We all want to perform at the top of our game. What sets ultra-successful people apart from those who get stuck is how they deal with challenges.
There’s a huge mental component to success. If you ask the world’s most elite performers what their secret weapon is, you will hear the same thing: “You have to see it in your mind before it will show up in your life.” This is known as visualization, and it’s an incredibly powerful tool.
Various studies have researched how competitors utilize visualization in their training, and the findings are clear: This mental practice gives performance a major boost. How can you use visualization even if you’re not an Olympic athlete? Here are a few techniques to melt your nerves and increase your confidence so you can go out there and share the most amazing version of yourself:
1. Get physical with relaxation.
Before I give presentations, I get pretty amped. Even after a 10-year career on Broadway, every time I am invited to speak at a conference or corporation I get nervous.
Anxiety is not a cute look for a meditation teacher, so how do I move past it? I use the energy that starts pumping through my body to move. There are some key Ayurvedic breathing techniques that require you to get physical. This is perfect because you can dissipate the anxiety while simultaneously slowing your breathing. My favorite is to simply start walking. While you walk, inhale for two steps then exhale for four. Repeat. If you want to get fancy, practice some self-massage afterward (focus on your jaw, neck, and trapezius) to create an open, relaxed body so that you can be a vessel for creativity.
2. Accept and surrender.
These two words are not real crowd-pleasers. As a recovering control freak I know that acceptance and surrender can sound like giving up or weakness, but nothing could be further from the truth. When it’s go time, your job is to acknowledge that you have done all the prep work to set the foundation, and now it’s time to let go and take things as they come. We prepare, not to control the situation, but so that we can surrender and let nature take its course. If you prepare well, then you afford yourself the luxury of letting go.
3. Visualize what you're going to do.
Now it’s time for the actual visualization. The key here is to be as specific as possible and incorporate all five senses.
Take some inspiration from world-famous water skier Camille Duvall, who has won more awards than all the other female water skiers combined. This is her routine for visualization: “The morning of a tournament, before I put my feet on the floor, I visualize myself making perfect runs with emphasis on technique, all the way through to what my personal best is…”
Picture yourself in whatever intense situation you have coming up. Be sure to include all the details of the environment. So if you are preparing for a public speaking gig, don’t just think about what you are going to say: Feel your feet on the ground, see the room, and hear the audience in your mind. Imagine how you will breathe and get grounded before you begin. Hear the audience laughing at your first joke. See the audience smiling and receiving your message. Imagine all the sensory details of your best-case scenario, from start to finish, so much so that you start to feel what success feels like for you.
4. Strike a pose.
Strike a power pose (think Wonder Woman or Superman) and take a few more deep breaths. Striking power poses is a simple and fun way to trick your body into producing confidence chemicals instead of fear chemicals. Instead of collapsing and protecting your heart by being small, power poses get the body big and open. If you hold a pose for two minutes, your body chemistry starts to respond. While you hold the pose, acknowledge all of your hard work and remind yourself that you deserve this opportunity.
Like any tool, visualization is only effective if you take the time to pick it up and use it. For more in-depth instruction on how to use visualization and specific techniques to help you with job interviews, sexual performance, and even losing weight, check out my course, exclusive to mindbodygreen. The beautiful thing about these techniques is the more you use them, the more powerful they become. The benefits are cumulative. It’s time to stop wondering whether you’re really meeting your full potential and start visualizing yourself basking in the bliss of better performance.
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