Visualisation techniques have been scientifically proven to improve performances. One reason is that your body cannot tell the difference between a real experience and a vividly imagined one. However, there are some tips that ensure you are doing it correctly.
I was coaching a client this week who was finding it difficult to imagine himself having achieved his goal and connecting with the feeling of accomplishment. Firstly, he couldn’t make a clear picture of what he wanted. Secondly, he couldn’t connect with a positive feeling to make the goal more inspirational. Lastly, he was getting frustrated and felt that visualisation wouldn’t work for him. In the words of Einstein:
“What you can imagine you can create”
Or, can you?
The goal wasn’t really that important
While coaching my client, we discovered the goal he was focusing on wasn’t really the critical goal for him. One of his goals was to work with his ideal client. I suggested he imagine himself at the completion of a job. He was shaking hands with the client who was smiling. This represents a happy client and in return, being paid handsomely. However, he was struggling to see this.
Upon drilling down, he said that he always shakes his client’s hands at the end of the job anyway. With some unpacking, we drilled down to his real driving goal which involved his family and his relationship with them. As his family is his most important value, even though he loved his work, it was really a stepping stone for something more important. The quality time he could spend with his family and the potential holidays. This was a key reason visualisation wasn’t working for him.
From here, visualisation became easier. Furthermore, he could stand in the moment he knew he had achieved his goal and connect with the driving feeling. So, even though visualisation and mental rehearsal can boost your results, you do need to have a clear purpose and drive for achieving what it is you say you want.
You can use visualisation for sporting and business success
Research has proven that imagery activates neural and behavioural responses similar to the genuine experience. Imagined activity activates the very same neural pathways that real activity does. The circuitry is primed and this causes small, subliminal motor movements in the specific muscles used in that activity. Furthermore, biofeedback technology has shown that visualisation can alter blood pressure, heart rate, body temperature and a range of other body functions.
This means that as well as for improving sporting performances you can use visualisation or mental rehearsal for your business success. Specifically for rehearsing and training your thoughts. As your thoughts influence your feelings and behaviours, by focusing on them matching, you can imagine yourself being successful at important meetings or interviews. These are key ingredients of a mindset for success.
Then you can rehearse exactly how you will show up and perform. What you will be seeing, hearing, thinking, feeling and doing. You can literally sculpt your future. Coupled with this is a fundamental truth from neuroscience. You are what you give your attention to. If you are mindful about what and how you focus, results improve.
However, just like anything, visualisation and mental rehearsal is a skill that needs to be practised regularly to ensure you create your ideal performance and achieve your goals.
Here are a few tips to help you master the skill of visualisation.
- First, decide exactly what you want and why. Please make sure it excites you or at the very least causes you to feel expansive about the outcome.
- Pay attention to the details in the image you create. Visualisation is a skill that needs practice and care in reviewing its effectiveness. The precise details need to be correct. If you want a meeting to go well for both parties make sure you are smiling and your body language matches a positive demeanour. Likewise for the other people. See them with smiling faces and with a relaxed positive outlook.
- It is essential to ensure your language is positive. Your brain doesn’t process negative language without introducing the very thing you do not want to see or do. ‘Don’t make a mistake.’ Or ‘Don’t say the wrong thing’ are introducing precisely what you don’t want. Focus on words that are towards the outcome or goal that you desire.
Connecting with positive feelings are a critical step
- While visualising is important, kinaesthetic imagery is vital. This is the difference between just visualising and embracing mental full mental rehearsal. Connecting with positive feelings, such as joy, happiness, or pride will help improve this technique. If you are visualising a performance, whether on the field or in the boardroom, you may like to consider calling to mind the physical sensations. These include muscle tension or rapid heart rate if you are excited or nervous. It might also include an awareness of where you are standing or sitting. How you are moving or holding your body. The more senses you include, the greater the activation of motor-processing brain structures than just visualising alone. It helps lock in the feeling into your body, taking it beyond just an image in your mind.
- Motivation to practice is a key part of successful imagery practice. Just as my client presumed he was no good at visualisation and was getting frustrated, he was not motivated to keep trying. Make sure you have a compelling reason to practice.
- Consistency is critical. All change requires consistent practice and commitment to the path. Without this, you will not create the results you wish to experience.
Physical practice combined with visualisation will boost your results
- Remember, the brain changes that occur when you learn a new skill are also happening when you imagine them, resulting in real physical learning and development of that imagined skill. If you want to improve your public speaking or presentations, then physically practising them as well as visualising them will skyrocket your potential successes.
- While research has shown that visualising alone can improve performance, it doesn’t mean you can sit on the couch every night and imagine yourself working out at the gym, and in a short time, you will be fit, healthy and slender. Physical movement and action is always a key ingredient at any level of success. Finally, put the two together and you have a recipe for superior success.
Now the only question left, is what areas of your business could you embrace some mental rehearsal for your goals and performances at work?
About the author
Mandy Napier BSC (Sunshine Coast, Australia) is a Global Mindset & Performance Coach who coaches people to P.E.R.F.O.R.M optimally and produce breakthrough results personally and professionally. Ultimately to tap into and harness their full potential. As an authentic, and inspirational coach and speaker, she partners with professionals and teams to create transformations and lasting results.
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