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The Value of Visualisation

Visualisation is one of the primary technologies used in sports psychology. In sport, we recognise that, “What happens out there is a result of what happens in here”. In simple terms, this means your performance is often the result of what’s happening inside your head, or more specifically the movies and soundtracks playing inside your head.

But when it comes to life and business, it seems the connection between "Out there" and "In Here" is lost. Performance is more complex, extends outside the arena (to home and garden) and has so many bipolar influences we can easily forget the value of visualisation.

Tip 1 – Plant flowers where you pull out weeds.

Be proactive in visualisation. When your mind is still fresh and open to the day, plant flowers - visualise your future outcomes that make your heart sing. Do it at the same time each day if possible and first thing in the morning as close to waking as possible is ideal. This is because the mind is still slightly lucid at this time, which makes it easier to conjure up images.

Tip 2 – Aim High

Creative types often over shoot their ideals, business logicians often undershoot. Getting your visualisation on target is not so much a game of getting it right but more about visualising what would make your heart sing if you achieved it in the future. It's a wish, a dream that doesn't push back on you in the form of self talk like "impossible" or "that's total bull****" - we don't want push back like that but we must aim higher than reality would normally allow.

Tip 3 – Shift perspective

Let’s do a quick exercise. In a moment I’ll ask you to close your eyes, and take your awareness to your breath. Trace the movement of the breath through your body. If possible follow it all the way to your belly, and then back up, releasing any tension as you go. With each breath you relax a little more. As you continue to relax, bring up an image of you in the sporting arena, competing. Where is this competition being held at? Who are you competing against? See if you can involve all the senses. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? Go a little deeper. What do you smell? Play around with this image of yourself. See yourself performing at your very best. Give yourself permission to dream, to push your current boundaries. Ok, so once you’ve done this and feel like you’ve really completely connected to this vision, read on.

When you saw yourself performing, what was the vision of yourself like? Was it as though you were watching yourself on a TV screen, essentially seeing your entire body as well as everything around you? Or was it more like you were looking out from your body, seeing things exactly as you would if you were there for real? Maybe you flicked between these two perspectives. We refer to these perspectives as being disassociated (the first one) and being associated (the second one). Generally people have a preference one way or the other. Sometimes their preferences may change, depending on the goal of the visualization, which is actually a skill you want to develop.

It is commonly accepted that being associated in visualization (looking out from your body just as you would if you were really there) is the more powerful of the two perspectives. Being associated helps you connect to the feeling of the visualization, which as you’ll see shortly is critically important. However, being disassociated also has some really valuable uses. As an example, in gymnastics or diving, it can be useful for an athlete to disassociate from the visualization to better understand the nuances of how their body looks when they move. Other useful times to disassociate include working through a painful experience to gain wisdom from it, or in the initial stages of visualizing a performance that is completely outside your current reality. The key is, play around with being both associated and disassociated and find out what works best for you.

Tip 4 – Be There - Expand the Now

The visualization is important, but what’s even more important is the feeling it creates inside of you. A visualization without feeling is like a car without fuel. Feelings lead to enthusiasm and enthusiasm is the fuel of your performance. Create powerful enthusiasm and you’ll create powerful performance states. Based on this, a huge key to visualisation is being in the winning experience, or in other words increasing the intensity of your visualisation.

Try to be in the experience rather than describe it. As we've said with self talk it works better if you and talking to you as an outsider so see yourself, and then experience the tastes, colours, smells, sights and feelings of being there. See the people around you being happy for you. Know that this is what you deserve and rather than wish for it, feel yourself getting what you want. Be there, now.

Tip 5 – Follow a system

If you're waiting to see it to believe it you'll be waiting a very very long long time" Chris Walker

Make it a little ritual. Maybe light a candle or incense or have a cuppa tea while you do it. Make it a fixed time. Commit to doing it seven days a week for everyday of the year. Have a script in front of you, I believe the best to be the VIP goal visualisation sheet where you can either write or draw your future in each of the seven areas of life surrounded by a college of trigger pictures that send you to the place you visualise. I wouldn't close my eyes, it makes different parts of your brain work. I'd have visual triggers like the pictures, words and even small icons to take you there. I'll show you mine in the next post. In the meantime, give visualisation a try. Every elite athlete on earth practices it. And it works. So what about for you, your business sport, life spirit and love?

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