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Part 10. Visualization

By Pam Garcy

"What is it, why should I use it, how can my inner guidance help me to do it better?"

Tiger Woods knows it. Michael Jordon knows it. So does World-Record Olympian runner Lee Evans. Not to mention Olympic ski jumper Adam Malysz, and famous gymnast Mary Lou Retten, who had figured it out by age 16. These are just a few examples of people who are using a well known sports-psychology technique to achieve amazing outcomes as athletes!

Fortunately, we've learned from the athletes. We've translated this well-documented technique for high achievement into other life areas. In fact, hypnotists use it on a regular basis to help people to transform themselves and to change habits! Peak performance experts in many areas, from business to medicine, are using this technique for greater and more profound results!

What is the technique? It is the technique of guided-imagining, also known as visualization. The technique doesn't cost anything to use, and no one has to know you're using it. Yet, it is one of the key secrets of those who are able to walk successfully, consistently, persistently and passionately on their paths!

What is visualization? Visualization is the use of your imagination, for a select time period and on a consistent basis, for the purpose of directing your mind toward specific outcomes. It is best performed daily in a relaxed state of mind, though it can be used when you're not relaxed as well!

All you have to do is mentally rehearse yourself going through the motions that lead to the next level of success that you're hoping to achieve, and imagine yourself reaching the goal! Just as a basketball player would mentally rehearse going through the motions of making a tough shot, or a marathon runner might mentally rehearse running their entire course, you can apply guided imagination to yourself! It could increase your stamina, energy and motivation to keep going on your path!

Using Inner Guidance to Illuminate the Next Step.
What if you don't know what the next step is? This is where your inner guidance can serve you. As you relax and breathe deeply, closing your eyes for greater focus, simply allow your mind to wander toward the information that will best serve you. You might state to your inner self, "Show me the next step that will lead to that which I most desire." If you tend to think in pictures (as many of us do), your mind will probably offer an image of yourself doing something that is closely related to your path, and to your desire. Perhaps your guidance will come in another form, such as a phrase, a drawing, a song, a helpful flashback or simply an inclination to try something new (something that may even have hidden relevance to your journey).

This initial information may intimidate or scare you somewhat. This is very normal, as you are seeking to stretch yourself. Stretching can cause your fear-alarm to go off, as the self-protective ego tells you, "This is moving beyond the comfort zone. This is a new area. There is a potential for pain." I would encourage you to attend to this part by seeking the skills necessary for success, rather than by abandoning your stretch. In addition, you can show this protective part of yourself that you are truly able to do this through repeated visualization coupled with practicing actions. Indeed, as you visualize, the potential for success will seem more and more possible. And as you take action, the possible becomes more probable.

Visualization is Mental Rehearsal. Practicing Action is Physical Rehearsal.
What do I mean by Practicing Action? I believe that you often have a sense of the actions that will be required of you in order to achieve your desired outcomes, yet you may sometimes run away from these actions because they seem insurmountable. So, I would encourage you to start by practicing actions. Just as visualization allows your mind to practice and rehearse, practicing action allows you to prepare in physical reality.

When you rehearse or take practice action, you do not expect yourself to get it "right" right away. You allow yourself to experience the initial newness and strangeness that accompanies taking a first step. Just like a child learning to ride a bike without training wheels, you can allow yourself to fall and to get back up, falling again until you figure out how to balance and move so as to create flight! Often my students are afraid to try a new therapy technique because they don't want to appear incompetent. I share this quote with them, which a wise person once said: "Anything that is worth doing well is worth doing badly at first."

Just as an actor or actress will practice reading their lines out loud on the stage, you too will find that practicing will lead you to "be ready" when the real curtain goes up. Athletes don't usually begin by jumping on the field; they learn the skills and practice them over and over. Then, when they have prepared, they play. So, optimal performance comes from both the covert rehearsal of visualization and the overt rehearsal of outright practice. And once you ARE ready, you will BE ready, so you won't have to GET ready.

Two other Cool Factoids about Visualization.
Visualization actually activates the same neural pathways as the action visualized. My husband, Dr. Roger Clifford, a chiropractic neurologist and local area runner, has shared research studies about this with me. If you were to vividly imagine the successful running a race from start to finish, in a state of deeply relaxed concentration, you would actually be activating the same neural pathways that would operate while you are running. The same holds true for other actions, such as swimming, golfing, lifting weights, tennis, basketball, dancing, gymnastics, skiing, bowling and the list goes on!

As stated earlier, visualization is also used in hypnosis. It is currently in use medically to speed healing following injuries. So, what we are proving to ourselves is that the mind is responding to the information we SHOW it. If you SHOW the mind images of your healing, it is more likely to respond by activating the healing mechanisms of the body. If you SHOW your mind that you are healing yourself of a pathological habit (for example, walking away from a temptation that you previously gave into), you can activate the mental healing mechanisms that are also hardwired within.

Worry is Negative Visualization: turn it on its side with your inner guidance!
When you worry, you may SHOW your mind pictures of yourself facing pain, failure or rejection. I call this negative visualization because you are internally practicing the achievement of the negative outcome, rather than the desired positive outcome.

If you want to turn worry on its side, work WITH it, not against it. If you resist worrying by demanding that you mustn't worry, you will likely worry more--you might even worry about your worrying! However, if you turn it on its side, you can use the anticipated challenges by allowing your inner guidance to SHOW you pictures of yourself FACING, TOLERATING and OVERCOMING the challenges!

An Easy Application to Start Your Day!
You can also use visualization to optimize your day! In the morning, you can take a minute or two just to visualize yourself as you want to be, creating the day that you desire most. Imagine how you will go about each part of your day. How will you greet your family? How will you treat your body in the morning? What will you eat? What will you do after breakfast? How do you want to arrive to your destinations? How do you want to feel during the day? Imagine yourself facing challenges calmly, confidently and easily!

Okay, now go visualize!  

Pam Garcy, PhD is a Psychologist and Coach in Dallas, Texas. If you'd like a partner in reaching your goals and overcoming the obstacles that seem to stand in your way, please contact Dr. Pam for coaching at Dr. Garcy offers a special 10% coaching discount to all valued subscribers of Cultivate Life and to customers of Dr. Pam's best-selling books - including the bestsellers The Power of Inner Guidance: Seven Steps to Tune In and Turn On and Wake Up Moments of Inspiration

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