V is for Visualisation
In its loosest form, visualisation is concerned with the formation of a mental image about something.
“Visualisation is daydreaming with purpose” Bo Bennett
When I first encountered the word visualisation, it was linked in with positive affirmations and other self-help techniques that use the law of attraction to manifest your dreams, but for me, visualisation is not the sometimes inauthentic 'if you can visualise it you can be or do it’ but more of a mental rehearsal of the achievable steps necessary to make progress.
“Having a mental snapshot of where you are, where you are going and what you are moving toward is incredibly powerful” Sara Blakely
When I find myself awake at night, or first thing in the morning, I use the time to mentally run through the day ahead which gives me the advantage of being able to take my time to reflect on events and activities in depth rather than just reacting in real time.
If there is something coming up that I am concerned about, this mental rehearsal also allows me to ‘zoom out’ and see the event within the bigger picture. I often find it useful, for example, to reflect on what I may be doing an hour, or a day after the activity, which helps me see that life goes on regardless and most things are insignificant in the great scheme of things and it is ‘just’ our thoughts and emotions that make our life more difficult than it needs to be at times.
“Visualise this thing that you want, see it, feel it, believe in it. Make your mental blue print and begin to build” Robert Collier
If you practice anything, you invariably improve , or what you are doing becomes easier. Visualisation is a mental practice that can make our physical practice easier.
Benefits of visualisation
“Daily I visualise the smart-ass troll who lives deep in my subconscious and I pelt him with rainbows and unicorns. I fight a battle against my judgmental thoughts” Julie Plec
Although visualisation can lead us to see all the potential pitfalls, we can reframe this by seeing it as an opportunity to become aware of areas that might require more attention, a different strategy put in place or a request for additional support and gives us the time to seek alternative solutions.
“The clearer you are when visualising your dreams, the brighter the spotlight will be to lead you on the right path” Gail Lynne Goodwin
The more accurate the visualisation, the deeper the imprint into your mind and memory which is why some visualisation techniques intentionally associate the activity to the five senses.
“Any professional athlete will tell you that the mind is everything. For me there is no shame in saying that I visualise and I meditate because it really works” Carli Lloyd
In the world of sport, dance, etc, performers create mental images of a positive or flawless performance often reflecting on past performances that were good and seeking to re-create those associated sensations of success to re-wire their brain to do the same again.
Visualisation engages the reticular activating system (RAS) – a group of neurons that act as a filtering system and helps you determine where to focus your attention and what information is or isn’t important to the specific task ahead. Visualisation creates neural patterns in your brain as if we are actually doing an activity. The nervous system in our brains is stimulated as we mentally rehearse and actively and intentionally looks for ways to support us and improve our outcomes by automatically narrowing our focus and attention to that which will help and blocks out other unnecessary distractions
Visualisation can be broadly divided into two types: outcome and process visualisation
Outcome visualisation is concerned with visualising your end goal and it is associated with feelings whereas process visualisation focuses on the actions and steps you need to employ to do things to the best of your ability, on route to your end goal.
I think that both types are made more effective when they are related to your values. Understanding your values and the meaning behind what you are doing and provides additional motivation and focus.
“Losers visualise the penalties of failure. Winners visualise the rewards of success”
Just as worst-case scenario thinking can lead to anxiety and physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, feeling shaky, sick etc, if you can appropriately visualise an activity this can lead to a sense of inner calm and confidence and a sense of well-being; almost like a positive déjà-vu.
Strangely, systematic desensitization by playing through the most awkward, embarrassing scenario we can imagine, can actually help to lessen the intensity of our worst fears and help us by giving us a bigger perspective i.e. the world isn’t going to end
Visualisation is a technique that can help you prepare for any situation. Research has shown that by visualising an event or an activity in advance, it can not only improve your mental and physical performance but can have a beneficial effect on your well-being and confidence. When you base your visualisation on your values it compounds your motivation and focus which is why it is important to
“Make sure you visualise what you really want, not what someone else wants for you”