PAUL RENAUD
executive coach

How to practice Imagery

Wouldn’t it be great if we had the power of medieval wizards and make things happen just because of a magic potion or an incantation? Perhaps these druids of the past were onto something.

But seriously, wouldn’t it be amazing to focus and think about something and get what we want such as a promotion, finding a new friend or partner, getting a new client or resolving a conflict with someone that matters to you.

Sages and philosophers of the past have hinted about the power of thought such as Thales who once said: ‘Nothing is more active than thought, for it flies over the whole universe’. 

Fast forward to modern times thought leaders like Earl Nightingale wrote “What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve“. Of the many authors I have studied including Napoleon Hill’s ’Think and grow rich’, the words are different yet the message is the same.

If you adhere to the theory that we’re using only a very small part of our brain’s potential – anywhere between 5-8% according to Brain Science experts then perhaps you can also believe that if we’re able to tap into the rest of that potential maybe, just maybe we could truly achieve what we believe.

If you’re a Robert Kiyosaki fan (Rich Dad, Poor Dad) he wrote a great white paper called : ‘Change your life before breakfast’ where he refers to visualizations and says:

Specific visualizations prepare your mind to accomplish the steps that will lead to the goal you want. Just visualizing the goal won’t get you anywhere. You won’t magically end up owning your own company or running a marathon just by picturing the end goal. You’ve got to condition your mind to do the steps that will take you there, and visualization is one of the ways to train your brain.

Imagery or visualization are one of my favorite topics but first, a definition about Imagery:
Imagery is quite simply creating images in your mind.

Let’s take an example:
Chris was a scrawny kid when he was 8 years old and he was pushed into a public swimming pool by his older brother Dan at day camp. Chris almost drowned and Dan realized much to his horror, that his little brother didn’t know how to swim!

The lifeguard that saved Chris told him he should consider taking swimming lessons and that, he did!

Chris liked his lessons so much that he started competing at back stroke swimming at local and regional levels. This lead to competing at higher levels and one day at the age of 12, Chris got his break: One swimmer called in sick and Chris was asked to replace him – his first provincial competition!
Two years later Chris was competing in Quebec City. Thirty minutes after the race a coach told Chris he had broken a national record in the 100m backstroke. Chris was the fastest in his age group in Canada.
At 16 years old, Chris went on to win a national championship and became the youngest male swimmer. Chris was rated top 25 in the world! That was the defining moment for him. He maintained his competitive momentum and represented Canada at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 and once again in Sydney at the 2000 Olympics.

Many factors are responsible for making this scrawny kid from Calgary reach the Olympics including hard work, grueling training, excellent coaches, diet, nutrition and sleep but when I interviewed him, I asked him if he used some form of Imagery which could explain his success.

Here is what he told me:

Chris would always run through the race in his mind by visualizing. He would tell himself

There’s only so much I can control’ and he wouldn’t get fixated on what he couldn’t control.

He had a warm up routine, before and after a race –  his methodology as he calls it and Chris would not deflect from it. ‘This is what works for me and this is what my body does well’ according to Chris.

He told me he discovered a 10-minute relaxation audiotape when he was 13, and the author of the program would go a through a process. Chris would find a quiet spot; lay down and flex his muscles for 5 seconds and repeat the process 5 times.

During this relaxation technique he would think about his race and in the process ‘make the connection’ that is, using the muscles and try to feel the race.

In his mind, throughout the race he could feel how his body felt at each stage and he would compensate: He visualized the feel of water on his face; how his body would feel after the first 25 meters of a 100-meter race; the sensation of tiredness and how to overcome it.

Moments before a race all competitors are placed in the same waiting room which is nerve racking and intimidating because they’re all facing each other. To turn off distractions Chris would place a towel on his head in order to get into the zone of competition, to concentrate and imagine himself in the pool, going over every move and turn in the water and seeing himself hit the finish wall.

His Imagery method worked and it culminated by getting him to represent Canada in both Olympics!

Now we’re not all gifted with the skills of an athlete but can we apply this to business?

A leading authority in Neurosciences called Dr. Srini Pillay explains that there are important areas in the brain that are affected when Imagery is activated.

Dr. Pillay states that Imagery acts as a precursor to action.  Imagery warms up the action brain.

‘By imagining what you want, you stimulate the action centers of the brain.  Also, if you observe other examples of this being achieved, it will make it feel more real.  It is important for this to feel real and when you do imagine it, try to imagine yourself doing (or thinking in the first person) it so that you are in the picture.’

Are you now convinced? Ok so how do we do this?

One effective way of creating Imagery is to think and concentrate by seeing yourself do something ( or in this case, thinking in the first  person). For example if you were running a race you could see yourself running, hitting the ground and looking at your opponents as you strive for the finish line. Alternately, try looking at yourself in the same race but  this time in the 3rd person; in other words observing you in the race as if you are filming yourself from above looking at yourself progress to the point of coming from behind and winning the race.

In both cases (in the first person or third person) you are effectively creating a mental image of you, achieving something important.

Now apply this to your job or a task: Closing that key deal, delivering an important presentation, winning a negotiation, getting that important funding approval

It doesn’t have to be complicated. Think; focus and see yourself meet the objective or the milestone.

This is not scientifically proven but in my experience, there are two things to remember:

1.   You must believe that Imagery works.

2.   Don’t ask yourself how this works. It just does. Many people spend inordinate amounts of time trying to understand how it works. If you wish to gain from this nugget of learning, don’t bother asking how it works – just apply this simple principle.

It sure worked for Chris.  How do I know?

Chris Renaud is my nephew and we were following his journey to the Olympics since he was 13 years old.

My interviews with him were stimulating, interesting and fun but I must admit that I wasn’t surprised hearing of the benefits of Imagery. I have met many people who have embraced this concept such as other athletes, executives, entrepreneurs, students and live-at-home moms. I also believe in this concept because it’s helped me reach my goals.

Chris now works for 3M as a Business Development Manager and yes you guessed it – he applies Imagery to business.

How?

1.  He either plans or prepares discussions with clients,

2.  Imagery helps him remain calm for potential conflicts with distributors,

3.  By simply preparing say, 5 points of discussion for a meeting.

Chris does his planning before these meetings and visualizes the outcome.

In Chris’ opinion: ‘It’s never wasted time to visualize:  You can’t lose’.

My suggestion?
Try it and you just might be shocked with the results. What’s the worse than can happen by trying? Discussing the merits of Imagery is becoming less and less about Spirituality or the unexplained but rather our ability to reach into that untapped potential of the brain thereby giving us more control and ultimately, success.