By Adam Dudley with Diane Zakaria
In his book Power of Mental Imagery, Warren Hilton wrote, “the business man must scheme and plan and devise and foresee. He must create in imagination today the results that he is to achieve tomorrow.”
For many years, using techniques of mental imagery and visualization have been seen as powerful tools that could help you achieve your goals, whether they are in life, business or otherwise. In 1994 Marc Jeannerod, a French neurophysiologist, found that visualizing movement actually stimulates movement areas in the brain.
Terry Orlick, an author and performance consultant specializing in visualization found during research that many athletes believed that they would have succeeded earlier had they taken up strengthening their mental skills initially in their careers.
This article looks into what exactly is mental imagery and what type of people use it and why. Though a great number of athletes believe in this system, there are people from all walks of life who believe the same. There will also be techniques you can use to aid in achieving your own goals if visualization is something that you would be interested in practicing.
What is mental imagery?
William P. Anthony and others define mental imagery as “the process of visualizing pictures, events, and scenarios in the ‘mind's eye.’” In the case of using it to visualize a positive outcome, the task is simple. You pick out your aim and you imagine that you have accomplished it already. Rhonda Byrne, author of bestselling book The Secret, believes in ‘The Law Of Attraction’, which is simply that by thinking positively, we attract positive things into our lives.
We all have the skill of imagination but how can it be used to literally attain and receive the things we want in life? Isn’t it more important to do and not dream?
Matt Mayberry, writing for Entrepreneur.com describes that it is natural for our brains to only focus on all the obstacles in our way to achievement so a lot of us simply settle for what we currently have. However by continually visualizing our goal and believing that it’s possible, we train our brain to increase it’s motivation to make it happen according to Marla Tabaka.
Though if your confidence is not high, trying to imagine success can be difficult at first. But persevering with this system can be rewarding for both your goals and your confidence. In a medical paper by Coelho and others, it’s actually been found that using mental imagery reduces anxiety, which is continuously a huge obstacle in conquering our dreams.
There are different forms of visualization practices that have worked for individuals including the most popular which is simply making a “mental movie” as described in the Harvard Business Review. Others use more tangible and visual elements like vision boards or writing a $1million check to themselves for a future date for example.
Who uses it?
In the past, it has been most common for athletes to use mental imagery and visualization as part of their training techniques for events like the Olympics. For example, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Muhammad Ali have stated that visualization has been essential to their careers. I used similar techniques in college while training in martial arts and saw significant results, which included achieving his highest performance ever in competition.
It’s not just athletes who use these methods. Terry Orlick has worked with many different people including surgeons, musicians, pilots, dancers, astronauts and CEOs who have all applied this skill. Before Jim Carrey became famous, in 1990 he wrote himself a $10million check dated for 1995. By that year he was starring in a number of successful films and was making $20million per picture.
In the business sector, Dr. Lynn Joseph discovered during her Job-Loss Recovery study that “guided mental imagery CAN shorten job-loss periods for out-of-work professionals by as much as 50% (from 4 months to 2 months)”.
So how can you use mental imagery and visualization in your life or business?
Tips to visualize and achieve your goal
1. Identify your goal. And be specific.
Your goal must always be clear, otherwise how can you achieve it? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian psychologist believes in ‘flow’, also known being ‘in the zone’. He argues that flow doesn’t tend to happen in your day job because “the goals of one’s job are not clear…the individual worker may not see where their individual task fits in”. If you don’t know what the point of your daily tasks are then achieving the overall goal can be difficult.
Be as specific with your objective as you can. Put a number or a deadline on it. I’m going to make $1million a year in my new business by December 31st 2018. That’s specific. It also allows you to be able to figure out the steps to it a lot easier.
2. Find images that match
Once you’ve specified your aim, you need to find images to visualize. You can either just use your imagination or you can use the Internet and magazines to find images that both represent your achieved goal and also the different paths to it. For example, “if you’re struggling with a skill, imagine performing it perfectly and confidently” says Debra Melani.
It’s these images that will serve as a map for your brain to aid in the journey to reaching your target. They should be motivating and as specific as possible.
3. Visualize daily
For 5 – 15 minutes daily, find a quiet place, close your eyes and relax. Imagine the exact scenario of how you achieve your goal. Don’t forget to include everything, right down to location, people around, sights, smells, what you’re wearing and most importantly, how you feel.
It’s important that this is performed regularly. Terry Orlick found during one of his research projects that if this practice is done daily then participants gain a stronger control of their mental imagery as time goes on.
4. Monitor your success
Evaluation is always an important factor of any journey to attaining a vision. In his ‘Wheel of Excellence’, Terry Orlick declares that, “You can draw inspiration, confidence and joy from reflecting on positive experiences and personal highlights.” It also allows you to see what you did right, did incorrectly and what you can improve on in the future to make sure that you climb to the top faster.
So whether you think that mental imagery and visualization are practices that would aid you in achieving your goals or not, you cannot deny the results of other people. It’s definitely worth a try if it means a chance of accomplishing your dreams for your business and your life.
Of course there are people out there who believe that mental imagery is all garbage and that you get more results from doing rather than visualizing. Though alone it may not guarantee success, when combined with sheer drive and perseverance, it can be a powerful tool.
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Adam Dudley is an author, coach, mentor, and consultant. He writes. He mentors. He adventures. Explore, learn, grow, repeat.
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