Visualisation techniques – 5 tips to help visualisation work for you

“Part of my preparation is I go and ask the kit man what colour we’re wearing – if it’s red top, white shorts, white socks or black socks. Then I lie in bed the night before the game and visualise myself scoring goals or doing well.” Wayne Rooney
England don’t have a very good record when it comes to taking penalties. Steven Gerrard and Michael Owen are both reported to have described the sense of dread they felt at the prospect of taking one for England, with Owen actually visualising the kind of reaction he would get from the media and fans back home when he failed to score. With those kind of thoughts running through your head is it little wonder England don’t come out on top in penalty shoot outs?
However when used correctly visualisation can play a major part in achieving success and is a common technique amongst top sports people. In the 2013 film, Rush, James Hunt is shown lying on his back in his room as he practises his gear changes and driving techniques while visualising driving round the track for his next Grand Prix. Niki Lauder also used to walk the track prior to the race to help him visualise the race itself. Golfer Jack Nicklaus is quoted as saying; “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head”.  This all sounds great, but does it actually work?
Research into brain patterns has shown that visualization works because neurons in our brains, that transmit information, interpret imagery as equivalent to a real-life action.  When we visualize performing an activity, as Wayne Rooney does, our brain believes we are actually carrying out the activity, as it can’t differentiate between real and imagined behaviour. As a result the brain generates an impulse that instructs the neurons to perform the movement.  By consistently doing this we create a new neural pathway in our mind that creates memories or learned behaviours. This prepares our body to act in a way consistent to what we imagined. All of this occurs without actually performing the physical activity, yet it achieves a similar result. This explains why James Hunt is lying on his back visualising the race track and moving his hands and feet as though he is driving the car itself. When he actually comes to race for real, his mind will think it is repeating what it has done before, so he will react that little bit quicker hopefully giving him an edge over other drivers.
Visualisation techniques can work for people in all walks of life, not just in the world of sport. Here are 5 tips that could help use visualisation to best effect;
a) Create a picture in your mind of your desired goal – for example having a successful interview for a promotion that you really want.  Imagine how you will feel when you walk out of the room knowing that the interview has gone well, will you be feeling happy, excited, energised? Picture how you will look. What will you be wearing? What will you have with you, your phone, a folder, notes, a bag? How will you be walking – quickly? How big will be the smile on your face?
b) Write down your goal in as much detail as possible. Some people find it best to do this as a list, others prefer to draw a picture of what a successful outcome looks like. Whichever method you use it is important to be as detailed as possible. The clearer the vision you have, the easier it becomes to identify the steps you need to take to make it happen.
c) Create a movie in your mind of how the interview will go, but view the action from the first person, i.e. you are watching yourself in the interview through your own eyes rather than watching it unfold as an observer. This way will make the process more powerful for you, as you will be viewing it as you already see and experience everything.
d) Physically act out the interview process. Practise driving to the interview, knocking on the door, shaking hands and introducing yourself. Practise saying your answers and asking questions out loud – perhaps even film yourself doing so! This might sound silly and initially make you feel very uncomfortable but this is a really powerful visualisation technique, and is akin to James Hunt lying on his back pretending he is driving his car round the race track. The more you practise actually “doing” the interview the easier it will be when you come to live the real interview. “Role playing” the interview in this way will help relieve stress and can be a fun activity!
e) Make the visualisation process fun. When creating the movie in your mind make it as real and as vivid as possible. If you were to have an actor playing you in the movie who would you choose? What would make you choose them? Add music to your movie. What pieces of music would you use as you travel to the interview, as you leave the interview confident in the impression you have made? Who will be the first person you call after the interview, how will that conversation go?
These are just a few visualisation techniques to use.
What else could you use?
What have you used in the past that you could share with us here?
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”–Albert Einstein
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