How To Visualize Success

September 7th, 2013 by LaRae Quy

I’ve always been afraid of water and to confront those fears, I had to visualize success. I did this learning how to scuba dive—even before I learned to swim. 

One of the requirements of scuba diving certification was to descend under water ten feet, take off my mask and mouthpiece, and then put them back on again. I was afraid I would drown in those few moments underwater and without oxygen.

What if I lost my mask? How would I get back to the surface? After all, I couldn’t even swim. My instructor was with me, and during practice he had helped me several times. But on the day of certification I would need to do it on my own.

My fear of water had not subsided as I hoped it would. I did not feel safe in the water, especially when I was ten feet under.

The night before the test, I spent hours trying to visualize success by mimicking how I would take off the mask and replace it without drawing a breath or dropping the mask. I walked myself through the exercise time and time again. 1. Take a deep breath and let go of my mouthpiece. 2. Pull off the mask with my left hand and hold it tightly as my right hand came around and pulled it back over my face. 3. Keep salt water out of my eyes and by keeping them tightly closed. 4. Grab hold of my mouthpiece and bring life-giving oxygen back into my lungs.

I visualized the sequence dozens of times. And when it came time for my scuba dive certification, I performed the underwater portion exactly as I had visioned it. Later that day, I dove 100 feet down a seawall!

Little did I know at the time that I could visualize success and point to solid science to explain why it worked. Achieving my goal was about more than work and discipline—it was also about physiology.

By visualizing my performance repeated, my brain stored that information as a success.

Whenever I could visualize success, my brain released a neurotransmitter called dopamine. That is the chemical that becomes active when we encounter situations that are linked to reward from the past. Dopamine enables us to not only see rewards, but to move toward those rewards as well.

If we can visualize success, it has implications that go far beyond scuba diving certification:


Mental toughness is the ability to envision the outcome of an event to trigger the production of dopamine. Sometimes asking yourself a simple question such as “What do I want this meeting to look like?” and then visualizing your performance is enough to get that important shot of dopamine. Start with visualizing every objection and/or question that is likely to come up in the meeting, and your response to it.


Visualizing can help you see your own ability to perform in difficult or stressful situations. It can help take you beyond your self-limiting beliefs about yourself and move you beyond your current circumstances. Visualizing encourages leaders to ask “What if?” or “What else?” These types of questions open doors of possibility and opportunity. It’s an invitation to move past the status quo.


If dopamine is associated with increased creativity, leaders can use this knowledge to help their teams find ways to be create a more satisfying work environment. Research has determined that dopamine is produced in anticipation of reward, not as the result of the reward.

The very act of giving your brain a detailed portrait of your end goal ensures the release of dopamine, a powerful mental toughness tool to steer you toward success.

From Victor Frankl: “There’s one reason why I’m here today. What kept me alive in a situation where others had given up hope and died was the dream that someday I’d be here telling you how I survived the concentration camps. I’ve never been here before. I’ve never seen any of you before. Nor have I ever given this speech before. But in my dreams I’ve stood before you in this room and said these words a thousand times.”

© 2013 LaRaeQuy. All rights reserved.

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Author of “Mental Toughness for Women Leaders: 52 Tips To Recognize and Utilize Your Greatest Strengths” and “Secrets of a Strong Mind.” 

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13 Responses to “How To Visualize Success”

  1. as usual the site opens up my eyes to a whole new way to see the world thanks for great information.

  2. Hi LaRae,

    Fear is like a bondage to the thoughts of humans, much more harmful than the physical bondage. It is easy to break a physical bondage but very difficult to break mental or emotional bondage.

    You have rightly mentioned that visioning can help but unless and until, we have the power to create those visions, to take that first step to get rid of our fears, nothing can happen.

    Visioning our thoughts, visioning our plans and visioning our actions can let us break those fears, can liberate us and let us excel with the power and talent that might have been buried deep in us.

    Thanks for sharing your deep insights and I hope that people do get free from any kind of fears so that they can be the champions in life.

  3. Absolutely, positively, inspiring LaRae! You show us that if you put your mind to it, you can ABSOLUTELY do it. And what a perfect quote to put in from Victor Frankl. Fantastically written!

    • LaRae Quy says:

      It’s amazing what positivity can do when we intentionally apply it to our life…a great secret sauce to accomplishing the goals we set for ourselves. Thanks so much for sharing and have an awesome week!

  4. Terri Klass says:

    I love your brave story, LaRae! I too am a believer in visioning before I embark on a challenging task ahead. It is very powerful to think of the finish line and how it will look and feel. I even do this when I have a long trip and it relaxes me to just visualize arriving safely with a smile on my face.

    I am fascinated how you linked this visioning with creativity. What a wonderful idea for leaders to use when brainstorming and collaborating.

    Loved the Victor Frankl quote!

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Thanks, Terri! I have been scared to death more than once and lived to tell the story and can credit visioning to getting me through a couple of tight spots. I love that Frankl quote, too! Isn’t it just perfect?

  5. Alli Polin says:

    Incredible story from you, LaRae! Scuba before swimming! I’ve always been a good swimmer but for some reason, just the idea of scuba diving scares the heck out of me.

    The Victor Frankl quote has touched me deeply. Powerful.

    Appreciate you, LaRae!

  6. Bill Benoist says:

    Hi LaRae,

    Great post on the importance of visioning and your angle concerning how dopamine plays into this was quite educational. It’s amazing how we can alter even the chemicals within our body simply by changing our thought processes.

    I must ask, any diving expeditions in the near future for you now :–)

    • LaRae Quy says:

      Thank you, Bill! Yes, it’s amazing what our brains can do if we put our mind to it 🙂

      Haha, no more diving expeditions. I finally learned how to swim about 5 years after I was certified as a diver!

  7. LaRae Quy says:

    OMG! Our experiences were very similar because at one point during “rehearsal” I froze underwater and the instructor had to give me my oxygen mask…that’s when I started visioning exactly how I was going to be successful when it came time to be certified. Ugh, isn’t fear the absolutely worst thing in the world…one other thing, my instructor taught us that if we started to panic to look to our buddy to help us out. I did panic once during the dive down the 100 foot wall, and my husband did his job as my buddy: he simply looked me directly in the eye until I calmed down. I never knew how potent another person’s gaze could be, but the panic passed and I was able to continue my dive. Great lessons about teamwork!

  8. Karin Hurt says:

    Such a great post. What was so powerful in your story, was not just the compelling vision, “I want to be scuba certified” but envisioning the specific components of success. i’ve noticed that sometimes, that’s where vision breaks down… it’s too broad. You share a powerful example here.

    I too have a scuba story 😉

  9. Lolly Daskal says:

    Brilliant courageous post.

    I think you are one amazing woman!

    This post truly spoke to me on many levels and I love the way you brought it all together.

    And you quote my mentor and favorite, Victor Frankl all of it comes together with such force and clarity.

    Yes make visioning your next big move in life.


    • LaRae Quy says:

      HI Lolly,

      Thank you for sharing your reaction to the post. Feeling fear but moving ahead anyway takes courage. I, too, love Victor Frankl and because he was determined to survive his circumstances, he has been an inspiration for so many who have also been victims of their circumstances. Where there is life, there is hope. Have a great week.

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