The Online Collins English Dictionary explains the meaning of visualisation in a nutshell - the act or an instance of visualising; or, a technique involving focusing on positive mental images in order to achieve a particular goal.
WE ALL have the capacity to visualise and to use visualisation as a tool from our toolbox for achieving our goals. You have a strong history of visualisation . . . you do!! Except you might call it daydreaming or being "off with the fairies." Everyday your mind is full of images, of expectations, of unfulfilled futures. The Buddhists call this kind of mental chaos "monkey mind." For Buddhists, to calm this "monkey mind" they use meditation - think of this, visualisation is a kind of meditation. (That is to say, like Buddhist meditation, visualisation is a focused event . . . however, unlike Buddhists meditation focus on nothingness or the breath, visualisation is focused on a particular event, moment, race, speech, meeting . . . you get the picture!).
There are many schools of thought on visualisation and at the end of this post I will give you some links so you can explore further . . . but this post will give you a little insight into my process and results that I have achieved. So, do you have a cup of tea on hand, a notebook to jot down ideas? Settled? Right, let's go.
As an elite athlete I had many tools in my toolbox of elite kit! One of the more subtle, but extremely helpful tools was (and still is) visualisation. I used visualisation as a way to build my "perfect" race. Sure, I had to train hard, eat well, compete fast, but without visualisation, the motivation, the specificity of the race, the muscle memory would not have been there.
1. GOAL - to visualise you have to set yourself a goal. Write down what it is you want to achieve, be specific: when, where, what, how, and who. (For me my goal was the 2000 Paralympics - I knew the date, where it was going to be, what it would feel like to race, how I would react, and who this would all happen in front of . . . my family and friends.)
2. CREATE - This is the fun bit!! Think of your goal and make it as real as you can. Sit or lay comfortably, close your eyes and see the imagery appear in your minds eye. Take control of the visualisation - don't let your mind wander - FOCUS!! See what you want to achieve, feel all that is tangible in the imagery, i.e., smell the smells, feel the breeze, hear the voices, FEEL. Take the visualisation through to the end, to you achieving your goal. It can take however long it needs to take, and be as specific as possible. Do this visualisation multiple times, over hours, days, weeks, months, and even years; until your goal is reached. (Visualising my goal of swimming at the 2000 Paralympics I could see my parents in the crowd, I could feel the scratchiness of the diving block under my feet, I could taste the chlorine in the water and I could hear the roar of the crowd. When it came to actually being there, it felt so familiar already, I was mentally and physically prepared.)
3. SUMMIT - Your goal may be short-term or long-term, but visualising up to achieving that goal can keep you motivated, excited, confident, and positive. Visualisation is meant to be done regularly, don't slacken off, and don't think that just visualising will help you reach your goal . . . remember it is just one of many tools. I reached my goal of competing in the 2000 Paralympic Games, and now I use visualisation as a tool in my toolbox for motivational speaking. Visualisation is cheap (literally free!!), easily mastered, and the best tool for motivating and confidence.
Of course, my way is my way and there are many different opinions about what visualisation is and how it can be utilised. Here are some links to check out -
Developing Mental Imagery Skills
Meditation Visualisation Techniques
Anxiety Visualisation That Stops Anxiety
Mental Imagery Visualisation
Seems a lot of you want to learn from the Olympians and Paralympians? I don't blame you, they are a pretty special bunch of people with good habits that can be transferred to any aspect of your life. So whether your a sporty person, a business person, a student, or a family man/woman, you can learn great lessons from these elite athletes.
Today I am looking at the aspects of the Olympians and Paralympians that start with the letter "V". I chose the letter "V" because I have been doing a lot of thinking about visualisation lately. You see, visualisation is a tool that I used when I was a Paralympian and it is something that I still do now, for all aspects of my life. We will not only be looking at Visualisation, but also Vitality and Vivacity.
As an elite athlete we were taught to spend a significant amount of time visualising our races. This technique was primarily used to create muscle memory. By swimming the race over and over in our minds the way we wanted to swim it, when it actually came time to race our muscles, our bodies would know what to do. Of course, visualisation also created motivation conditions, allowing us to live our perfect race moment and therefore inspiring us in training and racing. As you can see, visualisation is all encompassing in its affectivity. Those at the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012 would have visualisation in their arsenal of habits that make them elite. You can use it to . . . but I bet you are wondering how? I will go a little more indepth with visualising in my next blog post, but here's a quick exercise - Sit or lay down comfortably, shut your eyes and calm your breathing. Let the image of what you want to achieve appear in your mind - see everything, smell, touch, and taste everything. Start to do your activity/race/event how YOU want it to go. Focus on what it feels like, both physically and mentally. Remember you are in control!! When you have completed the visualisation do it again, or get up and get on with your day!!! Feel motivated and inspired to achieve your goal.
I am sure you have noticed the Olympians as they walk around the venues, race, relax, hang out, prepare, eat, even sleep, I dare say (though, you probably haven't actually seen them sleep - have you? lol). There is something that exudes from them, it is always there and it is a testament to both their physical and mental health. They have a vitality about them - they seem to sparkle with it, this essence of power and confidence, and it is driven by a meaningful purpose. The Olympians purpose is fairly obvious, they are at the Olympics to compete at their physical best, but this vitality, this purpose, is apparent in every aspect of their lives. Through enthusiasm and constant growth, vitality gets them through the even toughest of times. Do you strive to live a life full of vitality? Do you know how to develop vitality in your own life? Visualisation can help to cultivate vitality! Remember, this is your one and only chance at life, live it to your best, live it with purpose, live it with absolute meaning and you will live a life full of vitality.
A close sibling of Vitality, Vivacity is about excitement, exuberance, and animation. For me, vivacity is having the ability to celebrate openly your achievements, to let your emotions be a part of the experience of life. You will notice that Olympians and Paralympians don't hold back their emotions - a perfect example is the winner of the 400m Hurdles, Felix Sanchez. On the podium receiving his gold, Sanchez broke down (or broke up??), he was so happy, elated, moved by what he had achieved he could not contain his emotions - and why should he? Vivacity is about embracing life to the full and all that comes with it. So make like Sanchez, make like an Olympian/Paralympian and get excited, get moved, get animated in life about your achievements and disappointments. Life is to be lived, why be mute, flat, bored with it, get some vivacity in you!!
I have to admit, my favourite moment of the Olympics so far has been Mo Farah's win!! When his wife and daughter came onto the track to congratulate him, it revealed the "humanness" of the moment - Mo is not only a talented athlete, but also a father, husband, son, and friend. Such an inspiring and special moment.
Have you been watching the Olympic Games? I certainly hope so!!! Nothing can inspire as much as seeing human beings striving to do their best no matter the result or consequences. We are all Olympians/Paralympians when we strive to do our best and therefore we all have lessons to learn from these awesome people - todays lessons all start with the letter "D".
For some of us drive comes naturally, for others it is difficult to muster. BUT, we are all capable of cultivating drive, it's just a matter of developing techniques and habits that help. For Olympians and Paralympians drive seems natural. You see, Olympians and Paralympians all have one thing in common, they know how to set goals, and they know how to focus absolutely on achieving these goals - this focus is called drive. To develop drive you have to set yourself attainable goals and develop a reminder system of these goals. With reminders in force, drive develops, drive thrives, drive becomes second nature.
Dedication is closely related to Drive - the difference being that drive is a more internal aspect of goal achieving process. For me, determination is the physical act of the journey to a goal. It is the every step taken, every jump jumped, every lap swum. An Olympian and Paralympian has great dedication to their sport. They train day in and day out - "dedicated" to their sport in such a way that no matter the physical hardship of training they are prepared to do it. Are you prepared? Are you dedicated to your goals? To make the effort needed to do your best? Dedication combined with drive makes a killer combination to achieve.
Determination is the culmination of drive and dedication. Setting the goal (determining the result) and working for the result (resoluteness in purpose) exemplifies what determination means. All Olympians, Paralympians, and aspiring elite athletes have determination. They know what they want to achieve and they know what they have to do to reach their goals, and they are "determined" in their approach. Have you set out your goals and plotted the journey? Are you on your journey with a resolute attitude - "determined" to get the results you want? To carry your life with determination is to live with drive and dedication - be determined and your life can be what you want it to be.
We have much to learn from the Olympic attitude - many lessons that can be taken into all aspects of life. Watch, analyse, learn, apply, and succeed. I can cultivate drive, dedication, and determination in my life, can you?