Visualization – a useful technique to prepare


424792-matthew-haydenSome of the greatest professionals (in any field) have always underlined the importance of preparation. How thinking about their work in advance helped them get in the right frame of mind and state of readiness. And one of the key techniques that many of them leveraged more often, was of Visualization. Cricket followers would recall the familiar sight of Australian legend Matthew Hayden sitting barefoot on the Wicket a day prior to the game (in the pic) and visualize the environment, the proceedings, the match, his game, his shots, his vulnerabilities. Rahul Dravid, the India cricketing great, was known to think and visualize his game in depth as he prepared for a batting stint in the middle. Many sports personalities (Golfers, Tennis players etc.) have over the years resorted to this method, to get “in the zone”.

So, what is Visualization?

It is the process of “proactively” creating a mental image of an impending activity or state – in which a player plays out the actual moment in its entirety in their mind. This helps them get into the “zone” of the game in advance and cut out surprises that may occur on the day of the game. Mind and body is warmed up to the climate of high intensity and once the reality kicks in, the readiness is heightened.

Importance of “proactive” is enormous. It helps the player to think about all eventualities in advance, thus figuring out a game plan for tackling the same. It helps is bringing a lot of composure to one’s approach, thus a healthier way to approach a rigorous task at hand.

Experts have long underlined the importance of Visualization as a method to create positive thinking. A lot of this is by thinking about the end state of success – How the world will be when we finally arrive there? How wonderful and energizing will that state be? And try and leverage that energy in influencing the process of achieving that goal.

Over the years, this practice has evolved and has been used by many practitioners in thinking about the process (to the end state) too – visualizing every step of the process, minutely detailed play out of actions, surroundings, mindset, climate etc. Aakash Chopra (Former Indian Cricketer) writes about it in this useful article about Visualization.

Is this applicable in business/organizations?

Absolutely. For any professional situation that has a lot at stake, one can leverage this. I have been leveraging Visualization (for some years now) to get myself psyched up before an important professional event – Presentation, Training, Facilitation, Conversation, Talk, Interview etc. Some of the key points that I have learnt over the years w.r.to Visualization are:

  1. Quiet moment with self: It is my moment of quietude with myself. In these times of myriad distractions, this is that sanctum sanctorum that helps me think, plan, visualize and get comfortable.  It works best if I can sit quietly and let the impending event play out fully – reaching the venue, getting settled, the start, the advocacy, the enquiry, the moments of vulnerability/disequilibrium, the silence, the dialogue, the climate etc. The vividness of the image helps me to get in to the moment better. It also, helps proactively realize elements that need a bit more preparation, fine tuning or work.
  2. Focus on both Result & the process: As much as visualizing the desired end state creates a positive energy, it’s important to visualize the process as well. It’s the imagery of the pauses I take between two pertinent points for the receiver to process the information, or the intent I demonstrate when listening to a counter opinion or alternate POV or the willingness to accept and acknowledge a feedback / suggestion from the audience – these intricacies go a long way to eradicate the nervous energy from my system and get ready for the moment. It helps me immensely to bring in Authenticity to my presence and performance.
  3. Getting used to the environment: Environment is essential. Where is the venue, how is the set up, who will be there, how am I going to be placed, whats the climate going to be like in the venue, etc. are some of the important ingredients to imagine & visualize to “be there” fully.  While in majority of the occasions I am aware of the physical environment (as these are meetings or gatherings in the office), there are times when I am not. However, that doesn’t stop me from visualizing a fictitious environment, stage and set up (from my past experience). This helps. I haven’t had many occasions when my visual has been too deviated from the actual setting. This is one of the most important part of the process, as this helps me get that “been there, done that” feeling on the big day.
  4. Breathe: Moments with a lot at stake, do have an impact on our physical, mental and physiological self. It’s these moments that architect and define our career & success paths. They are, what I call the “Clutch” moments. Our state of mind defines our approach. A calmer approach and presence goes a long way in negotiating the moment and bringing out the best in me. Visualization helps me be aware of this fact, and builds in the act of deep breathing in the overall visual. This awareness goes a long way in the way I become “comfortable” in a “Clutch” moment.
  5. Handling Disappointments: Not every clutch moment or meeting or presentation is a success. Several times, in spite of all the prep and practice, things do go southwards. It’s here I have found the real value of visualization. I have actively visualized failure – My ideas being rejected, proposals being trashed, thoughts being opposed or challenged vehemently, push backs. These have helped me in two ways:
    1. To prepare better / more to counter them – That helps with more ammunition in my arsenal.
    2. To prepare being more balanced & authentic in the moment of failure/rejection – This is a sentimental & emotional moment. And visualization helps me play out the philosophy of “its my idea that’s rejected, not me”. I am less defensive, more open to feedback, suggestions and the art of “inquiry” to explore alternate POVs. Afterall, I would have played out this part intricately the day before and I am ready.

These are interesting times. Majority of our time goes in influencing others with our thoughts, ideas, POVs. Yet, the least amount of time is spent in preparing for the same. I see professionals ill-prepared for such “clutch” moments solely relying on their reactive instincts to come good at the right moment. A few people land it well – they are the geniuses. For the rest, it helps to do a little more. Visualization can do wonders, to “get in the zone” and hit the ball out of the park.

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