The Big Idea
Visualization is scientifically proven to increase your performance and productivity
Questions I Answer
- How does visualization work?
- Is manifesting real?
- How can visualization help me be more productive?
- What are the benefits of a visualization practice?
Actions to Take
- Begin the practice of visualization today & start to picture yourself successfully turning those stumbling blocks into starting blocks.
- Watch my TanyaTV video on how to use visualization to achieve your goals
Key Topics in the Show
Utilizing detailed visualization to break down stumbling blocks & plan our actions
The relationship between visualization and success
Four benefits of visualization
Starting the practice of realistic visualization
Expecting results from your visualization practice
Welcome to productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press, a podcast focused on finding success and happiness through productivity. Each season, Tanya focuses on specific strategies to help you discover your own priorities and purpose. Season six is all about turning your stumbling blocks into starting blocks.
You can also join Tanya for more interaction and support in her free Facebook group at inkWELLPress.com/group. And now, here’s your host, Tanya Dalton.
Hello, hello, everyone. Welcome to Productivity Paradox. I’m your host Tanya Dalton, owner of inkWELL Press and this is episode 78. Today’s episode is brought to you by Trunk Club and I will be sharing a little bit more about them later on in the episode. But let’s talk about today. Today is the last episode of season six. All season long, we’ve been talking about turning stumbling blocks into starting blocks and we’ve uncovered several of the stumbling blocks many of us deal with. And I have to be honest, I have really enjoyed this season. It has been so fun digging in to these stumbling blocks, seeing how we can flip them over on their head, and turn them into our starting blocks and I hope that you’ve enjoyed this too. This last episode, though, I think is a really powerful one because really, we’re only limited by our visions of who we are and what we’re capable of doing. So, today I want to build on that idea and I want to talk about visualizing success.
There’s a difference between having high standards and simply dreaming of something you’re not really committed to working on. Detailed visualization is the first step to planning our actions. If you have trouble breaking down a stumbling block, it’s often because you can’t clearly see each step you need to take, and that’s where visualization can help. Life happens. Nothing will ever go exactly as planned, but when you have a path you’ve mentally walked through, you have a greater chance of success and I think that’s what’s really important here. People tend to think about their future in two different ways: Fantasizing without regard to the present reality at all or thinking about their current situation and projecting forward with consideration to their reality and their limitations.
Really, the best way to achieve real results is to use both types of visualization to create a mental contrast. We want to dream big, we don’t want to limit ourselves, but we need to make sure those dreams are attainable. Following your big dream visualization with the nitty-gritty details and strategic planning gives you both the inspiration and a game plan that you’ll need to achieve the life that you really want to live. When visualizing, you need to think about what your dreams look like within the framework of your life. So, they need to be grounded in reality, but it allows you to dream a little bit bigger.
Visualization is often called a mental rehearsal. You’ve probably heard of athletes using it. A lot of athletes use it to rehearse techniques and the best practices they’ll need so they can act them out without even thinking. Visualization is a critical skill for athletes and it reduces the time needed to master a highly complex action. Seeing themselves complete the action, whether it’s dunking a winning basket or
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executing a complex figure skating jump or swimming with precision to go faster than anyone else, visualization lets them do less physical practice while being able to compete at a high level. Michael Phelps, one of the top Olympic athletes did this before every single race. He called it “watching his videotape”. He mentally focused on winning the races and the sensations that go along with swimming well. I think we can all agree that this tactic seems to have worked out pretty well for him, wouldn’t you think?
Visualization is the deliberate creation of images in one’s mind. When done correctly, visualization is an effective way to overcome your obstacles and achieve success. And I know, it may sound a little woo-woo. Scientific studies though have documented the effectiveness of visualization. Researchers at the University of Chicago tested visualization over 30 days with three groups of random people making free-throws. The control group shot free-throws on day 1 and day 30 and they tracked their success. Group two shot free-throws every day for 30 minutes. Their success was tracked and they compared the number of baskets they got on day 30 compared to day 1. Group three only shot free-throws on day 1 and day 30, but they spent days 2 through 29 visualizing shooting free-throws for half an hour. Their results were tracked as well, comparing day 30 with day 1.
Now, the control group showed no improvement in their free-throws, so no surprise there. Group two showed much improvement as a result of this daily practice. And amazingly, group three showed almost exactly as much improvement as group number two and that suggests that the brain doesn’t really know the difference between true physical practice and detailed visualization of practice. Still think it’s woo-woo? Now, I’m not a doctor, so I’m going to use the founder and CEO of NeuroBusiness Group, Dr. Srini Pillay’s description of how visualization works and he says, “When a person has a stroke due to a blood clot in the brain artery, blood cannot reach the tissue that that artery once fed with oxygen and nutrients and that tissue ends up dying. This tissue death then spreads to the surrounding area that does not receive blood anymore. However, if a person with this stroke imagines moving the affected arm or leg, brain blood flow to the affected area increases and the surrounding brain tissue is saved.” Imagining moving a limb, even after it’s been paralyzed after a stroke, increases brain flow enough to diminish the amount of tissue death. This is a very clear indicator of the power of visualization.
Your brain is amazing in that it can take visualization and treat it as reality. So, you can translate this power of visualization into your own life. Rather than picturing yourself having the perfect game, you can picture yourself giving the perfect speech to a large audience or sitting down and writing a little bit each day until you’re a best
selling author. Visualization has been the key to success for several well-known people. Arnold Schwarzenegger used visualization to reach his goals, first in body building then in acting and then in politics. He says he created a vision in his mind of what he wanted to be and then he lived as if that vision was already true.
Lindsey Vonn, one of the most successful female skiers, always visualizes a course before she races it. She says, “By the time I get to the start gate, I’ve run that race a hundred times already in my head, picturing how I’ll take the turns.” Lindsey also incorporates some physical practice into her visualization, shifting her weight back and forth as if she were on skis and practicing her specific breathing patterns
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that she’ll use on the course. Mohammad Ali, boxing legend, stressed how important it was to see himself as victorious long before the actual fight.
Visualization truly works. And I know it seems a little crazy to sit there and imagine success, but it can make a huge difference. There are so many benefits to visualization. Using visualization techniques helps you to focus on your future with four benefits. It activates your creative subconscious. This helps you start coming up with creative ideas and solutions to overcome stumbling blocks. It trains your brain to easily recognize things you need to complete your goals. It activates the law of attraction and this is what draws the people, the resources and events that you’ll need in order to achieve the results you want and it helps build your internal motivation that’s needed to help achieve success.
But the problem with visualization is that it’s hard, it’s really hard to visualize something if you’re not currently experiencing it. It can be hard to imagine feeling relaxed in your day-to-day life if you’re stressed out day-in and day-out. What will help is taking action no matter how large or how successful that action is. In fact, you could take small steps. Even if they don’t feel successful, they’ll move you forward as long as you’re taking some sort of action in any way, shape, or form.
Visualizing yourself as relaxed instead of stressed is easier if you take some time to relax. Visualizing yourself as healthy is much easier if you start exercising, even in a small way. These little actions really can make a difference in helping you visualize success. You see, by taking action, you’re proving to your subconscious mind that you’re moving in the right direction and that means you’re achieving the life you want, and it seems less far-fetched. Taking these small steps to complete your project at the same time as visualizing success, creates a positive feedback loop of action and motivation and that continues to move you forward.
We all have obstacles in our paths. Too often we allow these obstacles to become so big in our minds that they keep us from moving forward at all. We just become complacent and we stay exactly where we are. So instead, we need to picture ourselves getting easily through these obstacles and question if they’re really as big as they seem to be or if it’s just our imagination playing tricks on us. Make your positive vision stronger than any of these obstacles. If you can’t picture yourself achieving success, it’s likely you won’t be able to achieve it at all. You have to believe in yourself. So we need to start really visualizing. And I want to talk about that in just a minute because I know that that can be a stumbling block, understanding how visualization works. But first, I want to take a quick word from our sponsor.
This episode has been brought to you by Trunk Club. I’ve been using Trunk Club for some time now and I love it. It’s like having your own personal stylist. I want to feel like I’m up on the latest trends, but I really don’t have the time or, quite frankly, the desire to head to the mall. So, I have a chat directly with my stylist and I tell her what I have coming up. She pulls together a collection for me and she sends it to my door along with several ideas for how to mix and match items together to make outfits. There’s no charge for the stylist if you purchase anything in your collection and because it works through Nordstrom, everything is a breeze. I love that. Want to use my personal stylist? Just go to inkWELLPress.com/trunkclub and you’ll be introduced to her.
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So, let’s get back to this idea of how to start visualization. You see, visualization only takes a few minutes and it works really well when you first wake up or maybe after meditation or prayer or right before you go to bed since we want to really take advantage of our most relaxed times. You might even find it helpful to try after a hot bath or after a glass of wine. So, yes, I just justified a nice glass of rosé this evening. You’re welcome!
But really, it’s about getting into a relaxed state. For me, I personally find it easiest when I’m just waking up or in the last few minutes before I slip into sleep because my inner critic, which is filled with obstacles, tends to be much quieter. So then, once you’re in this relaxed state, it’s time to visualize. And here’s a nice little easy process to use. Imagine yourself sitting in a movie theater. The lights dim and the movie starts to play and it’s showing you doing what it is you want to be doing yourself in the future. Picture it in as much detail as you can. Your clothing, your expressions, your movement, the environment, any other people that might be around. Listen for sounds around you that you would hear and think of any emotions or feelings that you might be experiencing during the activity. And then imagine yourself walking up to the movie screen, opening a door within it, and experience the whole thing from inside yourself looking out through your eyes.
This is called an embodied image rather than a distant image. This helps you deepen the impact of the experience and really helps your brain and your body believe the visualization can be real. See everything in vivid detail hearing the sounds you would hear, feel the feelings you would feel, and then when you’ve finished, you open your eyes and you go about your business. Now, I know that seems a little bit strange and a little bit hard at first, but it’s something you’ll get used to. It may help to write out the details of this visualization so you can easily access the visualization again. As Ernest Hemingway says, “We always want to leave a little water in the well.” That acts as a springboard to help you get into that visualization even easier next time. Practicing this too, will really help it feel a little more natural.
Once you start making this a daily part of your routine, this will help move you closer to that vision of that ideal life you really want, but really try to visualize what you want with extreme detail. It could be a career that uses your strengths and talents or successfully working on your business every day or anything at all that really makes you feel successful. Write your vision down with as many details as you can and then read over your vision often. Just like putting up your mission statement where you can see it, this helps your brain create a filter of seeing it when events fit to this vision. And allow yourself to get excited when the pieces of your vision start to manifest themselves in your life and reflect on what parts of your day aligned with this vision and what you got excited about.
But be careful to include realistic visualization. Research has shown that when we just imagine ourselves accomplishing a task, we can trigger a response in our brains similar to how we feel when we actually achieve that success. One experiment tested water deprived subjects and it found, just by visualizing a cold glass of water tricked their brains as if they’d actually drank that water. When we consider not just perfect wild success, but also visualize how we can overcome realistic obstacles and setbacks, our visualization doesn’t just appease us, it motivates us. That’s why it
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needs to be grounded somewhat in reality. We need to see that there will be obstacles, there will be things in our path, but we can overcome them.
If anxiety is getting the better of you, flip it on its head. Focus on a positive visualization. This denies anxiety the fuel it needs to keep worrying and instead puts a wholly positive vision in front of your mind’s eye. Create this ideal picture of yourself as if your task was already completed. This is a lot like a vision board and it inspires you to keep moving forward. For example, if your ideal vision is to travel, find a picture of where you want to go and then cut out a photo of yourself and paste it in that destination photo. Keep it visible. And this could mean posting it up on the wall or making a habit of reading through your mission board, finding what works best for you and reviewing them each time you sit down to visualize.
But you should really, truly expect results from visualization practice. Over time as you continue visualizing, your brain starts to shift and it looks for ways to achieve this success. Your mental filters will change and you’ll start seeing the world in a way that allows you to put these pieces together. You’ll start to see a lot of these stumbling blocks truly as starting blocks and that is what’s really exciting. This is because when we visualize our stumbling blocks merely as these small obstacles to overcome, it creates a conflict between what we’re visualizing and what we’re currently experiencing and our brains are wired to resolve this conflict by working to create the reality that we visualized.
Visualization actually reprograms the reticular activating system, which is our mental filter for the 11 million bits of information that our brain receives at any given time. This RAS thinks in pictures and visualization weaves it a picture that it uses as a model for how to filter the information. This means that the RAS starts paying attention to anything that might help resolve the conflict of current reality and visualized reality, information that might have been ignored before. Now, while you should try to spend time visualizing daily, you don’t have to spend all day thinking about them. This pulls you away from the present moment. We do want to stay present so we can enjoy the moments and relish the journey we’re on.
I hope this has changed a little bit about how you maybe feel about visualization because I understand, it can feel very, you know, woo-woo, but it’s really just your brain being retrained on what to look for and this works for every stumbling block that we’ve discussed this season from overthinking to perfectionism to procrastination, every single one of them. Start to picture yourself successfully turning those stumbling blocks into starting blocks. I promise you are going to be amazed at the results. I want to really encourage you to start this practice today.
You want to dive a little bit deeper into this idea of visualization? On YouTube this week, I’m talking about how to use visualization to achieve your goals and you can watch that video at inkWELLPress.com/youtube. Again, I’m going to have a new video every Tuesday that aligns really nicely with my podcast episodes, so be sure to check those out. Next week will be the start of season seven, which is hard to believe. I can’t believe we’re already working on our seventh season here. We’re going to have a brand new focus that I’m really excited to share with you. So, make sure you tune in next week.
In the meantime, I’d love for you to join my private group. Just go to inkWELLPress.com/group to request an invitation. It’s a community filled with others working hard to live a life they love through productivity. We have lots of great conversations in there, lots of advice and actionable tips are shared, so I’d love to see you in there. All right. Until next time, have a beautiful and productive week.
Thanks for listening to Productivity Paradox from inkWELL Press. To join Tanya’s free group, simply go to inkWELLpress.com/group.