Believing is Seeing

Many sports coaches and professional athletes use visualization as part of their training.

Visualization is creating a mental image or intention of what you want to happen or feel. The rationale is, as far as the mind is concerned, the performance has already been achieved, and now it just needs to be repeated. Psychologists have proven that the human nervous system cannot tell the difference between a real experience and a vividly imagined one, according to Dr. Maxwell Maltz in Psycho Cybernetics.

Sport psychologist JoAnn Dahlkoetter includes visualization in her top 10 performance tips – along with mindfulness (being in the moment) and a positive attitude. A psychologist at Stanford University Medical Center and past winner of the San Francisco marathon, Dahlkoetter has worked with Olympic and professional athletes, as well as business executives and performing artists.

Dahlkoetter says visualization should be used before, during and after training to build confidence and motivation. See yourself going through the motions and then getting the touchdown or crossing the finish line first. If you’re walking or running and you come to an unexpected hill, Dahlkoetter suggests imagining a magnet pulling you effortlessly to the top.

While it’s fairly accepted that athletes should use visualization to achieve success, I find it interesting that this technique, for the most part, hasn’t translated to other areas of life.

If professional and Olympic athletes are taught to visualize their successful game or race, why shouldn’t the rest of us practise visualization when it comes to things like job interviews, speeches or even dreaded confrontations.

If it works for athletes, why can’t it work for the rest of us in different scenarios?

I take this thinking a step further and visualize my home renovations and decorations long before they happen. In my mind, I paint the walls and place the furniture I don’t yet have, knowing it is just a matter of months (or years) before it can be done.

When I was feeling stressed about selling a previous home, I visualized a “sold” sticker on the For Sale sign. Every time I walked past the For Sale sign, I imagined a yellow C/S (conditionally sold) sticker and a red sold sticker.

I now find most of my home renovations and decorations complete, and the reality is very similar to the picture I held in my mind.

My previous house sold quickly in a declining economy in a neighbourhood with dozens of For Sale signs. (OK, the C/S sticker wasn’t yellow, and it wasn’t in the exact spot that I pictured it, but it was there nonetheless.)

Of course, it’s easy to deny that visualization had anything to do with it. And sometimes I find myself rationalizing away – it was a coincidence, or it was bound to happen anyway.

Still, if I’m counting coincidences, there have been a whole lot of coincidences over the years that have proven to me that we create what we think about, feel strongly and focus on.

Indian philosopher Shankaracharya said whatever a person’s mind dwells on intensely and with firm resolve, that is exactly what he becomes.

So dwell on the fact that you’re a winner… And the next time you’re facing an unexpected hill, visualize a magnet pulling you to the top.