Seeing is Believing: The Power of Visualisation

Increase your Mental Toughness, from the comfort of your lounge chair.


Ok, before you start thinking that this visualisation stuff is all in your head, let’s try a little experiment.

Close your eyes. Come on, I know you are sceptical, but just have a go. I want you to imagine you are sitting in front of a bowl of lemons. You look at them. They are bright, yellow and plump – in peak condition and beautifully ripe. You can detect a faint citrus aroma in the room.

You reach forward and pick one up. It feels heavy and ripe and you can feel the coarse yet waxy skin of the lemon and you trace your finger across the surface. Can you feel that?

You bring the lemon up to your nose and the lemony aroma you sensed earlier is now a little bit stronger. Now with your nail, gently scrape the surface of the lemon. This releases some of the lemony oils which are in the peel. The scent of the lemon is stronger now.

Can you smell that? It’s a pleasant sharp clean smell. Does it remind you of a favourite food- lemon chicken, lemon mayo, lemon cheesecake?

Next you reach for a sharp knife and holding the lemon on a chopping board, you carefully cut the lemon in two. Now the lemon smell is even stronger. You can really smell the zesty aroma of the lemon peel. You can smell the sharper aroma coming off the lemon juice now that it is running on the chopping board.

You look at the cut surfaces of the lemon. They look shiny and fresh. The juice continues to run a little. You see that some of the pips have been cut in half. They look like little pearls in the lemon flesh.

That lemony citrusy scent is now the dominant scent. It seems to bombard your senses.

You continue to slice the lemon. Again the citrusy scent just seems to get stronger with each slice. Some of the lemon juice has run onto your fingers and you lick a bit of the juice and you can taste the sharp taste of the lemon juice. You can feel your mouth pucker as the acidity hits the side of your mouth. Can you taste that?

Is your mouth watering? Can you actually smell the lemon in the air?

Your body has responded exactly as if the lemons were in the room, and you had cut the lemon. This describes a very powerful phenomenon. When we imagine things, they can be as real as if we had physically carried them out. The mind is in fact one of the best places to practise and to train. It is safe and it can be as real as any other medium. So just imagine what you could actually accomplish from the comfort of your own lounge chair.

You could practice your tennis swing, prepare to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, hone your chess skills, practice for tomorrow’s surgery, speak in front of your team at the conference on Friday and you can even prepare for your best life!

Mental practice and visualisation can get you closer to where you want to be in life, and it can prepare you for success! Take for example, Natan Sharansky, a computer specialist who spent 9 years in prison in the USSR. He has a lot of experience with visualisation. While in solitary confinement, he played himself in mental chess, saying: “I might as well use the opportunity to become the world champion!” Remarkably, in 1996, Sharansky beat world champion chess player Garry Kasparov!

A study looking at brain patterns in weightlifters found that the patterns activated when a weightlifter lifted hundreds of pounds were similarly activated when they only imagined and visualised themselves lifting.  In some cases, research has revealed that mental practices are almost as effective as true physical practice, and that doing both is more effective than either alone.

Noted as one form of mental rehearsal, visualisation has been popular since the Soviets started using it back in the 1970s to compete in sports. Now, many athletes employ this technique. You can actually see many athletes prepare before their events, approaching a hurdle and taking imaginary obstacles off the ground and flicking them away with their fingers. Visualisation is a very effective way of enhancing your mental toughness. Heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali, used different mental practices to enhance his performance like affirmations, visualisation, mental rehearsal and self-confirmation; and perhaps the most powerful epigram of personal worth ever uttered: “I am the greatest”.

So go on, give it a try. What can you imagine yourself trying, doing, achieving.