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  • Writer's pictureKen Lubin

Visualization in All Aspects of Life

By Ted Murray Executive Coach, Inspirational Author, Sports and Fitness Industry Consultant

As an athlete I am sure you have used visualization to help improve your performance. Almost all high level athletes in any sport have highly developed skills of visualization. There are numerous studies on the value of visualization training, showing how it is almost as effective as actually training on the court or on the field. My favorite is the basketball free throw shooting study wherein a group of players was divided into three groups. After setting a baseline for accuracy at the beginning of the study they were divided into those who shot free throws for one hour per day for a month, another group didn’t touch a basketball for a month, and the third group didn’t touch a ball but visualized shooting free throws for one hour per day. At the end of the month they shot again. Of course, the group that did nothing didn’t improve, whereas the group who shot for an hour a day improved their accuracy by 23%. Amazingly, the group that visualized improved their score by 22%, even though they hadn’t touched a ball the entire time!

​Some sports are easier to visualize than others. Sports like figure skating and gymnastics or even putting are much easier to visualize than more reactive sports like tennis, boxing, soccer, baseball or basketball. In my tennis-playing career I would try to visualize the match before getting out of bed that morning. My philosophy at that time was to envision the perfect match, with me winning every point. There were times it worked great. I remember one match where my first set was nearly flawless, just as I had envisioned. However, I only had time to visualize the first set. As I started the second set the magic was gone. I promptly lost the second set and have no idea whether or not I pulled it together to win the third set.

That experience helped me rethink my visualization theory. I realized that in most situations the perfect scenario isn’t really feasible. Thus, I began to visualize a more realistic match, in which I faced all kinds of challenges, got way behind in the score, and had to work through my mental as well as physical challenges in addition to the skill of the opponent. The only rule I had was that I always saw myself winning in the end.

This system seemed to be more valuable and certainly more realistic than the perfection scenario that might be ideal for gymnastics. However, I’m sure the great gymnasts also envision themselves pulling it together to save a routine even after a major blunder.

In business, this approach can also be very useful. Envisioning a perfectly delivered speech may be valuable; however, seeing yourself being booed on stage or bombarded with challenging questions might be even more helpful to prepare you to handle real world situations. The mark of any great leader is how you respond to adversity, not merely how you act when things are going great. When you can visualize and prepare to handle all sorts of difficult scenarios then you are much more prepared to handle the challenges any leader must face. Just be careful when envisioning these scenes that you tell your brain that this is just a practice scenario. Otherwise, you are such a skilled manifestor that just thinking about it could potentially attract that scenario into your life.

It is in your life in general where visualization can have the greatest impact. How often have you mentally rehearsed a conversation you may have been dreading with your spouse or other family members? Instead of delaying the interaction out of dread or fear, why not rehearse it just like you would practice to get ready for the big game. Make it a game, not just to help you win the argument, but to ensure that you are able to anticipate the concerns of the others, listen in the moment when it happens, and be prepared to respond with grace and clarity rather than anger or frustration.

Perhaps the most powerful use of visualization is the ability to create your own future in a powerful and authentic way. Envisioning the house you would like to live in or the car you want to drive may be easy and often effective. However, why not focus more on envisioning the person you see yourself becoming in the future. You can focus on the type of body you desire and how you will look, but why not go much deeper than that? Why not envision the qualities you would like to embody. Perhaps you want to create an avatar of the ideal you, or perhaps choose someone in history whose qualities you would like to emulate. Then when you are faced with a difficult decision you could ask what your avatar would do in a similar situation. The more you envision yourself being the hero and acting with integrity, no matter how challenging the situation, the more likely you will become that person in business and all aspects of your life.

There are so many lessons from athletics that can lead to a successful life. Why not use your visualization skills in as many ways as possible to ensure that your life continues to progress as you become the ideal person you know you have the capability of being?

​By Ted Murray Executive Coach, Inspirational Author, Sports and Fitness Industry Consultant

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