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5 Vital Minutes for Success

This one focus skill can improve performance (almost) immediately.

Source: Pixabay

Seeing yourself in an important situation in which you want to perform your best is sometimes half the battle toward accomplishing it. Visualization is an amazingly effective tool to help you. Applied to many areas of work—from athlete to military service member, from educator to first responder, from corporate worker to laborer—visualization is a mechanism that will increase your psychological currency and your pre-awareness.

Remember that pre-awareness boosts your attentional strength and can lower your risk of missing important sideline details, increasing your odds of responding to a sudden tone in a coworker’s voice to your advantage or to empathetically answering the wash of emotions in another’s words or catching the lack of them.

Beyond just seeing yourself as having successfully completed your task – the psychological benefits of which I do not dispute – you can use visualization to help establish and ingrain specific motor activity you need to accomplish your goal. You can also visualize the specific mind-states the goal may require — e.g. do you need to be upbeat and yet calm, present yourself as confident – but not over-confident. You can visualize such states of mind and even identify when they should kick in strategically within the context of your actions.

Let’s look a little closer. In the worlds of performing arts like music and dance, theater and athletics, to name just a few, visualization helps generate what is commonly referred to as muscle memory. Not limited to performance arts, visualization can be used to enhance your performance in virtually any profession.

What does this mean for you? Through visualization, you can activate and ingrain links to specific motor skills, language, memories, feelings and previous learning that will best drive you to successfully hit your goal. You can, within a visualization, edit, short-circuit, or create new, more advantageous behavioral responses – in advance.

You can use visualization to sharpen a new piano rift, a new Tai Chi or yoga posture, or even operate a piece of machinery at the workplace with more precision. If you are about to present a professional talk, for instance, you can visualize different aspects of your “performance” beforehand. You can examine in your mental movie, per say, possible responses to twists and turns that may arise. You can zero in on any aspect, in fact, of the experience you’d like to strengthen. Pre-awareness can be the difference that makes a difference, giving you more attentional “glue,” so to speak, to potentially catch an important detail as it displays in real-time.

Remember Mohammed Ali’s use of the power phrase: Move like a butterfly sting like a bee, you can’t hit what you can’t see. Not only does the mental “picture” set up the movement but helps establish the fluidity, timing, spatial and emotional references you’d need to guide and strengthen your performance.

Visualization gives you the capability to explore a goal-related scenario, whether it’s perfecting your golf swing, present your next professional PowerPoint or enhance your daily rapport with co-workers, clients or students. It only takes about five minutes to create your mental narrative. Give it a try. I think you’ll like it.

Here’s all you have to do. First, identify an upcoming goal. Then:

  1. Consider other individuals associated with your goal. This could be colleagues, superiors, or subordinates and can even be extended beyond work to your partner, family, friends and so on.
  2. Create a mind-movie. See yourself, as if watching a movie. In the narrative, you are pursuing your chosen goal.
  3. Do an external scan. Consider the environment in which you will be pursuing your goal. Visualize any potential distracters that will need to be inhibited, such as a noisy air conditioner in a room you are directing a meeting in. Also identify any external detail that will require your attention – e.g. occupational sounds like a sudden noise in the operation of heavy machinery that suggests a dangerous malfunction, the sound of warning alarms. Sticking with workplace examples, on the positive side, you may hear soothing nature sounds coming from outside that can provide a sense of immediate calm or peacefulness.
  4. Do an internal scan. As you visualize yourself in your chosen goal, go over the crucial scenes slowly. Try to identify what thoughts and emotions (positive and negative), or other internal influencers, such as excitement and alertness, or tiredness and anxiety, that are affecting the quality of your task-performance. Ask: Which internal influencers should be encouraged as I approach my goal? Which should be inhibited? Ask: What do I need to remember above all else as I approach my goal? Perhaps your answer is to keep a sense of calm and friendly composure throughout an interview or important phone call or a reminder to “listen” more than you speak.
  5. Identify the most important aspects of your approach that need to be changed.
  6. Now, picture yourself in the scenario, engaging all your changes. Iron out any perceived kinks in your actions that you feel might impede your performance. Repeat randomly and particularly before your goal occurs in real time.

Again: It only takes about five minutes to create your mental narrative. Give it a try.

More from Joseph Cardillo Ph.D.
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