You Can Use the Power of Visualization

Jimmy is giving a presentation to senior management on Thursday about his ideas for a new marketing campaign. He is feeling pretty comfortable about it, even though he got sick before his last presentation and spent half an hour in the bathroom with severe stomach issues due to the anxiety he had about speaking in front of others and nearly missed the meeting.

Visualization is the art of projecting your success into the future. You are imagining yourself achieving your goals and overcoming any difficulties along the way. Athletes use this mental technique to conquer obstacles, see themselves using perfect form, and simulate their performances.

Top executives use visualization to understand what challenges lie ahead and how to overcome them. They may also use the technique to consider how to achieve their KPI or goals for growing their company’s bottom line.

A 1980s study conducted by Dr. Biasiotto at the University of Chicago had three groups of students shoot free throws. The first group practiced for an hour every day for a month, the second only visualized making free throws, and the third group did nothing. After 30 days, the improvement in the first two groups was virtually the same (24% improvement for those that practiced, and 23% for the students that only visualized). The third group showed no improvement. Can you imagine what results they would have achieved if they had done both practice and visualization!?

In her Tedx Talk, Fitness Instructor Ashanti Johnson explained how she visualized a parking lot full of cars belonging to the customers of her soon-to-be-launched fitness program. With hard work and through a mountain of adversity, she was able to build a business that helped her clients shed a combined 20,000 pounds and filled the fitness center’s parking lot with customers, just as she had imagined.

Learning to use our mind as an ally can be one of the greatest gifts we learn through sport.

If you don’t have much experience with visualization, start with imagining the outcome of your efforts as Ashanti did. See the audience clapping for you as you wrap up your presentation, or crossing the finish line first while a stadium full of spectators cheer you on.

As you develop your skills, start to envision yourself in the activity. If you were Jimmy, maybe you are effortlessly answering questions, or smoothly moving from point to point in your presentation. Imagine yourself saying the words or overcoming the issue. Whatever it is that you want to achieve, act as if you are there in the moment.

Then a funny thing will happen… You will confuse your brain, and it will believe you have already achieved what you have visualized. This will not only sharpen your skills and progress, as it did for the basketball players but also quiet hypercritical thoughts that can sabotage your progress.

Here is an easy exercise that I do every night as I continue my entrepreneurial journey and you can do i, too. Before you go to sleep, imagine yourself achieving your goals. Be in the place, see the surroundings, conjure up the feelings, the smells, and even the taste.

If you are doing a sport for example, you may taste your salty sweat and feel the hugs of your teammates after winning the game. I often place myself on the balcony of a high-rise apartment, taking in the view of Yokohama Bay and sipping a peaty whisky as I reflect on what it took to get there.

If you are performance-focused, see yourself working through the event in as much detail as possible. I imagine changing the slides in a presentation and what I would say. But not just that, I see the room, the people in the room, and the expressions on their faces. I envision myself perceiving a troubled face in the audience and asking them if they have a question, then answering to their satisfaction, and the concern turning to a smile. This is a good exercise to do in the morning or when you are faced with a dilemma as well.

Jimmy learned these visualizing techniques. Instead of being nervous during his presentation on Thursday, he perfected his performance through dozens of imaginary presentations (and several rehearsals as well). He is feeling confident, ready to answer any question, and smoothly gliding through the material with the confidence of someone who has been in the situation hundreds of times before and crushed it every time.

Visualization can help you to have more success too. Start broad and continue to work on the image until you see yourself effortlessly achieving your goals. Soon, you will be doing the same in real life, too.

Sources / More Information:

Image credit – Yokohama Bay
Photo by Nagatoshi Shimamura on Unsplash

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Feeling Stressed Out? Get Back to Nature

forest

It’s easy to get absorbed in the day to day of your life. You get up, go to work, come home, do your evening routine, and then it’s time for bed. Do this over and over, and soon you’ll feel as if you’re just a cog in the machine. This is amplified when the view from your window is a concrete jungle, your commute is typified by trains packed to the breaking point or traffic jams that go on for hours. There must be an escape from that insanity, a way to be more connected and alive.

No matter where you live, there’s most likely nature nearby. Getting out into nature provides an opportunity to recharge your batteries and ease your nerves. In fact, there are so many benefits to getting out in nature that making it a part of your weekly routine is essential to creating and maintaining good mental health.

Getting yourself out into nature will help you to refocus, relax and realign yourself to who you are and your greater purpose. After all, you are more than just a cog in the machine that gets a day or two of rest before you have to go out and do it all over again.


According to a 2019 study by Matthew White, getting out in nature for as little as a couple of hours each week can have powerful health benefits. Those benefits include: reduced stress and anxiety, better physical and mental health, and increased cognitive power. No special skills required. Just get outside and experience nature around you.


About 10 years before this study came out, I produced a video podcast called Relaxation Media. The purpose of these video programs was to give the viewer a few minutes of calming nature on their smartphone or computer and to simulate the feel of being out in nature. I believed then, as I do now that experiencing nature even virtually, has healing qualities. The podcast ended up becoming the #1 video podcast for wellness worldwide with thousands of downloads of each episode.


Today you can put on a pair of VR goggles and become immersed in a nature experience that’s so realistic your brain will actually believe you are outside. While this is a good way to reset, it’s even better to physically explore nature in your own area. Smell the trees, the grass, and the flowers. Hear the different bird calls and the gently flowing stream, if your park or recreational area has one. Even watching people play with their dogs and children will help to bring about a feeling of serenity.


Here are seven activities you can do to touch nature regularly:
1. Mindful Observation
Sit on a bench or somewhere that you can be still for some time. Then, just watch your surroundings. Listen to the sounds and tune into the smells around you. Experience it all. You don’t need to analyze or think about anything. Just be in the moment, a living part of the habitat. Breath deeply and feel.


At first, this will be extremely difficult. You may be able to mindfully observe your surroundings for only a few moments before reaching for your phone, wanting to take a picture, or otherwise disengage from the situation. Keep practicing and soon you’ll be focusing for 5, 10, 20, even 30-minutes at a time, just you and the nature surrounding you.


As I was sitting on a bench one afternoon, three lizards, a large spider, a centipede, and five different kinds of birds all stopped by to visit. These are things I never would have experienced if I’d had my face in my phone or been walking. Sitting still and letting nature come to you will reveal pleasant surprises.


2. Blind Emersion
For this exercise, close your eyes and let your other senses guide your experience. What do you hear? Is it approaching or receding? Which way is the wind blowing? How does the air smell? Touch the ground and just experience it, don’t label it. Just feel. This heightening of the senses brings me back to simpler days of playing in the park and letting my imagination run free. I hope it does the same for you.


3. Forest Bathing (Shinrin-Yoku)
In this Japanese practice, all you need to do is take a walk in nature and immerse yourself in the environment. Notice the terrain, plants, and wildlife you encounter as you walk. As above, soon you’ll have a sense that you’re connected to the environment surrounding you. That feeling provides both power and serenity.


4. Explore A New Natural Area Near You
If you are well acquainted with one park or natural area near you, look for another one that is close by. Set a date and time to explore this new area. That can make it feel like you’re going on a new adventure. What’s even better, if you have a friend that also likes being out in nature arrange to meet them there. Then you can enjoy the outdoors together. This is a great opportunity to strengthen your bond.


5. Sketch
Regardless of your artistic ability, sketching requires you to really observe your subject to capture its essence on paper. Whether you sketch the landscape, or the grass under your feet. Drawing your experience will help you to connect to nature t and experience a personal relationship with it.


6. Journal about your outdoor experiences
If you don’t like sketching, you can also do a bulleted journal about what you’re observing in your outdoor environment. How do you feel when you’re outside? What animals, insects, plants are you seeing? Are you seeing any people regularly? You may be inspired to write poetry or explore other creative outlets while you’re in nature too. Many of the greatest poets, writers and musical artists throughout history were inspired by nature.


7. Observation Over Time
If you visit the same spot on a regular basis, you’ll begin to recognize subtle changes. Noticing the differences from month to month and season to season is an experience you’ll carry with you. That recognizable ambiance is something that you can recall through meditation whenever you need mental or emotional realignment.


Tying it all together
Touching nature will increase your peace of mind, and it only takes a few minutes a day to engage with your surroundings. Whether you head to nearby open spaces or out to your own backyard, taking some time to connect with nature will help you to understand yourself and your environment in ways that are engaging and empowering.

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