How to Visualize Success: David Goggins’ Advice

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Can't Hurt Me" by David Goggins. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How do you visualize success? Why is it so important to visualize achieving your goals?

In order to achieve his goals, David Goggins began by learning how to visualize success. This gave him the strength to continue and keep making plans.

Read more about how to visualize success?

How Can You Visualize Success?

Visualizing the obstacles in your way and how achieving your goal will feel helps you keep going and address obstacles as they arise. 

Goggins discusses taking a break from SEAL training to recover from an injury and how he used this visualization technique to push through intense physical pain once he returned. Here’s how he suggests you visualize success.

Leaving SEAL Training

In addition to the double pneumonia Goggins developed during his first round of Hell Week, he developed a severe knee injury. Though he wanted to continue training, the injury—a broken kneecap—wasn’t healing quickly enough, so he went home to Indianapolis to recover.

Because it was only an injury, he’d be allowed to return, but he’d be required to do Hell Week training for a third time. And if he survived, he’d need to train for another 6 months to become a SEAL. 

While he spent time recovering, he learned that he would be becoming a father with his ex-wife, whom he had recently divorced. He felt unready and unsure of how to meld his life in Indiana with training to become a SEAL in California.

Though he considered quitting, he thought it would be a bigger failure to give up SEAL training than to try one more time and fail.

He decided to continue with training, remarry his wife, and move with her and his stepdaughter to California while he attempted to complete the training. While he was taking a break, he worked on how to visualize success.

Hitting the Ground Running

Goggins survived his third Hell Week, but he developed small fractures in both of his shins. SEAL training involved running up to 60 miles per week. He’d need a strategy to survive the remainder of the term. He started taping his shins to be able to do the run with less pain.

When he’d start to doubt himself, he’d give himself talks of encouragement—saying that the only guaranteed way to fail is to quit, and championing his personal strength for pushing through on broken legs. He also visualized how accomplished he’d feel when he completed training. He still felt pain periodically during the day, but speaking to himself like this mobilized the energy he needed to keep going. He graduated training and felt motivated to continue defying the odds completing the world’s toughest challenges.

Take Action: Visualize Success

Practice visualizing your obstacles and successes with these three steps:

1. Visualize a challenge or obstacle you need to overcome. Think about what it will look like and feel like when you do. For example, if you’re preparing to give a presentation and are nervous about answering questions at the end, visualize yourself answering with confidence.

2. Anticipate difficulty. There will be moments when working toward your goal feels impossible and you want to quit. You may doubt your abilities, struggle to make time to improve your skills, or question why you’re working toward this goal. Think about the obstacles you may face ahead of time and develop a plan to address them. 

For example, if you’re struggling to train for a marathon and don’t have a clear answer for why you’re doing it, it’s too easy to say, “I don’t know” and give up. Instead, develop a clear answer as to why you’re working toward your goal to remind and motivate yourself to keep going. 

3. (Optional) Share your story about how you’ve used this technique to overcome obstacles on social media with the hashtags #armoredmind and #canthurtme.

With David Goggins’ strategies in mind, you can begin to visualize success and take a step toward achieving your goals.

How to Visualize Success: David Goggins’ Advice

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Here's what you'll find in our full Can't Hurt Me summary:

  • What a Navy SEAL says about pushing yourself to achieve greatness
  • How to put in more effort to realize your potential
  • The 10 challenges you can take on to reach your goals

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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