is a brief summary of the important characteristics of the elephant and the rider and the reason why visualization, a clear mental image of our goal – being already completed – has such an impact.

Subconscious Elephant:

  1. Does not think, contemplate or reflect, but instead reacts in extremes such as ‘right or wrong,’ ‘good or bad,’ ‘fight or flight.’
  2. Is the ego and reacts strongly to emotions and feelings, especially fear and love.
  3. Cannot tell the difference between a real or an imagined experience by the rider.

Conscious Rider:

  1. Is the visionary who considers alternative choices and is good at crafting mental images of what is possible.
  2. Is our ‘self-talk’ or ‘mind-chatter’
  3. Has the unique ability to use visualization and repetition to influence the elephant.

Using the rider to influence the elephant gives us the ability to set, plan, visualize and successfully achieve our goals.  Here are 2 powerful strategies to help us use the rider as leverage.

~ Practice becoming aware of and reframing self-talk

This is a major key to success in reaching our goals. When we pay attention to our self-talk, we discover that it contains a lot of negativity – self-criticism, guilt, blame, and fear. When we notice negative thinking, we can stop, breathe and say to ourself, “Isn’t that interesting?” During that moment of noticing a negative fear-based thought, we give ourself a chance to reframe or change it to a positive. This tool, when practiced diligently, gives us an extraordinary power to change and ultimately influence our thinking.

~ Focus on the intended outcome or goal

Don’t think of a pink elephant! It is impossible not to. That is because the unconscious elephant cannot take in a negative suggestion. It only reacts to the pictures and images it receives. For example, the elephant interprets ‘don’t fail’ as ‘fail’ or ‘don’t be late’ as ‘be late.’ When we are clear and positive in our communication, we create a distinct image of our intended outcome or goal ‘as if’ it was already achieved. In other words, focus on what we want, not on what we don’t want.

We move in the direction of our thoughts.  It’s up to us to make them count.


adapted from James Mapes