In my last blog, I wrote about future pacing and visualisation and wrote a little bit about how Muhammed Ali had used these techniques so effectively. Since then I have been thinking more about how Ali did this, about his incredible self-belief, the way that it was rock solid. Even in, or perhaps particularly so when he was suffering with Parkinson’s Disease. Hmmmm. Even as I have typed that, it doesn’t feel, look or sound right. “Suffering” and Muhammed Ali don’t really seem to go together do they? He certainly had Parkinson’s disease but whatever challenges he faced in private, in public he never came across as “suffering”. Even in those appearances where it was clear how advanced the disease was, he still had that mischievous twinkle of self-belief and supreme confidence in his eyes. That absolute knowledge that he was a champion both inside the ring and out.
So how did he do it? Well, Ali claimed that his success was not only due to his obvious talent but down to visualising victory prior to the fight, seeing himself celebrating that victory and hearing the crowd chanting his name in jubilation, long before the fight ever took place. Some say that this didn’t have an impact, that he was simply just too good, too talented to be beaten by his opponents; that his self-affirmations and proclamations of “it’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am” didn’t have impact. I guess the conclusion from that viewpoint is that visualisation and consequently NLP and its future pacing are ineffective.
Now I’m not a boxing expert but whilst there isn’t any denying Ali’s talent, his 56 wins don’t stack up against the 173 of Sugar Ray Robinson who apparently holds the title of the greatest boxer of all time. So, I think it would be unwise to dismiss the benefits of visualisation, future history or pacing.
I we accept that it’s useful, how do we use it to set goals? Well, I guess most of us at least have a vague idea of what we want to achieve, yet not all of us truly invest in what that goal looks like. Do we visualise what it’s like to achieve it? Do we take ourselves forward and step into that point in time when we have achieved that goal? Do we feel what that achievement is like? Do we hear what it sounds like? Do we look round and see where we are when we achieve it? See who else is there? See their reaction to our achievement? Do we notice any taste? A taste of victory? Do we notice any scent associated with our achievement?
If we cannot picture our own success, how will we make it happen? Think of the other sports people who have used this technique. Jonny Wilkinson visualising how it would feel as his foot made perfect contact with the ball, seeing it glide through the posts and tracing that line back to that perfect spot on the ball. He said “You are creating the sights and sounds and smells, the atmosphere, the sensation, and the nerves, right down to the early morning wake-up call and that feeling in your stomach. It helps your body to get used to performing under pressure.”
Wayne Rooney would always ask the club’s kit man what colour kit they would wear the next day so that he could lie in bed the night before the game and visualise himself scoring goals or doing well, trying to put himself in that moment and trying to prepare himself to have a ‘memory’ before the game.
Prior to London 2012, Jessica Ennis-Hill revealed: “I use visualisation to think about the perfect technique. If I can get that perfect image in my head, then it’ll affect my physical performance.” Indeed, Psychology today reported a study which examined the brain patterns of weightlifters that were activated when they were lifting hundreds of pounds and found that the same brain patterns were activated when they visualised successfully lifting the weight. It makes me curious to know if there is a link between the visualisation and our physiology. It certainly suggests that visualisation and mental practices are almost as effective as physical practices; and both together are more effective than one on its own. It reminds me of that quote from Henry Ford “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.”
I don’t know if we find it easier to dwell on the negative aspects, on the things we cannot do, or the problems that we may encounter or the things we wish we could do. Is it easier? Or is it simply what we are used to? What we feel comfortable with? Have you ever noticed what is happening in your body when these thoughts sneak in? That monkey jumps in creating mischief and wreaking havoc! I’m curious what you will notice next time you find these thoughts in your head. What happens to your posture? To your breathing? What aches and pains do you become aware of? What do you feel inside you?
I wonder what differences you would notice if you began using positive affirmations? Those positive specific statements that can help you overcome the negative, self-limiting, self-sabotaging thoughts. Studies in America would indicate that using positive affirmations increased self-esteem and reduced depressive symptoms along with negative thinking in some individuals. I would imagine that its effectiveness will depend on your mindset; if you view it as wishful thinking or having an unrealistic perspective on life then it is unlikely that the positive affirmations will feel authentic or realistic.
Perhaps we could consider them as exercises for the mind. Some people regularly do repetitive exercise to keep their body in a positive state, is this not just what we are trying to achieve with the mind?
Positive Affirmation Hints and Tips:
- They work well when used alongside a specific goal and visualisation.
- Keep them realistic. If your goal is to lose 5 stone, no matter how many times you use a positive affirmation, it won’t happen within a month. It’s important that you are able to truly believe that this is possible, so create your future history for a point in the future that is realistic.
- Use the present tense. For example, I am well-prepared and well-rehearsed and I am giving an interesting and engaging presentation.
- Use regularly throughout the day. You may want to have them pop up regularly on your phone or on your electronic diary. You may prefer visual cues around your home or office.
- Repeat with feeling. Say it loud. Say it proud. Give it some welly!
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