The Power of Visualization

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As a teenager without the resources I needed to buy equipment, the only thing I owned back then was my dream. My dream and these words from my coach, which gave me faith: “The me I see is the me I’ll be. I used to dream of being the world’s fastest man, of running faster than my idol Carl Lewis. With my mind brimming with goals but absolutely no means of achieving them, where could I go? Should I hold on to my dream or just give up? The reassurance and motivation that I needed from the people around me at the time turned out instead to be assertions of the type “You’re fantasizing!” “You’ll never be able to do it” or “You’re totally crazy!”

Fifteen years later, in 1999, I ran the 100 metres under 10 seconds, meaning that I was even faster than the idol of my youth. At the moment of victory, I realized that my 18 years of effort had paid off. I had finally succeeded!

It was then that I became convinced that there were no limits to what I could achieve, however lofty my goals.

“You can make your brain believe anything.”

Everyone is capable of visualizing success. The only prerequisite is the ability to believe and to be open. When you can picture something in your mind, when you make the effort day after day, when you believe in it totally, nothing can stop you from succeeding. The only constraints on visualization are our own limitations or simply fear.

Back then, I’d run the 100 metres in 10.14.  I hadn’t yet run under the 10-second mark. But I’d visualize a very specific scenario. I’d picture myself running; I’d see myself at a competition, like the World Championships let’s say. I’d visualize, very specifically, my body posture, the position of my arms, etc. I’d picture everything in fine detail. All the things I’d been working on during practice, I’d imagine myself doing while competing.

When D-day rolled around, I looked up at the scoreboard after the race and saw my result: 9.84 seconds. Because I’d done this mental exercise so many times, I’d conditioned my body to do it. My body followed my mind, it’s as simple as that, just like a feeling of déjà-vu. And to me it seemed perfectly natural. It all happened in my head, in my subconscious, that I’d controlled and conditioned for all those years.

How to turn dream into reality?

Through action.

Yes, visualization and willpower are undoubtedly ways of achieving goals but eventually you need to take action. People often tell me about their dreams and projects. When I see them one year down the line and ask them where they’re at and what they’ve actually accomplished, they tell me they’ve not done anything yet. When you have a project that you want to carry out at all costs and that you set a goal for yourself, the very next day you have to take some kind of action.

I think that an all too common mistake is that people see the total time they will have to work to attain their ultimate goal, which could take several years. To avoid getting discouraged, it’s better to look at your goals in the short and medium term. Then, once you’ve attained goal number one, you have to continue to forge ahead and take that additional step towards your final goal.

Advice about controlling your subconscious and visualizing success

Something I tell people to do all the time is to write things down. Write down your dreams and your life plans, something that you’ll be able to sit down quietly later on and read so you remember where you’re at today and what you’ve got left to do to attain your goal. Choose a picture too. For me, it was a photo of my idol. Every time I’d go to my room for bed, I’d see the photo of Carl Lewis. I’d say to myself: “I won’t give up until I’ve performed better that him.” Every year, every season, I’d write my goals down on paper, in the form of a list that I’d consult constantly. My priority was to run under 10 seconds. Once I’d achieved this goal, I’d visualize the next one, which was the launch of my own line of clothing. What I visualize today is different from what I visualized 6 years ago. As time goes by, you have to be able to see further ahead.

Write down your objectives! All the time! As if it’s a personal commitment, a promise that you make to yourself. And more importantly, don’t be afraid to dream! With willpower and positive thinking, you can accomplish everything you ever hoped for.




Bruny Surin

As Olympic champion, lecturer and entrepreneur, I draw on my own experience to underscore the importance of personal preparation and self-awareness in having a successful life!

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