“We see with our brains, not with our eyes.” ~ Norman Doidge
As I leave a speaking event here in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, I’m not too far from the Olympic Opening ceremonies that just took place in PyeongChang. The anticipation and excitement felt by the athletes makes me smile.
From a very early age as an athlete, I used visualization skills to enhance my performance. Before I went to sleep at night, I would put myself in a trance-like state, and project myself into the ideal performance state. I didn't just 'see’ myself performing with perfection, I actually felt it with my entire body. Not just ‘seeing’ but ‘feeling’- this is the key.
While training for the Calgary Winter Olympics I used visualization techniques to enhance performance. Research shows that there are great benefits to mental rehearsal, in which nerve pathways in the brain are stimulated subconsciously and performance is enhanced. This is actually a form of neuroplasticity.
I used this technique when I was learning to walk and during my rehabilitation. I visualized myself walking normally and then later, flying an airplane. You don’t need to be an athlete to use neuroplasticity techniques. It works for everyone.
For centuries it was believed that the brain was hardwired and largely unable to recover mental abilities lost because of damage or disease. In Norman Doidge’s groundbreaking book, The Brain’s Way of Healing, he explains how the brain’s capacities are highly dynamic and constantly changing. Referred to as neuroplasticity, the brain has the ability to reorganize itself in response to learning, experiences, and following injuries.
Here are examples of “brain workouts” you can use in your daily life:
Do common tasks differently. Brush your teeth with the opposite hand, jog or walk a different route, or swim a different stroke than the usual.
Read an article or book on a completely new subject.
Get enough sleep. It restores brain connections and helps you form new memories and learn faster.
Learn a new language or how to play a musical instrument.
Travel. It doesn’t need to be far. Just exploring a different city over a weekend with unknown surroundings challenges your brain.
Practice positive thinking. At work, practice noticing the good things others do (and tell them) and don't dwell on past mistakes. At home, remind yourself of what you have instead of what you don't have.
Whenever I give a talk, someone always comes up to me afterwards and says, “I’ve always wanted to fly.” I ask, “Why don’t you?” Then comes the answer: “I’m too old, it’s too late, not enough money…” The excuses are never ending. Whatever you want to do in life, remember, you need to do more than just ‘see’ it, you need to ‘feel’ it as if it has already happened. Feeling is the secret.
As Napoleon Hill says, "Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve." I'm excited to have participated in a movie that will be released this year based on Napoleon Hill's book, Think and Grow Rich. Stay tuned!
Wishing you blue skies and tailwinds!
P.S. I'd love to hear your story about how you practice positivity in your life as part of my Raise Your Straw movement! Email me and let me know!
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