This year I have done a lot of visualization and I have learned to embrace it as an important part of my mental training. When I first began, I had the hardest time and I felt like I could never keep my mind locked in on one thing or experience images vividly enough for it to be helpful. But as with anything else, practice makes perfect--or at the very least it will make you not suck at it. One of the visualization exercises I do involves picturing myself achieving my biggest athletic goal and experiencing how it feels to have already achieved that goal. I see myself in that place, down to the expression on my face, the tears in my eyes, my body posture, and what is running through my mind. I picture the people around me and how I interact with them, and the congratulatory responses from all my friends and family. I do my best to make that moment as real as possible, so that I get to the point that I feel as if it's really happened. Every time I do this exercise it brings me to tears…but they are tears of joy. I cry from sheer happiness of actually feeling like I accomplished my goal, and that's when I know I'm visualizing right. And then I ask myself one simple question…
Was it worth it?
And then I become even more emotional. Without a doubt the answer is yes and there is a deep satisfaction in experiencing what success will be like. Now I take the exercise one step further and I let my mind retrace all the steps it took to get to my moment of greatness. The successes, the failures, the times of self-doubt, the voices of all the people who said I should have given up and moved on by now, the moments I am most proud of--all of it. My career has been a pretty long one so this part of the visualization process can take a while sometimes. But what I do is work my way backwards and look at my journey from the vantage point of having made it to my destination and all the steps that led me to my achievement.
What I am seeing is my magnificent view at the top of my proverbial mountain and then letting myself remember the grueling hike it took to get there. And when I look back at my climb up--when the path seemed too steep but I kept on going anyway… or the times when the path came to a dead end and I had to search for another way…or even when I was knocked all the way back down to the bottom and had to go back and start from the beginning… I see my journey through the lens of where it has brought me and I know that I am so glad that I stuck with it. This exercise has given my mind a path to follow and made the outcome of all my hard work very real to my brain. It feels like my reality and all I need to do now is go out and have a deja vu experience.
Part of achieving your goal is actually being able to show that you accomplished what you set out to do. But the other part of attaining, the part that completes the magnificent view if you will, and even contributes to it's magnificence, is what happens to you on the inside and who you become. And that's the part that happens through the dead ends, the falls, and all the times you will yourself to continue. When you do this visualization exercise right, you see the whole picture and you appreciate your destination even more because it is firmly connected and intertwined with your journey.
*I wanted to elaborate on some of the specific experiences and memories that I remember during this trip down memory lane but this blog has gotten too long already, so perhaps you can look for it later this week in another posting. I don't know if anyone else would find it as interesting as I do, but at the very least it's a good snapshot for anyone who might be interested.