The Right Time To Visualize

Visualizing where we want to end up is a big part of leadership. We’ve got to have an idea of where we’re going.

When we visualize, it’s like painting a picture of the end. It’s beautiful and we know the way we want it to end.

Did you know though that you can visualize the end at the wrong time?

Sunset Vision at Kalalau Trail

Image by Paul Bica

Visualizing At The Wrong Time

There’s a right and a wrong time to visualize. The wrong time can kill your momentum.

You shouldn’t visualize the end victory while you’re in the middle of the work. It can cripple you. Taking away vital energy you need to complete the work.

Meb Keflezighi, an Olympic runner and the 2009 New York Marathon winner, discovered this the hard way. In his book, Run To Overcome, he describes an incident where he visualized his win only to fail miserably.

At the start of the 1996 NCAA Track and Field Championships, Meb begin running over the race in his mind. Visualizing the himself crossing the finish line in first place. He left the visions creep into his mind over and over again. Losing sleep and working up a sweat just imagining the victory.

Race time came and he ran a horrible race. He finished ninth.


Because his visualization came at the wrong time. He was visualizing right before the race. Stressing himself out and depleting his energy store.

The Right Time To Visualize

Now there’s a right time to visualize. You just need to discover it.

Visualization needs to take place long before the work happens. During the tough stuff of practice and training.

Do the visualizing during the times you’re building up to the work. Every practice should be a visualization of the win the completion of the work will bring. Every time you lay a brick in the foundation of the work that will be done, visualize the victory.

This will prevent the mental exhaustion that will come from visualizing the process of the work right before you do the work.

When you visualize during the preparation work, you allow yourself to be relaxed and less stressed during the actual work. Your mind will be rested. It will be able to give it’s best.

Question: Do you need to adjust your visualization time? What could you do differently? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Interesting.  I want to write a book and I “visualized” where I would have the book launch yesterday.  Now it’s time to put in the work so that it happens.

    • Larry, thanks for sharing! What’s the first step you need to take in making this vision happen?

  • I think that visualization time is different for different types of people.  I teach speech, and for some if they visualize too early it stresses them out, but for others it works.  I tend to visualize continually.

    • Interesting observation Dan. I can see this being true.

  • For me the visualization starts with writing down my goals.  It helps to have targets on paper.

    • That’s a great place to start Jon. How long do you visualize before you move forward with action?

      • I guess it depends on what I’m preparing for.  It could be a few minutes, a day, a week, or even a month.

  • Great post. I know myself and many future authors think about the finished book when they should refocus their energy and thoughts on the writing process. Great post as always bro!

    • Love the insight Dan! I’m at that point right now too.

  • I hadn’t though of this before – definitely something I need to work through for myself. I think of where I want my side business to be 5 or 10 years from now and it keeps me motivated – and I think that is a good thing. However, I need to do the work and get it done first.

    • True Tom. It can’t be all visualization. There’s got to be some work going on as well.

  • DS

    I visualize throughout my preparations.  When it comes to delivering a speech or lesson, it’s usually positive, and it’s me speaking words that I’ve been working through in my mind.  As I speak the words, I see the desired impact on my audience.  When it comes to visualizing work with people, I tend to visualize the worst – which is very draining to me and makes me have avoidance.  

    Perhaps with visualization it’s how you reason with it.  If I visualize an outcome and fail to put in the work, that’s completely different, than visualizing my desired outcome and working hard to see it through.