“Winners, I am convinced, imagine their dreams first. They want it with all their heart and it expect it to come true. There is, I believe, no other way to live.” – Joe Montana
How many of us wonder how certain athletes, entertainers, or business people seem to have a flair for success. I promise you it just doesn’t happen. Their secret is something that is practiced by successful individuals at every level of their success journey. It begins in their mind. Whatever we think about most we tend to move towards.
In the 1980’s I first discovered the technique of visualization. As an athlete I attempted to use visualization techniques that I had started learning to improve my competitive power lifting. My coach at the time was a former world champion, John Kanter. His personal technique was simple. See yourself complete the lift then go out and complete the lift. The problem for me was that it just didn’t work that way. I spoke with many psychologists who had other ideas on how to expand on what I was being taught. This is when I first learned about guided imagery. It involved literally going through a mental rehearsal of my event. But what was added was the emotional component. Now I began to feel the emotion of the result that I desired. Now this was starting to make an impact on my performance. So as I began to feel my emotions, the image of the outcome I desired became more of a certainty. This made all the difference in my performances.
Visualization and Aging
In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the “very old” which I now refer to as Beyond Boomers looked at life more pragmatically. It was what it was. They really didn’t have tools to get them to the next level of their life. They believed in just dealing with what ever hand they were dealt. You had to search for the individuals who were willing to do whatever it took to defy the aging process. The problem was that this core group many times made it difficult for others to be involved. What I mean is that, those who had severe physical or motivational challenges found it very difficult to associate with this very active group of the “very old”. What I began to do was develop simple techniques that anyone could use to improve the quality of their lives, both physically and psychologically. From a physical standpoint I created simple easy exercises that anyone could do. Next I was able to help individuals through guided imagery believe that they could improve themselves physically.
Power of the Mind
By getting individuals involved in simple exercise I was able to teach them that the mind could not distinguish between what was considered real life and what image they could create. We talked about how good it felt to see themselves doing the exercise but even better we talked about how doing the exercises would allow them to do things they no longer thought they could do. We learned that what was, was. What is, is. What was, will be again. I knew if I could influence them that events in life are many times circular and if they could vividly see themselves doing those things again, that their body will actually physically respond as if they were doing the activity. The goal eventually was to create certainty in their mind that they could perform the desired activity.
Denis Waitley showed in the 1980’s and 1990’s using what he called ” Visual Motor Rehearsal” with Olympic Athletes that when the athletes competed only in their mind their body showed the same nervous response that occurred in the actual event. They also showed that more important than the images were the feelings or emotions that came from those images.
Other researchers; such as Lynne Evans; Rebecca Haus and Richard Mullen showed that injured athletes and cancer patients demonstrated using visualization techniques:
- Improved rate of healing
- Increased ability to deal with the injury or disease
- Increased motivation to begin doing more on their own
- Improved feeling of well-being
- Improved quality of life
- Decreased in length of hospital stays
- Decrease in use of pain medication
Visualization and Reversing Aging
My goal for those in the Beyond Boomer group is to influence them to vividly see themselves reversing the effects of aging. If they can see themselves healthy and active, then learn to attach a strong emotional component, they can change their lives. There is another great analogy that relates to this that all of us have experienced. Remember the last time you read a book or saw a movie where you became so involved in what the character was doing that you became emotionally tied to the action. Your body responded the same as the character. Maybe your heart rate went up and you started sweating. Let me remind you that you were only sitting down. Your mind is an amazing tool. I believe that this one aspect of training has had the biggest effect on my work with Beyond Boomers. I have witnessed individuals begin to drive again, become more social and of course improve physically. This was all possible because they learned how to mentally rehearse these things before they happened. It is common to hear successful individuals state “Thoughts become Things”. It was my job to convince them to find the right thoughts.
Visualization and Fitness
I believe that anyone in the fitness field should begin doing their own research to find out more on this topic. You will soon discover that your ability to influence people will greatly improve. Your programs will take on a more holistic approach. Because of the times we live in it makes good sense to provide individuals with as many tools as possible. I believe it’s part of your job to continually find quality information and share it with your clients. If you are currently using techniques of visualization, great! Keep learning. There is a lot of information and it might provide the key to taking your program to the next level. As Joe Montana says, “There is no other way to Live”