Visceral descriptions = visualization maps.
It’s really cool that by simply reading words we can be led to a certain time and place that exists solely in our minds. And even more interestingly, it’s a time and place where all our senses are engaged, where we can be led to smell actual smells and feel actual feelings. When I wrote about the hunt of the 800m, I was physically as nervous as I ever have been, and my heart was fit to pound into oblivion. I’m a firm believer that these thought experiences affect us just as much as physical experiences – “us” meaning our physical bodies as well as our future thoughts, and sense of self in general. So while our bodies become fatigued from an intense physical workout, there is a whole other world of opportunity within ourselves where we can develop and test skills, and gather experience.
I came across an interesting TED video about a subset of motor neurons that fire when we simply watch somebody perform an action. In this video, VS Ramachandran asserts that these “mirror neurons” are responsible for our ability to learn by watching, ultimately resulting in the relatively recent massive advancement of human civilization. If you haven’t heard of TED, browse through some of the highlighted talks and you are sure to find something that interests you. One of my goals in life is to get a standing ovation equal in enthusiasm to the ovations in some of these videos!
It does take some effort to sit down and fully immerse yourself in a situation that you create for yourself. I suppose it may very well be a form of meditation. But the rewards are well worth the effort. I think the largest part of achieving a dream is first believing that achieving it is possible. Once that belief is in place, opportunities that fly by us all the time – chance meetings and random coincidences – are able to be recognized as what they are: means to climbing another step in the staircase to our dream.
Being able to visualize the achievement of a dream, in all it’s glory and fine detail, just about necessitates holding the belief that the dream is possible. For instance, if I can visualize finishing an 800m race with no bear on my back, with my knees coming up in front of me, my heels coming up under my butt, a hint of a smile on my lips, then I must believe that the experience is possible. Further, when you come upon an obstacle in this mental world, you can rewind, swivel around the issue to get a look from all angles, move forward in slow motion, applying knowledge and discovering solutions as you go. Amazing advancements to your dream ensue!
Here are a couple tips that I’ve found helpful in visualizing. Also, maps (merely a tool to visualize) can be written out like my descriptions of the track event or be actual pictures gleaned from magazines or sources online. Keep in mind these are based on my experience only…I am not a psychologist!!
- Intense focus: It is easy to let your mind find a tangent and run with it. When this happens, undesirable events, like falling in a race or feeling tired, may come forward. Intense focus on what you desire to experience (joy, success, completion of a certain skill) needs to be maintained. The more practice at visualizing, the easier it is to stay on task and the longer you can hold focus.
- Emotion: As I mentioned in a previous post, the most important aspect to consider, and personally the easiest one to visualize, is the emotion or atmosphere you desire. The technical details of performing an action perfectly fall secondary to the wonderful feeling of succeeding and doing it right.
- Intent: Actions we take have as much meaning as we give them. If we visualize with the intent or expectation of it assisting us, and further if we act within our visualizations with this intent, all will contribute to achievement of our goals.
- Confidence: Along the lines of intent, you must be confident that the actions you take will have the intended results. If you intend on doing a specific running drill to get faster, but you believe that you’re at the mercy of external circumstances (the actions of others or some mysterious fate), your dreams will likely remain far off. You must be confident that you control everything in your life (the good and the not so good) and that your intended actions have meaning.
- Detail: Finally, visualize in as much detail as humanly possible. First, rope in detail of the desired emotions, and further the detail of everything else: what you see, hear, smell, touch, taste. Imagine as vividly as possible what it feels like to already have that dream achieved.
So, in summary, choose what you want to achieve, engaging focus, emotion, intent, confidence, and detail when you visualize yourself achieving it, believe in the possibility of what you’re visualizing, then simply seize the opportunities flying your way!