*As featured in Morzine Source Magazine

If you can see it, you can achieve it – Get inside the mind of an Olympian

The Winter Olympics are upon us. That’s two whole weeks of watching a group of talented individuals excel in their chosen field while we sit on the sofa scoffing Nutella. They will be smashing world records. They will be pushing their bodies to the limit. They will be setting themselves apart from the pack. Are they super humans? Do they possess extra special DNA? Or are they harnessing the power of visualisation to achieve extraordinary goals? Apparently, winning is all about having the right mindset. So how can you use it too? 

Inside the mind of an athlete and an astronaut

Mental preparation is as important as what you do physically. That is the news from some of the finest athletes in the world. You can train all you want, but without a winning mind-set you are unlikely to succeed. This is by no means a new phenomenon. In fact, it is almost as old as time.

NASA, 1963

Let’s teleport ourselves back to NASA in the 1960’s. The space race against those pesky Soviets is in full swing and the Apollo space missions are launching every second minute. To prepare astronauts for the greatest feat ever known to man, NASA started to use VMR – Visual Motor Rehearsal. They would make their astronauts walk through every single stage of their mission, second by second, minute by minute, in their minds. This was an integral part of the space mission training. They were visualising their success.  

From NASA to the Olympics 

These methods were quickly incorporated into the American Olympic Programme in the 1980’s and 1990’s by Dr Denis Waitley PHD. His team took Olympic athletes and hooked them up to biofeedback equipment before asking them to practise their event in their minds. He found that exactly the same muscles fired, in exactly the same sequence, in the mind of a visualising athlete as when the athlete was running on the track. The human mind didn’t differentiate between thinking and physically doing. But what was the benefit of preparing the mind for an event or challenge? The answer is simple. You will perform better AND you are more likely to achieve success. 

The use of visualisation to achieve goals has of course been a feature of the self-help industry for decades. It forms part of Law of Attraction teachings based on the principle that you bring about what you think about. There are other quirky catchphrases such as, ‘If you have been there in the mind, you will go there in the body’; ‘You become what you think about’; ‘If you can see it in your mind, you can hold it in your hand’. But there is science behind the hype, the likes of which has been attributed to the success of athletes such as Michael Phelps, Jessica Ennnis and Tiger Woods. Indeed visualisation is now a standard part of sporting success, because it seems we can train the mind. 

The Technique of Champions 

Prior to London 2012, Olympic medal winner Jessica Ennis revealed that she uses visualisation to prepare for races. “I use visualisation to think about the perfect technique. If I can get that perfect image in my head, then hopefully it’ll affect my physical performance.” Tiger Woods has been using it since his pre-teen years. World Champion Golfer, Jack Nicklaus has said “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head.” On the evening before a Premier League football match, Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney habitually asks the club’s kit man what colour shirts, shorts and socks the team will wear the next day so that his pre-game visualisations can be as detailed and accurate as possible. 

So how can you use it?

First you need to decide what it is you want. Do you want to successfully ask for a promotion at work? Do you want to write a best selling book? Perhaps you want to finally manage to ski deep powder, or beat your inconvenient fear of flying. You need to start to see yourself successfully achieving these things. And you need to imagine them in detail. Feel how you will feel as you cross your own finishing line. Focus only on the end result. Don’t start to panic about the hows, the wheres, the doubts. See Future You, power you, winning, achieving your chosen goals. 

Here’s your 7-step guide to adding visualisation to your life. Try it. Be an Olympian. 

  • Decide upon a goal 
  • Imagine Future You achieving this goal
  • Imagine it, as if it is happening right now
  • Feel how you will feel in that moment
  • Imagine the scene in as much detail as possible – Where are you? Who are you with? What are you wearing? What can you hear?  What can you smell? What can you see?
  • How does achieving this goal make you feel? Elated? Proud? Excited? Feel how you would feel having achieved it. 
  • Now spend a few minutes each day practising this, perhaps in the morning shortly after waking or just before you go to bed at night.  

And remember. Always visualise the end result.  

Some of the greatest minds have said it all along. 

‘A man is the product of his thoughts. What he thinks he becomes’ Ghandi

‘Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions’ Albert Einstein 

‘Our life is the creation of our mind’ Buddha 

‘The man who has no imagination has no wings.” – Muhammad Ali

‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’ – Walt Disney

‘Whatever you hold in your mind, you will experience in your life’ Ghandi

‘As you think, so shall you become.’ – Bruce Lee

‘I believe in creative visualisation’. Victoria Beckham

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