Many of us make resolutions around this time of year, ways that we want our life or ourselves to change. Tools like visualization, manifestation, and affirmations are one set of ways we can support ourselves in making both big and small changes in our lives. Here’s how these practices can make a difference for you.
What these practices are — and what they aren’t
While social media and some self-help writers might suggest otherwise, tools like visualization, manifestation and affirmations aren’t magic. They can be enormously powerful for our own minds and spirits, but these tools aren’t capable of changing your life on their own. This means the inverse is also true — if you’ve been struggling or had a run of bad luck, this is not because you’ve been focusing on the wrong thing, or overly negative, or because feeling sad about your struggles has caused the universe to bring more trouble your way.
So if visualization, manifestation and affirmations aren’t magic, what are they? The best way to use these tools is to help resource and prepare yourself to take the action necessary to change your own life — whether that’s meeting a partner, succeeding at work, or achieving your goals in other parts of your life.
How to use visualization to move closer to your goals
Visualization is more than just wishful thinking; it’s a powerful tool grounded in neuroscience that can shape our thoughts and actions. When we visualize, we engage our brains in a way that primes us for success. It’s about creating a vivid mental image of our goals and desires, making them more tangible and achievable.
The brain doesn’t always distinguish between real and imagined experiences. By vividly imagining our goals, we activate the same neural pathways as if we were experiencing them, reinforcing positive behaviors and attitudes. Visualization may even be able to help us develop real-world skills – in one research study, participants found that visualization made a difference in their performance when it came to shooting free throws.
What does this look like for you? Think about a goal you want to achieve or a skill you’re trying to practice, and commit to a period of regular visualization of you achieving this goal or using this skill. Think of it like playing a movie inside your head; play the visual tape of what a scene would look like, but don’t forget the rest of the sensory information, like sound and touch. Maybe you have a big presentation to your boss’s boss coming up at work: visualize yourself giving the full presentation coolly and competently. Pay attention to all the details; in this visualization, imagine how well you’re dressed, how calm and clear your speaking voice is, and how comfortable you feel with the material.
Maybe your goal is to practice introducing yourself to potential dates in social situations; visualize yourself initiating conversation at a party or a bar, and make note of how confident your body language is, how clearly and confidently you’re speaking, and how easy it is for you to find things to talk about. Doing this consistently and regularly can make a big difference in how possible these experiences end up feeling for you.
While visualization is a potent tool, it’s essential to avoid common pitfalls. Merely wishing for success without a clear plan or action can lead to disappointment. Visualization is most effective when coupled with strategic planning and consistent effort.
How to use manifestation to help move toward the life you deserve
Manifestation involves setting clear intentions and aligning your thoughts and actions with your desired reality. The key is to believe in the possibility of your goals and act as if they are already happening.
Before embarking on the journey of manifestation, set clear intentions for what you want to achieve. Write down your goals, specifying the details and timeframe. The act of clarifying your intentions gives them direction and purpose.
If visualization helps achieve specific goals, manifestation can be a way of imagining a full framework for your life. One way to do this is working on a five year or ten year plan. Take a quiet, pleasurable evening to yourself and take a notebook or a big sheet of poster paper. Think about where you want to be in five years: where you’re living, what kind of work you’re doing, what your love life and family life looks like. Think about even the small things: what does your morning routine look like in five years? Do you have a lot of time and energy for recreation and hobbies? Does your work schedule finally let you work out or travel regularly?
Write all this down in as much detail as possible; and using the present tense, as if these things are all happening now. For instance: “I live in a two-bedroom home with a backyard and raised beds for gardening. I have plenty of time to garden and work in the yard because I have a healthy work-life balance, where my workday always ends promptly at 5 pm and I don’t need to check messages after that.” Go on with this present-tense narrative for as long as you can, with as many details as you can think of.
The point of this process is that naming all of these things helps crystallize and make concrete what you want out of life. Saying “I want a better job” is too vague and general to really inform your decisions; when you’re in a bad job, any job looks like a better job. Saying “I want a job where I only work within 9-5 hours and don’t think about work outside that time” can meaningfully point you toward some opportunities and away from others. Manifestation is not a magic process; just naming these wants and desires alone won’t magically make them happen. It can, however, help clarify what your goals are and drive you toward them.
How to use affirmations for confidence and self-love
Affirmations are powerful statements that reinforce positive beliefs and attitudes. Crafting personalized affirmations tailored to your goals and challenges can boost confidence and foster self-love. Incorporating affirmations into your daily routine is a simple yet effective way to reshape your mindset.
Think about the areas of your life where you seek improvement or growth. Craft affirmations that reflect the positive changes you want to see. Ensure they are concise, positive, and resonate with your authentic self. As you repeat these affirmations, visualize the positive outcomes they represent, reinforcing their impact on your subconscious mind.
For instance, if you’re focused on creative projects and getting more in touch with your artistic self, your affirmations might look like this:
“I trust in my artistic journey and embrace the learning process.”
“I am open to new ideas and inspiration that fuel my artistic expression.”
“I am confident in my unique artistic voice.”
“I approach artistic hurdles with resilience and creativity.”
Notice that these affirmations are all in the first person — affirmations aren’t designed to be about anyone but ourselves, which is why we wouldn’t write an affirmation like “People love my work and understand my artistic vision.” They’re also in the present tense; affirmations, like manifestation and visualization, are in part about truly believing that these things are already true, which helps your brain accept that they’re possible.