The other day a friend dropped ‘I dream it and then it happens’ into the conversation. Just like that…with no added explanation…and as if it were the most natural thing in the world. No irony or telltale subtle smile. Just a statement of fact as she saw it. So, I realised it was my own limitation that produced the doubt. My own self imposed cynicism. Since then I have discovered many people I know treat visualisation as a real and practical tool to create the life they want – using a combination of mental imagery and positive thought to manifest change they need in their lives to achieve their goals.

These visualisations are not fantastical improbable ideas tinged with a rosy daydream. It’s not dreaming about marrying Prince Harry but about open, honest hopes and dreams for a happy, successful you. Visualisation is about creating a mental intention, an image of what we would like to happen in our lives in the near to medium future – or even beyond. An initial step towards an end result.

Fear and doubt will be the greatest barriers. We have our own but you can be sure there will be ‘opinions’ from those around us. Remember, however well meaning friends and family might be, they are victims of their own fears and doubts and this underlying (often subconscious) agenda colours what ‘advice’ they seek to give – whether you ask for it or not. So, a strong brave heart and mind is needed to negate this. Stay true to your inner voice. Your own fear and doubt is your biggest enemy. This is why it is recommended that you keep your visualisations in the front of your mind and reiterate them very frequently. Keep them real and vibrant in your mind so you get used to them too – the more you ‘see’ them, the more you’ll believe in them too. Strong belief lessens the fear and the less fear you have the more likely you are to succeed.

Many people believe that the mind has a powerful effect over the body, that it can influence the body directly – which has obvious advantages if your goal is physical, health or sport related. Fundamentally this also means you have the power to directly create the self belief you need to achieve the goals you visualised.

We all have goals, big or small, things we’d love to do or achieve one day. This is the easy part – but sometimes that’s as far as many of us get! The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and all that. There are many perfectly reasonable reasons that we get stuck – time issues, fear, social pressures and doubt – but this is where visualisation can be very useful. This mental image of our future can be the first time we ‘see’ that we could actually achieve it. This is the first step before the motivation, hard work and self belief.

I’m skeptical about the ‘imagine it, believe it and it will simply happen’ mantra we hear so much of these days – it sounds like an over simplification and is usually followed (somewhat conveniently) by ‘if it doesn’t happen it wasn’t meant to be’. It’s no surprise that the harder you work the luckier you get…!

I think visualisation is best used in the more proven way that athletes use it – to focus, concentrate and motivate them. Scientific research has shown that the brain doesn’t distinguish between real and visualised actions so even when you are simply visualising an intention the neurons in our brains generate the impulse to perform the act and this creates a new neural pathway. These neural pathways are the key to our every behaviour. These are our memories, our learned behaviour. So you can see how even a visualisation alone can prime you for the practical achievement of your goal.

Most exponents of this self help technique divide the actual process into two sections. One being the visualisation of the actual goal or outcome and the other being the visualisation of the process or steps needed to realise that. The process also helps you see what the next step is. It’s very important, however, not to visualise negative outcomes!

Visualising is memory, it’s planning, it’s all around you as you ‘think’ about what’s happening else where etc. All this imagination and imaging can go horribly wrong and that’s called worrying! But the future is a slippery, unreliable thing so let’s change worrying about it into visualising and planning for a desirable outcome shall we? This where the ‘power of now’ comes into its own. As the past is just a record of where you’ve been and what you’ve done, and the future is uncertain and unknown then the present is the best place to live and truly ‘be’. (Mindfullness and such practises are the key to achieving this ‘present in the moment’ state).

When creating your visualisation use every sense and be sure to attach strong emotions to it too. The brighter, the brasher and more detailed your vision the more committed it becomes.

All athletes use this technique and what’s more they practice it as tenaciously as the sport itself. This ‘mental practise’ is a routine part of their training and so it should be for us as we move towards our goals.

Some elements to consider as you practise your visualisations:

  • try to set aside time every day
  • choose a quiet time and space with no interruptions or distractions (that’s what the off button is for on your mobile phone!)
  • some people use meditation techniques – it’s important to clear space in your mind, get rid of cluttered thoughts to focus on your goal
  • many find a detailed written statement/version useful – read this each night before sleeping
  • it’s important to be specific and visualise yourself already being or having the goal you desire
  • many employ a vision/dreamboard as a focus for the goal and this allows for actual visual representations – both images and words (I would caution against choosing images such as super models if you’re trying to visualise a healthier weight – as these types of images have the potential to be counter-productive as these images of extremes are not necessarily a practical visual stimulus)
  • practise and persistently visualise – create that neural pathway! The added by-product is that the creation of new neural pathways is touted as a way to fend of dementia type illness.

The subject divides here into those who believe in the Law of Attraction or a similar ethos and don’t concern themselves with the ‘how’ just allow the universe to deliver the goods (believing this and accepting it will happen are key here). Others think the visualisation of the process is vital. Creating a pro-active pathway to follow as-it-were. This allows for knowing what steps to take to achieve your goals and marking off the small steps as you progress spurs you on through the power of achievement. You must decide this for yourself…

Good luck and don’t be hard on yourself…please!

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