Creative Visualization is being adopted as a powerful mind training method by professional athletes, speakers, artistes, performers, leaders and many others too. Programming our subconscious minds with positive states is fascinating, and has been in existence perhaps for thousands of years, with different names and labels.
In this article, I’m pleased to present a few good practices and points to keep in mind for those who are interested in developing a robust creative visualization practice.
- “Being there!” Seeing yourself in the outcome
- The Mind-Body Connection thing!
That’s pretty obvious, yeah! After all it’s all about visualizing the great results and outcomes that you wish to achieve. It helps to keep a few things in mind.
Make sure you are visualizing about what you wish to achieve, and not what you wish to avoid. For instance, if your goal is to give up smoking, don't visualize seeing yourself discarding the cigarette packs and resisting pressure from your friends to join in for a smoking session. While it is important to discard and resist, you are still picturing what you don't what to be doing. Instead, think about what happens when you haven't smoked for say 3 months or 6 months.
Maybe you’ll breathe easier, your sense of smell might be more refined, your health parameters may improve… Aren't these the outcomes that you WANT?
Great! Use these images on your “mental canvas board”. You are using the towards motivation principle here. Your motivation is towards the pleasant outcomes. If you keep visualizing what you want to avoid and give up, that defeats the purpose of visualization!
In the example above, we have already touched upon some of the positive outcomes that your goal or result will entail. Make sure you spend enough time reflecting on and listing out as many benefits as possible. When you’ve got what you wanted, how does this outcome impact your life? Look at different areas of life: career, health, hobbies, personal growth, family, friends and relationships, finances…
Some of your goals and outcomes are going to have a positive impact across one or more of these areas. See if you can be specific enough in defining these benefits. Maybe you’ll climb 75 steps daily once your smoking habit is given up, as against 45 now! Being specific with the benefits can also improve your visualizing skills, as your “picture” is now getting clearer.
One caveat though, from my own experience. I’d recommend that start with the clarity you have in the beginning. And then increase the detailing as you keep planning and visualizing! Sometimes, we can get so obsessed with defining targets, that we may opt for fancy numbers and targets thoughtlessly. It may lead to more frustration in the long run, when it’s reality-check time!
“Being there!”: Seeing yourself in the outcome
Seeing yourself right in the picture of your outcome is what makes your visualization process exciting. And while you do this, don't just stop with you. Add in your well-wishers among friends, family, colleagues and others to the image that you are visualizing.
Who do you want to be with at the time of the “Crowning Glory”? If the goal is about a promotion, you might want to celebrate with your partner/spouse. So don't just keep visualizing the one-one discussion with your boss. That dour picture may not be the most exhilarating one for sure!
What are they going to tell you? What do you think you’d like to say? If it’s an award ceremony, how’s your acceptance speech going to be like? Add in more details about the place, the venue, maybe even your attire! Make it rich and vibrant in color. So that it’s really captivating, and worth keeping in your mind. Your subconscious mind loves all that glitter, so don't make your picture look like a boring powerpoint slide! Go for High Definition, Dot Matrix era is for the museum and the scrapyard!
Now, this is one area where visualization pros may differ occasionally. Some people say that it’s all about the outcome. And that’s all you need to see in the picture. There are others who recommend that you can make your visualization process a bit more dynamic. So that you can also add in images (not just still pictures, but even videos!) of the journey to the outcome.
The kind of actions you’d take, who will support you, your “special” moves and strategies… I am more inclined to go with the latter group. I’d go for both the outcome and the action phase, and kind of mix and match the focus on different days. Focus more on the outcome on some days, and the execution on the other days.
What I’ve also experienced is that at times, during or after the visualization, some good hints and insights pop up that are useful for the execution phase planning. Maybe it’s the power of the subconscious mind in action, I guess. Haven't analyzed it too much, though! Just stay open to that possibility!
The Mind-Body Connection thing!
Please increase the font of this section if you’d like. We’re now talking about the kernel of visualization… the Mind-Body Connection. Unfortunately a lot of folks decide that “this visualization thingy is not for me… it’s too new-age ish… Not my cup of tea” and give up their practice before it’s properly begun! Well, if you’re going to do visualization very mechanically like watching some dull weather bulletin, you’d better checkout soon.
On the other hand, if you’re serious about visualization, keep reading… If you’re really keen to connect to powerful mental/emotional states, then it’s important to work on getting the mind-body connection sorted while you strengthen your practice. Let me quickly demystify it for you with a few simple tips:
Posture & Breath: If you’re doing visualization in a seated position, it’s best to keep your spine straight. Make your breaths longer and deeper whenever possible. Get these two right, and you set the right tempo for the process, as you’re more relaxed, and your resistance to the images gets dissolved too! You can also visualize in the lying down posture. But beginners may doze off soon, so choose wisely!
Clothing: It’s good if you are in comfortable clothing, and not those super-tight leathers and denims! Just so that you can focus better!
Timing: Any time is actually fine so long as you’re undisturbed, although it’s great if you can do it early morning or before going to sleep. If you can do both, that’s awesome!
Props: Soothing Music, Aromatic candles, Incense… all work great. Eventually, you might want to also give up these and stay with the images and your breath… It takes some practice of course to get there!
Engaging Multiple Senses: This is also a great idea, so you can imagine how it looks, what you’ll hear and say, how it feels and so on… when you’re there in your outcome. Again, it just helps with that mind-body thing you know! My experience is that it’s also great to focus better. Maybe your sense of smell is unusually strong… So think about how the place smells like, maybe even the cup cakes at the party!
Diet: Light and healthy meals are the way to go. You know the rest!
So, there you go, get your mind and body to work in unison to support your visualization practice. Now you know it isn't quite as simple as “think and see things, or whatever”!
At times, you may get doubts and anxieties about certain aspects of your journey to the destination. Maybe it’s about the feasibility, the support you might get, the resources needed, and so on… the triggers could be varied. And it’s likely that some of these doubts might just pop up occasionally during your visualization process…
Fret not. Avoid the temptation to feel bad that your vision is getting marred. And don't beat yourself up for not “doing a thorough job” at visualizing! Even experts don't ace it always, so relax. One shortcut that I use, is to mentally thank my mind for alerting me to some potential issues, and then in a “friendly” tone tell my mind (silently) that I’ll look into it later, and for now just focus on the process, just for now! Fighting with your mind may not be that worthwhile; Develop a better rapport with it!
Visualization is your tool for embedding powerful impressions and commands in your subconscious mind. Rome wasn't built in a day, and our minds are far more complicated than 500 Romes put together! So, commit yourself to a regular visualization practice. Even if it is only for 5 mins a day, that’s okay. Stick with it, and avoid the temptation to take breaks.
And of course, visualizing alone ain’t getting you to the finishing line. Purposive action with consistency is obviously vital. But as you keep tapping into the mind-body connection that’s integral to your practice, keep an eye for those “unexpected” insights and hints. Keep a notebook or your Evernote app at arm’s reach! It’s okay if you don't get it all sorted every time. But trust me, at times it’s going to be much more exciting than you ever thought!
So, get that spine straight, breathe in… relax… and keep watching…!