Lindsey Vonn is the best female skier in history. Over the last 18 years she has dominated the sport with 82 World Cup victories, the most for any woman. She is also the only US Gold Medal winner of the fastest and most dangerous event in the Winter Olympics: The Olympic Downhill.
The girl is bad ass.
However, if you were to see her preparing for a race you might be surprised. Sure her training facility has all the usual high grade gear: Strength machines, jump ropes, balance equipment, endurance bikes, conditioning and therapy tools and an intimidating rack of free weights.
But she also does something that none of you do in your gym.
When she trains Lindsey is tucked in a tight crouch three feet off the ground, her arms held in front of her, each foot carefully balanced on two parallel nylon slack-lines. Her eyes are tightly closed. She thrusts her feet hard to the right, counterbalancing with her body. A millisecond later she whips them hard to the left. She stands halfway up, extending her strong legs and then snaps back down towards the ground, the nylon lines vibrating under her.
Less than a minute later she opens her eyes and jumps down, breathing heavily and smiling. Her brain is tired, she’s covered in sweat and her muscles are burning. She performs a few quick stretches, readjusts her headphones and with the help of her coach gets back on the slack-lines.
Lindsey Vonn has just finished the entire course of her latest downhill run, perfect down to every snow-covered detail. She’s hit every turn, adjusted for every angle, felt every inch of the course – and she’s never even left the gym.
“I always visualize the run before I do it,” Vonn explains. “By the time I get to the start gate, I’ve run that race 100 times already in my head.”
Why is Lindsey Vonn the most successful female skier in history? She has mastered the power of visualization.
The Secret Superpower of the Mind
Used by CEOs, actors, athletes and many other high-level performers, visualization is the key to harnessing the power of our imagination to transform our life.
How does it work? Let’s use Jim Carrey as an example.
In 1990, the young actor was talented and ambitious but he was unknown and flat broke. He had already spent over a decade performing in minor movies and small television shows and nothing was panning out. Seriously considering defeat, Carrey decided to invest in some self-help books instead. He read that he needed to start imagining himself being successful.
Even though he was skeptical, one night he decided to drive to the top of Mulholland Drive in Hollywood and give it a shot. He looked out over the city, took a blank check from his checkbook and wrote himself a check for $10 Million. In the memo section of the check he wrote “For acting services rendered.”
Surprisingly energized, Carrey started driving up to the top of Mulholland every evening. Each time he looked out over the city he imagined himself as a big star. He’d see the name Jim Carrey on billboards in his mind. He’d see himself headlining on huge neon marquees. He would drive up to clubs and everyone would ask for his autograph. He’d be rich, famous and successful.
For the next five years Carrey held onto that increasingly worn out check he had written to himself. He kept building that picture in his mind. He kept working. And then, in Thanksgiving 1995, he finally got it: A check for a little over $10 Million, his earnings for the movie Dumb and Dumber.
Jim Carrey had visualized himself into superstardom.
Visualizing and Other Woo Woo Bullshit
Now it’s obvious most of us won’t be able to drive to the top of a mountain, write a check for ten million bucks and then cash it five years later. We’re probably not going to be winning one, much less 82, World Cup skiing events. Heck, most of us would be happy to double our salary, lose all the weight on our belly or hook up with that smokin’ bartender downtown.
So how useful is the power of visualization to help the average man change his life?
In a word? Very.
The Neuroscience of Success
Our brains are miraculous. There’s really no other word for it. Every human brain has about 100 billion neurons (about 600 miles worth) and each neuron connects to roughly 10,000 other neurons. This adds up to 1,000 trillion synaptic connections, equivalent to a computer with a trillion bit-per-second processor. Scientists believe our memories can hold up to 1,000 terabytes of data and if our memory is working correctly it can access everything instantly, something even modern computers can’t do.
However, the raw processing power of our brain is only the beginning of its capacity. Each brain also has the ability to create things that do not yet exist. Steam engines, electric lighting, fiber-optic cable, wireless connectivity and millions of other inventions all have their genesis in the minds of men. Anything in the world that is man-made is a result of someone taking a new idea and turning it into reality. Through the medium of our imagination each human brain has the incredibly ability to see things before they are created.
Visualization is the art of using imagination to actively transform those thoughts into reality.
The Brain, The Body and The X-Factor
Scientists have long noted the brain/body connection and how stimulating one affects the other. Sports psychologist Dr. Richard Suinn began working with Olympic athletes in 1972 and found that when he asked downhill skiers to imagine themselves on the hill, their brains sent electrical signals comparable to when the athlete was actually skiing. Another study performed at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation asked volunteers to practice flexing their bicep muscles – but only in their minds. Twelve weeks later the strength of the visualizing subjects improved by 13.5%. And an Australian study on the effects of visualization for free-throw shooters showed a 23% improvement in the players shot accuracy, all without touching a basketball.
But even with the amazing breakthroughs in neuroscience, scientists still can’t fully explain how our minds access the unquantifiable elements of faith, hope and belief. Every year in every field thousands of tremendously skilled individuals compete for the top positions. But success is never guaranteed. From gold medal athletes to million-dollar salesmen to breakout social media stars, the path to the top is never quite the same. Some people just seem to have a magical X-factor that enables them to succeed again and again.
This is the power of visualization at work. Every superstar knows that if they can imagine it, feel it and believe it, they are on their way to having it.
Visualizing A New Reality
Every day we are shaping the rest of our life. The thoughts we think, the plans we make and the actions we perform are the building blocks of our lives. We have a job so we coordinate our lives around making sure it’s stable and profitable. We have wives or girlfriends so we work on keeping them happy. We have kids so we invest time with them. We have hobbies that we work on in our spare moments. In other words, we follow our usual daily routine.
Our habitual thoughts, plans and actions run automatically without much effort and that’s good. Habits are like rudders that keep us on course. But what if we want to change our course? What if our jobs aren’t profitable or stable? What if our relationship sucks? What if we aren’t connecting with our kids? What if we have no hobbies?
What if we want something better for ourselves?
The basic building blocks of our reality are continuously being created every day by our imagination. What we feed our subconscious is converted into what we believe. If we watch television news on a regular basis, the thoughts of the network executives will shape our perspective about who and what is in control of our lives. If we spend time around negative, bitter people we will begin to share their unhappy perspective. But if we continuously populate our imagination with images of where we want to go and who we want to become, those pictures will start to change our future.
Anything we choose to focus on shapes what we are capable of becoming. Visualization is the key to sharpen that focus until it becomes a laser beam. It’s the tool that winners use to accomplish their dreams.
So how can you start using this incredible tool for yourself? Just ask Oprah.
Oprah’s Visualization Method
Oprah Winfrey started at the very bottom of society and worked her way up to become a world-changing media mogul with a net worth of over $2.6 billion. Oprah is successful in a way few people can even imagine – and that’s exactly why most people fail. For decades Miss Winfrey has invested her imagination into her future until it became a reality. She credits her incredible achievements directly to her use of visualization. Here’s how Oprah uses this powerful skill to achieve greatness:
- Write Down Your Goal
- Visualize Your Goal
- Use Your Five senses
- Get Excited!
- Work Toward Your Goal
- Let It Go
- Repeat Steps 1-6 Daily
- Be Patient
- Reap the Rewards
Step 1. Write Down Your Goal
What do you want? A six-pack? To perform a stand-up comedy set? To deadlift 400 pounds? Learn the Star Spangled Banner on the guitar? Make out with a beautiful woman on the top of the Empire State Building? Start your own company?
Whatever it is, write down your dream and make it concrete.
Step 2. Visualize Your Goal
Find a quiet place, close your eyes and make a mental picture of yourself accomplishing your goal. Imagine the crowd of people laughing hysterically at your best jokes. Imagine the barbell bending as you heft that huge weight off the ground. Imagine the beautiful woman smiling as you pull her close for the kiss.
Hold the images in your mind until they start to feel real.
Step 3. Use Your Five Senses
While you’re imagining your goal, add more sensations. What color is the guitar? Is it red? Black? What does it sound like? Is it a classical guitar or a distorted electric guitar? What does the wood smell like? How about the metal? What do the guitar strings feel like against your fingers as you play?
The more sensations you add to your mental picture, the more powerful it becomes.
Step 4. Get Excited!
After you connect your five senses to your image, fill it with emotion! Are you quitting your job to start a new one? Imagine how incredible it’s going to feel holding your box of supplies and walking out of your shitty old office, leaving all those negative people for good on your way to your new, better paying job. Hold onto that sensation of excitement and opportunity – two things your old boss never believed in. Let yourself be disgusted at all the years you wasted working for people who didn’t believe in you. Imagine the inspiring environment where people are genuinely dedicated to taking care of each other and making a difference!
The more emotional your image is, the more power it will have to change you.
Step 5. Work Toward Your Goal
Visualizing without doing the work is the same as watching a cooking show without buying groceries. It may be enjoyable in the moment but sooner or later you’re going to need food. Make phone calls. Create to-do lists. Call people. Search the internet. Schedule meetings.
Start immediately on your plan and keep going until it is done.
Do the work.
Step 6. Let It Go
There is only so much you can do by yourself to create a massive dream. At some point you will have to admit that the problem is bigger than you are. This is where faith comes in. To accomplish your vision you will need new skills, new programs and a new way of looking at the world. You might need money you don’t have, networks you haven’t built or mentors you haven’t found yet. You will be discouraged and overwhelmed and you will want to give up. Believe that the answers will come and keep going anyway.
Hold onto that vision in your head. Come back to it constantly. Make that imaginary goal so vivid it’s more real than your own life. Then let go of the HOW, step out in faith and let the universe provide the solutions you need.
Step 7. Repeat Steps 1 – 6 Every Day
Read your goal over and over until it is memorized. Visualize it constantly. Use all of your senses and make it as real as you possibly can. Get excited and invest your emotions. Do your daily work. Believe in yourself and have faith that everything will work out in the end.
Commit to this process every day. Make it a part of your life.
Step 8. Be Patient
Growth takes time. Just like the acorn takes multiple seasons before it becomes a tree, every dream you have will require many weeks, months or even years before it is realized. The roots must grow first. Accept that this is part of the process.
Hold your vision in your mind and continue to do the necessary hard work even when you don’t see results.
Step 9. Reap Your Rewards
Every dream that is intelligently and diligently invested will produce excellence. This is the law of nature. If a field planted with corn is properly cared for, during harvest it will produce thousands of ears of corn. If grapevines are prepared correctly in spring, wine will flow freely in the fall.
Our minds are the fields and visualization is the planting of the seed. What fruit will you harvest for yourself this year?
Visualize your dreams and Stay Superior!
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