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
"Your Determination is Limitless"
- Elizabeth Wright