What is Visualization and what are creative visualization techniques?

Creative Visualization techniques have been used by successful people to visualize their goals and visions since the beginning of humanity. The reason is that visualization techniques can help you to increase the focus on your goals and to maintain the focus on your goals. Both are necessary to realize your goals eventually. And achieving your goals is the ultimate measure of success. So, if you want to be successful, then this article will give you some superpowers as for getting results: creative visualization techniques.

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In the 1980s I was a High School student and soon to be University student. However, I had great difficulties with focusing on my study and books. Every five sentences or so, I was distracted. And in college, you need to read a lot! So, I decided that I had to improve my focus skills.

Thankfully I found the book Superlearning in our local library. At age 17 this was a very exciting book for me, and I was lucky that I could extend the loan period multiple times. I learned all kinds of visualization techniques which I immediately put into practice. For example, while playing the trombone. It turned out that my study exercises went much better, after first visualizing the tasks in my head. Exactly the way top athletes prepared for their races, according to the book. Later I learned all kinds of other visualization techniques via Transcendental Meditation, Silva Mind Control, NLP and HUNA. It was a great journey to experience various perspectives with regards to creative visualization techniques. Every type of visualization technique has the same message. Every human being can re-program his or her mental filters via visualization. And if your mental filters are supporting your goals, this will result in more focus, higher productivity and more happiness.

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Everyone uses visualization techniques

When a building is being built, like the Empire State Building, the very first step is always to make a visual representation of the new facility. The architect makes drawings of the building to represent on paper what is first in the heads of the people involved. The first draft of the design is high level, but when the project evolves, the visualization will be much more detailed. And it is this visualization which will guide all the people who are involved in the construction of the building every day until it is completed. Every building ever made in history, every war ever fought, every success ever earned, every discovery ever made, it all started first with a visualization in the minds of the people involved.

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If you are aware of it or not, everyone uses creative visualization techniques. You do too! It might be that you use creative visualization techniques unconsciously, but you are using it.

Quick example

If I would say to you: “Don’t think of a blue elephant.” What did you see in your mind’s eye? Even if it was in a split second? Or what if you step into an airplane and you are a bit afraid of what could happen. What do you see in your mind’s eye? Or what if I would ask you what the color is of your car? Do you see, that even you are using visualization?

Creative Visualization Techniques - Visualize

So, visualization is a technique we all use. The big question is, do we use it for our benefit or not? Suppose that you are thinking a couple of times a day "Hopefully I will not get fired," because you are afraid of getting fired. What picture do you draw in your head? Is it a positive picture? Is it an image which will motivate you and focus you on the job? I don’t think so! So, it is necessary that you will learn how to use creative visualization techniques to your benefit, as all successful people do.

Creative Visualization Techniques - Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein used his imagination to create many great predictions about how the Universe works. Some of them he was able to proof by himself via his theories, but other predictions took decades for other physicists to proof them.

In 1987, Jim Carrey wrote a check to himself for 10 million dollars, dated for Thanksgiving 1995, “for services rendered.” Since then, he continuously visualized on this. No surprise that he received 10 million dollars in 1994 for his role in Dumb and Dumber.

Creative Visualization Techniques - Jim Carrey
Creative Visualization Techniques - Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan visualized where he wanted to be, the type of player he wanted to be. "I knew where I wanted to go, and I focused on getting there.”

Even facing financial obscurity, Sylvester Stallone had an insane dream. "The one thing that never cost any money was being able to visualize where I wanted to go in life. And here’s the amazing thing: seeing myself as a success tricked my mind into believing I really was a success. That’s the sort of thinking that triggers winning streaks."

Creative Visualization Techniques - Sylvester Stallone
Creative Visualization Techniques - Elvis Presley

Elvis Presley said when I was a child I was a dreamer. I was the hero of the comic books I read. I saw movies, and I was the star in the film. Every dream has come true a hundred times.

Camille Duvall, professional water skier: “I train myself mentally with my imagination. Before the race begins, I visualize myself making perfect runs with emphasis on technique, all the way through to what my personal best is in practice. The more you work with this type of visualization, especially when you do it on a day-to-day basis, you’ll begin to feel your muscles contracting at the appropriate times.”

Creative Visualization Techniques - Camille Duvall
Creative Visualization Techniques - Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey: “You really can change your reality based on the way that you think.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger: “The mind is incredible. Before I won my first Mr. Universe title, I walked around the tournament like I owned it. The title was already mine, because I already had won the championship a hundred times in my head. Then when I moved on to the movies, I used the same technique. I visualized daily being a successful actor and earning big money.”

Creative Visualization Techniques - Arnold Schwarzenegger

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What is Visualization?

Probably one of the first persons in history who wrote about visualization was Wallace D. Wattles in his 1910 book The Science of Getting Rich. An example of creative visualization Wattles gives is this:

“Live in the new house; wear the beautiful clothes; ride in the automobile; go on the journey, and confidently plan for greater adventures. Think and speak of all the things you have asked for in terms of actual present ownership. Imagine an environment, and a financial condition exactly as you want them, and live all the time in that ideal environment and financial condition.”

According to Wattles, creative visualization techniques work like this:

“If a person can communicate his thought to original thinking substance, he can cause the creation or formation of the thing he thinks about.”

Creative visualization techniques have the power to realize your goal by first picturing it in your head and holding it in your head for as long as it takes until your goal is accomplished. It requires great focus to maintain a mental picture in your head for a long enough time. Visualizing on your goal makes it easier for you to stay focused on your goal. Visualization and Focus are very much interconnected with each other.

After Wattles, there have been numerous of other Self-Development authors. The common denominator is this: they all say that Visualization is the process to order your heart’s desire with the Universe.

I think that it is the other way around:

Visualization is the process which helps you to re-program all your mental filters in such a way that you will be able to stay focused on the fulfillment of your goal.

So, it is not something outside of you which brings you success with creative visualization techniques.

No, it is you who will realize your success using creative visualization techniques.

What you focus on, you attract with your re-programmed mental filters.

So, you better focus on something you desire, instead of something you don’t desire. Make a picture in your mind that you already have what you desire. In such a way that you can feel it. Only then, the right neural paths are triggered and ingrained, so, that your mental filters will be re-programmed for your goal or desire. And although your conscious mind might think that it is just a mental trick, your unconscious mind cannot distinguish between what is real and what is imagined. Your unconscious mind will act upon the images you create internally, whether they reflect your current reality or not. When a hockey player is sitting on the bench watching his colleagues play his unconscious mind and nervous system in the meantime are triggering the same neural pathways as when he would play on the field. Researchers have proofed this by measuring the micro movements of the muscles in both situations.

Positive Visualization techniques

In one of the next articles, I will explain in depth what visualization techniques you can use and how to use them. For now, I will keep it simple. Just sit back and relax. Take a deep breath in and breathe slowly out. Now enter your internal cinema and start a beautiful movie. A film where you see your life in one year from now when everything you wish has become true. See what you then will see. Hear what you would hear. Feel what you would feel. Smell what you would smell. Taste what you would taste. And hear yourself saying to yourself how grateful you are for the life you have realized in one year’s time.

Go ahead and do this exercise right now, so that you can start to experience what creative visualization techniques could do for you.

How to visualize what you want?

Visualization is like a mental rehearsal. But then much faster and much more effective than in real life. When I need to practice something difficult on my trombone, I always start with visualizing it. After visualizing it, I will play it. Then I again visualize it, but now improving my visualization with the experience of having played it once. The real reason I play the particular piece of music is not for study or fun, but only to improve my visualization. It is a feedback to see where my visualization needs to improve.

While visualizing, I don’t have any technical or physical distractions. I can focus all my attention on creating the right neural paths in my brain. On the other hand, if I would practice without visualization, then I would create less efficient neural pathways, because of all the technical and physical distractions and all the errors I make, due to my insufficient level of playing, are also ingrained in my brain.

There is a significant difference between deliberate practice and practice by accident. That's why an average mailman will never win The Tour de France, although he might have spent the same number of hours driving his bike last year as the professional racing cyclist who did win the Tour the France. He, however, has spent a multitude of that number of hours also on mental training, which the mailman did not of course.

You have probably heard of the 10,000-hour rule to become a master in your field of expertise. But that level can only be reached if you spend every hour on deliberate practice, which also means mental practice using creative visualization techniques.

Why you need goals

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You might know that for you to succeed, you need goals. Whether it is losing weight, starting your own business, quitting smoking, running the marathon, you always need goals, because goals keep us headed towards the right direction. They serve as our internal compass. But why is that? Well, for practical reasons you need goals because otherwise, you will never know if you are successful or not. But that’s not my point.

You need goals because having goals will help you create visualizations. And visualizations will help you re-program your unconscious mental filters. And if your mental filters point to the right direction, you will be optimally focused towards your goal until you have completed your goal. That’s why goals are very important for us. Of course, you need to know how to create the right goals and how to formulate goals in such a way that they will create the right visualizations for you, but that’s for another article.

Why Visualization Techniques work

If you are riding your bike or only picture yourself riding your bike, many of the same neural networks in your brain are triggered. Like I said earlier, I use this to practice my trombone playing mentally, which improves my playing. It allows me by the way also to practice my trombone playing in the middle of the night if I can’t sleep, without waking up everyone in the house, because I can do it silently!Top athletes do this all the time. They mentally rehearse every movement for the perfect race. A 100-meter runner can only perform at his highest peak, maybe one or two times a day. But if he would mentally rehearse his peak performance race, he could do it 100 times a day if he would choose to do. In one of the many experiments done in this field, athletes who mentally practiced squads had strength gains that were almost as significant as those in people who did the exercise (five times a week for 15 minutes) for real.

Mental workouts also stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which governs our fight-or-flight response and causes increases in heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. So envisioning a movement elicits nervous-system responses comparable to those recorded during physical execution of the same action, says Guillot, professor of the University of Lyon.

I used visualizations a lot to visualize the project meetings I would have with the teams I worked with. Sometimes, when being too busy or stressed, I forgot to do that upfront and then during the meeting I always reproached myself: “Why didn’t I visualize a good outcome for this meeting upfront?!@“. Because I knew, if I would have done that, the meeting would have gone much better.

A long time ago I served as a conductor for our local brass band and I vividly remember that when the band played a piece which I had not prepared well myself, that the band would play it not so well, as when I would have prepared the piece of music. I simply had no mental visualization of how the new piece of music should sound like. And unconsciously my body language was telling that to the band. While in situations where I was confident about how the musical piece should sound because I had a clear mental visualization, the band played very well.

Two types of Visualization techniques

There are two types of creative visualization techniques, each of which serves a distinct purpose, but for greatest effect, they should be used together.

Outcome Visualization​

The first technique is outcome visualization, where you visualize the end goal, the outcome. If your goal is to give a marvelous TED presentation, then visualizing the positive outcome would be that you see yourself at the end of the speech. The audience is very enthusiastically clapping and cheering you. You seem like a light beam of confidence, success and happiness radiating your energy into the room. Afterwards, your loved ones are waiting for you and congratulate you on the successful speech and you get involved in all kinds of splendid conversations with members of your audience. Make this movie as vivid and motivating as possible and hold it in your mind as long as possible. In another article, I will explain in detail how you can improve this visualization for maximum result.

Process Visualization​

The second visualization technique is process visualization. It involves envisioning each of the actions necessary to achieve the goal you want. Focus on completing each of the steps you need to achieve your goal, but not on the overall goal itself. This type of visualization usually takes as long as the actual activity would take. An Olympic skier who mentally prepares his race of 2.5 minutes will during his visualization also needs 2.5 minutes to complete the race. But the great thing of visualization is that you can ski in slow motion, which is not possible in real life of course. The skier has much more time to evaluate every action he has to take than in real time. He probably also speeds his race up, to complete the race in 1 minute. If he has done that enough times, then he might end up setting a new Olympic record by winning the race in under 2 minutes!

In the next article Creative Visualization: 29 reasons why you should visualize your goals I will show you 29 ways to benefit from creative visualization in your life.​

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Will you benefit from creative visualization techniques?

To conclude this article, I want to warn you that visualization alone is not a guarantee for success. Our Olympic skier can be the greatest expert in creative visualization techniques, but without any physical workout, he will never win a race of course. It is the combination of the right creative visualization techniques and the right amount of action and the right amount of focus and persistence that will guarantee your success. 

Create Aha moments by visualizing situations upfront, so that you are well prepared for when they will happen in real life!

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Please share in the comments box below how you are using creative visualization techniques yourself, so that we could all benefit from your learnings!​

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Until we meet again: Happy Visualizing and ... Stay Focused!​

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Harry Heijligers
 

Harry Heijligers has more than 25 years of experience as a Project Manager and more than 17 years of experience as an NLP Trainer. He has a Dutch blog about NLP here: HarryHeijligers.com. If you'd like to know about the Smart Leadership Hut, please check this: Smart Leadership Hut.

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