“If I hadn’t visualized playing athletes, I wouldn’t have gotten ‘Major League.’ If I hadn’t visualized playing a president, David Palmer never would have happened.”
Creating visualizations of what you want to accomplish can be a powerful strategy for achievement, according to many writers, coaches and research studies.
Perhaps the most research has been about athletes and sport psychology, but artists can use the techniques and approaches as well.
Actor Dennis Haysbert has portrayed a variety of dynamic characters in film (such as “Jarhead”) and television (including “24” and “The Unit”), and says, “I visualize the roles that I want.
“You’ve got to have a sense of what you want to do; otherwise, the universe is just going to throw something at you.”
[TV Guide, July 3-9 2006.]
In her article Awakening the Senses, creativity coach Linda Dessau writes about the book “How to think like Leonardo da Vinci” by Michael Gelb, particularly the “Sensazione” chapter, which Dessau notes “is dedicated to re-awakening and sharpening each of the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.”
She adds, “Gelb offers lots of exercises in this chapter to help you awaken your senses. My favourite is ‘Subtle Speculation: The Art of Visualization’.”
She continues, “As he explains: ‘The ability to visualize a desired outcome is built into your brain, and your brain is designed to help you succeed in matching that picture with your performance. And the more thoroughly you involve all your senses, the more compelling your visualization becomes.’”
Different kinds of visualization
The nature of it can be a key element in how effective visualization is.
A PsyBlog article refers to research on imagining the processes involved in reaching a goal, rather than just the end-state of achieving it. UCLA researchers Lien B. Pham and Shelley E. Taylor had students “either visualize their ultimate goal of doing well in an exam or the steps they would take to reach that goal, such as studying.
The results were clear, says the article.
“Participants who visualized themselves reading and gaining the required skills and knowledge, spent longer actually studying and got better grades in the exam. (Interestingly, though, the relationship generally found between time spent studying and good grades is surprisingly weak.) There were two reasons that visualizing the process worked: Planning: visualizing the process helped focus attention on the steps needed to reach the goal. Emotion: process visualization led to reduced anxiety.”
[From article: The Right Kind of Visualisation, PsyBlog.]
That last reason is interesting: How many times do we slow down or set aside our pursuit of developing a creative ability out of some kind of anxiety over not being able to do it “well enough” (perfectionism) or having to give up other talents and interests, or some other anxiety-producing belief?
The above is from the ‘Visualization’ section of my main book:
Developing Multiple Talents:
The personal side of creative expression
You can also read a Sample PDF.