Welcome to our article on creative visualization. This is a powerful tool, which can help us to achieve our goals.
It does this by encouraging the mind to focus on successful outcomes. This, in turn, leads to a positive mental attitude.
Although creative visualization can be used any area of your life, Olympic athletes use it to great effect – and if it’s good enough to win gold medals, then it must surely be good enough for everyday life. In fact, there have been many studies suggesting that this ‘mental rehearsal’ can be more effective than actual physical training !!
I’ve tried visualization, but I just can’t do it !!
Many people do say that they can’t do visualization and that they get too distracted. In actual fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
If I asked you to think of the last time you visited a friend, or a member of your family; and then asked you to describe the room where you met this person, you would be able to recall the details quite easily.
You would certainly be able to describe what was on the floor :
- Was there carpet, wood, or tiles ?
- What color was the flooring ?
- How big was the room ?
- What was the furniture like that you were sitting on ?
What could you hear ?
- Was it completely quiet ?
- Could you hear the traffic outside ?
- Was there a television or radio playing ?
Again, as with the visual recollections, these auditory memories will come flooding back to you.
This is all the proof you need to confirm that you can easily visualize. In fact, our powers of recollection are based almost entirely on our ability to visualize.
However, it is true that different people prefer one or two of our five senses, over the others, with respect to thinking, remembering, and imagining.
How our minds can control our body
Think of a lemon. Imagine yourself cutting into it with a sharp knife, slice by slice. Imagine the sticky juice spraying out across your hand as you smell the sharp citrus smell.
Keep thinking about this and eventually your mouth will start watering – even though you’re not actually eating, or even touching, the lemon. This is an uncontrolled reaction, with our mind controlling our physical body.
In a similar fashion, our behavior can also be influenced by our minds. Too often, even before we set out on a course of action, we imagine ourselves failing. Is it any wonder then that the task we set out to achieve does actually fail.
Self-fulfilling failure on a date
Self-fulfilling failure is particularly evident in the dating world. When somebody is trying to pluck up enough courage to ask someone out on a date, they will frequently go through the routine of :
- “What if he / she says………”
- “What if I say something stupid ?”
- “What if he / she doesn’t like the restaurant I suggested ?”
Is it any wonder that lots of people go on first dates all pent-up, stressed-out, and ‘not being themselves’ ?
But shouldn’t I be anticipating what might happen – including the ‘bad stuff’… to be prepared ?
Yes….. but only to a point.
Whilst being prepared for the unexpected is a good thing, all you are really doing in this particular case is setting yourself up for ‘expected failure’. This is likely to lead to a lack of confidence, which would be painfully obvious to your date.
The Inner Game of Tennis
In 1972, W. Timothy Gallwey first published “The Inner Game of Tennis”. This convinced many people, including top athletes and coaches, that our minds have a major part to play in winning.
The video below provides a short summary of the book and its main learning points. These learning points can be put to all areas of our lives and not just sporting endeavors.
But how can creative visualization help ME in NORMAL life ?
Visualizing can be used for anything. For example:
- To improve your relationships, or general communication skills
- To enhance skills such as playing a guitar or driving a car
- To overcome personal problems such as aggressive behavior or shyness
- To provide confidence, which will lead to better business (and personal) decision-making
- To show yourself in ‘your best light’ at meetings, interviews, or when giving presentations
Done correctly, visualization ‘fools’ the subconscious mind into thinking that you are already proficient in the area that you are visualizing. This is why sports people regularly use visualization as a tool to prepare themselves for an actual event.
Preparing for creative visualization
Whilst we have said above that everybody can visualize, some people do struggle to hold an image in their mind that is strong enough, and clear enough, for effective visualization.
Part of the problem is that many people use the left-side of their brain, which is responsible for logic and reason. But with visualization we need to use the right-side of our brain, which is used for creative activities.
If you are predominantly a left-sided thinker (and to help prepare you for effective visualization), you will need to have a clearly defined and realistic set of goals.
Remember though, the goals must also be meaningful and powerful enough to really get you excited.
Putting yourself in the picture
This really is the key element of visualization. Firstly you need to relax and make yourself as calm as possible. We have an article on to the Top 10 Beach Scene Relaxation Videos to help you with this.
Thinking about your desires, or desirable outcomes, make the pictures in your mind as vivid as possible. Totally immerse yourself in the picture, using as many of your senses as possible, which will really bring the imagery to life.
This is not about other people’s successes or luxury items. This is about you imagining that you already have the skills, or luxury items, that you’re seeking.
How would it make you feel if they were in your possession right now ?
Once you have visualized yourself in the situation you desire, you can then use NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), or other modeling techniques, to replicate the actual behavior patterns of people who have already achieved your desired outcome.
Rules for successful visualization
Now, you might have to experiment a bit with this (it’s about what works best for YOU). When undertaking the visualization process :
- You can imagine looking at yourself from the outside of the mental picture
- You can imagine being in the middle of the action, but without actually seeing yourself in the picture (i.e. seeing things from ‘your eyes’)
- You can exaggerate the colors and contrast of the picture (make it brighter and more vivid than it would be in ‘real life’)
Really, it does not matter whether you see yourself in the picture or not. Use the method which works best for you.
Putting it into practice
Creative visualization can be done at anytime and anywhere you want. Ideally though, you want to undertake this activity in a place where you will not be disturbed for 15 to 20 minutes.
Do whatever you need to do, to get into a relaxed state. That could mean :
- watching one of the beach relaxation videos mentioned above
- having a bath
- doing something like yoga or meditation
Some people find it easier to actually do a short aerobic workout followed by some stretching and cool down exercises to totally relax the body.
Alternatively, you might want to try either of two methods set out below.
1. Deep Breathing
Either sitting in a comfortable chair or lying down :
- Close your eyes
- Take a deep breath in through your nose
- Hold the breath for 4 seconds
- Slowly let it out through your mouth
Repeat this process for 1 minute and then allow your breathing to return to normal as you begin the visualization process.
2. Muscle Tensing
This involves tensing and then relaxing muscle groups throughout the whole of your body :
- Starting at your forehead, tense the muscles for 4 seconds whilst you are inhaling
- Hold for a couple of seconds
- Then allow your muscles to relax, whilst exhaling
Move on to your face, neck, shoulders, arms, and all the way down your body until you reach your thighs, calves, and toes.
You might find it easier to follow along with this video :
An alternative to the above is instead of actually tensing your muscles, just imagine each of the muscle groups feeling very heavy, so heavy that you can’t lift any part of your body.
Then imagine the heaviness disappearing so that each of the muscle groups feel so light.
After going through one of the relaxation methods, mentioned above, you are now ready to go through the visualization process.
4-stage visualization processes
Because different people have different visualization skill levels, we are going to introduce you to three different ‘practice’ processes, before the ‘real thing’. They become increasingly challenging so, if you are new to this, please do them in the order they are set out.
Go through the examples we have set out below (adapted from Set Your Sights on Success (Mind Power), before moving on to the specific areas you want to visualize.
To build up your visualization skills, we have broken the first two strategies down into three steps :
STAGE 1 : Look and then visualize
Step 1 :
- Take a small object (This can be a mobile phone, a cup, or a book)
- Look at the object closely for 10 to 15 seconds
- Put the object down
- Close your eyes
- Try to recall the shape of the object, the texture of the object, and the color(s) of the object.
Step 2a :
- Stand at the entrance of a room
- Scan your eyes from the left all the way round to the right
- Take in all of the different objects and colors
- Notice any sounds that are coming from within, and outside of, the room
Step 2b :
- Move back into another room where you can sit, or lie, down
- Close your eyes
- Recall all of the objects from the room – remember the textures, the colors, and the shapes of the objects
- Remember also the sounds and smells from that room
Step 3a :
- Move to a window that has got a good view
- Again scan the view from left to right
- Take in all of the objects you can see and be aware of any sounds you can hear from outside the window
Step 3b :
Moving back to your comfortable chair, or place where you can lie down, recall all of the objects that are outside.
STAGE 2 : Visualize…. then check
Step 1a :
This time, instead of actually picking up an item and looking at it, picture an item that is in another room (that you have not looked at for several hours). Try to recall every detail about the object.
Step 1b :
Now go into the room and find the object. How close were you to recalling all of the details of the object ?
Step 2a :
- Think of a room, which is close by, that you had not been in for at least an hour
- Imagine yourself going to the door of this room and scanning the inside with your eyes from left to right
- What can you see in this room ?
- Try to recall as many items as possible
Step 2b :
Once you have visualized as much as possible, actually go to the room and see how close you were to remembering the items that are in there.
Step 3a :
- Think of a scene you know well, which is outside your home. Do not go there just yet and do not provide yourself with any reminders of what it looks like
- Picture that scene as you would expect it to look right now
- Picture the scene as if it was raining heavily and then if it was brilliant sunshine
- Imagine what would it look like if it was covered in snow ?
- Now imagine what it would look like if there were suddenly 100 additional people there ?
Step 3b :
If that place is not far away, go there now and see how close you were to visualizing what is there.
Once you have completed these exercises, your powers of visualization would have greatly increased. Of course, the more you do them, the greater your powers of visualization will become.
STAGE 3 : Visualizing the past
Only undertake this next part if you feel comfortable in doing so. Do not pick on an incident which may upset you, or cause you great stress.
- Think of an instant, in the past, which did not go as planned
- Think of all the events that led up to this incident
- Play the incident through exactly as it happened
- Now rewind the incident back to just before it started to go wrong
- Play the incident again but this time visualize a much better outcome
- Replay the incident through again, on three more occasions, each time seeing the outcome getting better and better.
If you do this final exercise, not only will your powers of visualization have improved greatly, but you would also have helped to ‘reframe’ any problem incident in the past – the memories of which may be holding you back in the present, or in the future.
How often should I do these exercises ?
As a minimum, you want to do these three times per week. However, we would actually recommend that you do these every day. If you really want to make things happen, then spending 15 minutes per day on visualization should be your goal.
STAGE 4 : Visualizing your future
This is where you can get really creative….. BUT it’s a little more tricky because you are visualizing something that has not actually happened yet; and there might not be anything ‘tangible’ for you to reference (i.e. like the examples above).
To overcome this void, we would highly recommend that you take advice from our articles on vision boards : What is a vision board and How to make a vision board). These fit quite nicely with what you have just read and will actually help the creative visualization process.
This is the STAGE-4 process for a specific event :
- Imagine a situation or event that you want to happen successfully
- Think of the moments that lead up to this incident / event
- Play the incident through as if it is to pass off perfectly
- Play the incident again but this time visualize an even better outcome
- Imagine all of the sights, sounds and smells that you are likely to experience
- Think of the conversations you are having. Who are they with ? What are they saying ?
- Imagine how you would feel inside right at the moment that perfect situation transpires
You can use the same process for a circumstance that’s likely to take a period of time (like losing weight or getting that perfect body). Just imagine yourself at each stage of the process. Imagine your progress after 1 week, then 1 month, then 3 months.
This will give you massive confidence in the ‘real world’ because your mind would have already ‘seen’ it happen. As you know, we are always confident doing something that we’ve already experienced (even if it’s just in our minds).
We hope you found the information in this creative visualization article useful. Practice, practice, practice, but be patient with it. The rewards are well worth it.
Please feel free to comment on your experiences below, or share this information with friends and family using the social media links.
Image credits: Woman thinking(Stuart Miles) / Couple Hand In Hand(nuttakit) / Coffee Cup(Michelle Meiklejohn) / Garden(foto76) all at freedigitalphotos.net