There’s More to Effective Visualization than Meets the Eye

If you were going to bake a cake from scratch, would you try and do it without the help of a recipe? Would you try to make it using just the ingredients you already have on hand? Or would you go out and get all of the necessary ingredients? If you really want to make a cake that turns out well, chances are you would use both a recipe, and all of the necessary ingredients.

Similarly, if you were going to paint the outside of your house, chances are you would not simply buy some cans of paint and some brushes and start painting. If you want it to look good, and last a long time, you would probably learn all the steps necessary to prepare the house (such as power washing, scraping, sanding and priming) before you start applying the paint.

Many athletes are singing the praises of visualization, and on the surface this is a very good thing. However, when a well meaning athlete like Russell Wilson talked about how he visualizes before every game, kids all over country started to visualize without proper instruction. Not only is this less effective than what I imagine Russell Wilson is doing, it also creates bad habits that may be hard to break.

If you want to become a baker and your favorite baker says he bakes cakes from scratch, I imagine that you would not just start baking a cake. You would probably research the steps necessary to bake a cake from scratch and then go about putting the knowledge you acquired to use; just as you would follow a similar process before you start painting a house.

So why do kids visualize without any research or preparation? I think it is because they think they already know how to do it. We have all day-dreamed and or pictured our lives the way we’d imagine they’d be if certain things happened and we naturally assume that is all there is to it.

Unfortunately, most things take more work than we think they will at first glance, and benefitting from visualization is no exception. It’s important not to jump ahead before you have mastered each step in the visualization process. As Taylor Swift said “One thing I’ve tried to never do is have wish lists. I try to have a very steppingstone mentality about this whole thing, where as soon as you make one step you visualize the next step, not five steps ahead.”

There are different aspects of visualization that I use with different clients depending on where they are in their overall development. However, certain elements must be in place if you want to get as much as you can out of your visualizations. First, you must practice fundamental visualization that has nothing to do with your sport or endeavor to learn how to activate all of your senses when visualizing. Effective visualization entails way more than seeing the action, you need to hear the sounds, feel the emotions, smell the smells, etc.

Once you have the fundamentals down, you can enhance each visualization session by going through a proper progressive relaxation immediately beforehand. There are many ways to visualize, and different people benefit from different types of visualizations.

It’s a good idea to write out some of your early visualizations and record them for playback as you begin to apply your skills to the sport or endeavor of your choice. Make sure you include these three parts: 1. Your pre-competition routine. 2. The actual competition. 3. Your post competition routine, cool down etc.

If you approach your visualizations using the above process and build on them step by step, you are likely to find yourself going deeper into them over time and thus getting more benefit from them. You will also probably enjoy doing them more too.

‘We see people have success after they put in a lot of work we never see.’


You can follow Sam on Twitter @SuperTaoInc


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