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Prime Yourself for a Great Day

By John Millen

With most of us stuck working from home during the pandemic, the days, weeks and months can feel like one long march through a gray tunnel, interrupted only by moments of reoccurring work-related stress.

Luckily, as human beings, we can access mental tools to help us break free of the monotony and the stress. 

One remarkable and unique ability of our brain is to imagine future scenarios in rich detail, like our own virtual reality, to improve our performance under stress.

Paint a mental picture
You’ve probably heard the term "visualization." It’s the process we can use to paint a mental picture of future events.

Athletes, business leaders, scientists and others have discovered that creating a rich, detailed picture of success in our minds can improve our performance.

Researchers say there are at least two phenomena driving this:

First, these mental pictures stimulate our neural networks, the nerve cells connecting our bodies and minds. When a vivid mental experience is created in our minds, our subconscious doesn’t make a clear distinction between this virtual reality and the actual event.

Second, researchers find that this mental rehearsal can calm our amygdala, the fight-or-flight center of fear in our brains. This can result in lowered stress hormones and heart rate. This gives us greater confidence in our abilities to complete the task at hand under pressure.

Fooling your subconscious mindIf you paint a rich enough picture and try to actually experience the event, your subconscious will think that it has already taken place in the way you viewed it. This will help you to feel more comfortable and confident.

Performance coach Tony Robbins uses a ten-minute morning routine to "prime" his mental and emotional state for the day ahead. The last three minutes are dedicated to the visualization of completing a specific goal he is pursuing. "Don't think about making it happen, see it as done," Robbins says.

He imagines a celebration of completion, not only for himself, but he feels gratitude for how that goal will positively affect others.Try it yourself: virtual presentationBeyond setting the stage for a great day, you can use visualization to reframe particularly stressful situations during the day, such as making a presentation or doing a job interview on Zoom or another platform.Here’s a classic visualization exercise from The Charisma Myth * by Olivia Fox Cabane, a book well worth reading on many levels. She advises:

If you try this exercise relating to a presentation or other situation you face, take the time to sit quietly and feel as if you are in the room where your communication will take place. See the people. Paint a rich, detailed picture of you achieving success.

The following visualization is a great tool to increase the amount of power you want to convey. You can try this exercise at home on the couch, at work sitting at your desk, or even in an elevator––whenever you have the opportunity to close your eyes for a minute.

    • Close your eyes and relax.

    • Remember a past experience when you felt absolutely triumphant––for example, the day you won a contest for an award.

    • Hear the sounds in the room—the murmurs of approval, the swell of applause.

    • See peoples’ smiles and expressions of warmth and admiration. 

    • Feel your feet on the ground and the congratulatory handshakes.

    • Above all, experience your feelings, the warm glow of confidence rising within you.

Give this a try before you face a challenging communication situation. You’ll still need to do the work to prepare and rehearse, but you’ll find added confidence and better performance by visualizing your success.

Priming yourself can make a huge difference in changing the day-to-day drudgery of working from home. Use visualization to prime yourself for a great day.

Please visit my contact page if you have questions or stories about visualizing your success.

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