It’s not just for daydreamers. Professional athletes do it. Public speakers do it. I bet you’ve done it once or twice.
Visualization. One powerful tool for achieving success in the future.
Happy Sunny Day, CASS friends!
Have you ever had to have a serious and sensitive discussion with someone and worried about it going well? Have you been asked to give a speech at a wedding or a meeting and started perspiring just at the thought of it? Have you played a sport with enthusiasm and ended up with the opportunity to compete for first place? Coping with the mental and emotional stress of performing in front of an audience (of one or thousands) can be difficult, and can effect your physical performance. It is well known that the body affects the mind and the mind effects the body. So how can training the mind through visualization help enhance our physical performance?
Visualizing success is all about intentionally imagining yourself successfully performing an activity in the future. It requires time, patience, and attention to detail. The idea is to imagine yourself immersed in the future activity in as much detail as possible, using all your senses. Imagining what you would see (colors, objects, people), what you would smell around you, what you would feel (against your skin), what you would hear (from yourself, others and objects) and what you would taste – allows you to fully immerse in the image in your mind. Then, imagining yourself executing the desired activity moment-by-moment-by-moment, detail-by-detail-by-detail at the level of success you desire. If visualizing successful performance proves a bit difficult, imagine yourself coming to the part that causes you mental and/or emotional stress, acknowledge the stressful emotion, and then imagine implementing a coping strategy, like taking a deep breath or saying a positive affirmation, before you move through to visualizing yourself successfully performing the skill or activity. Doing this regularly and consistently over a period of time up to the point of the real-life performance, competition, or activity can increase your likelihood of success.
Visualization is so powerful, I think, because it incorporates two very important components to success. First, it’s mental practice. To the degree you are able to imagine every detail in the environment, in your body, and in your mental performance of the activity, your brain is able to memorize, plan, organize, and prepare for successful real-life performance.
Visualizing your successful performance of a skill is also an intentional focus on the positive. Focusing on the positive – and especially on your own achievements – produces feel-good hormones in the brain that relax and calm you – boosting your ability to perform successfully under stressful circumstances.
I’ve used visualization in a few areas of my life, and I’ve used it to a degree during this pandemic. I’ve used it when my anxiety is high around visiting familiar places that have new, unfamiliar safety protocols. I imagine myself, in as much detail as I have available, in the environment, carrying out the sanitization, social distancing, and masking protocols while performing my task. I include visualizing myself feeling confident and using self-compassion to move through any unexpected glitches to get to successful completion of the task.
A colleague of ours also uses visualization to imagine herself on the other side of this pandemic. She imagines herself at the Folk Festival, listening to the music, breathing in the fresh air, dancing on the grass, and feeling the freedom of being able to once again gather with fellow music lovers. Imagine that!