Coaching Yourself

by Melanie Greene

Visualising success

Undoubtedly we become what we envisage.

Claude C Bristol

One of the reasons for coaching yourself is to become more successful. How you define success will be up to you. It might be in terms of increased job performance, promotion, or being happier and more satisfied. It will vary from individual to individual.

The problem with the inner critic is that it can often undermine our confidence, hooking into our fearful child and preventing us from believing that we can be successful in life or in particular situations. So visualising success is another technique that can assist you in countering your inner critic and in coaching yourself.

There are two aspects to this:

  • Looking up so that you accessing your visual cortex
  • Visualising what you are going to do in order to feel confident and create success.

Things are looking up...

And so should you! It might sound a bit daft to say that looking up will make you feel better, but there is actually a scientific reason behind this. And we all unconsciously know that looking up, rather than down, makes us feel better. We have expressions such as

  • ‘Chin up’, when we are trying to cheer someone up
  • ‘Down in the dumps’, when we are feeling low.

If you think about it, when you are happy and walking along the street, you tend to look up and around you. When you are feeling down, low or angry, you tend to look down as you walk around. What happens when we look down is that we access both our negative emotions and our inner dialogue. So if we are feeling any of the negative moods, we tend to look down and enter into some kind of inner dialogue, usually with our inner critic, which of course makes us feel even worse. For example: ‘Now you’ve really gone and messed things up’, ‘How did I get myself into this mess?’, ‘I feel bad/guilty/stupid... ’ and so forth.

Why does looking up make you more positive?

When you look up you access your visual cortex and this helps you to visualise. When you are looking up it is almost impossible to have a negative feeling or thought – if you try to access a negative emotion, your head or your eyes come down to enable you to connect with the part of your brain that allows you to feel negative feelings. So just keep on looking up in order to feel positive and to see a brighter future!

Our natural response to situations

We do this quite naturally when we are feeling confident about ourselves and the situation we are in. If someone asks us a question about something we know, we will usually look up momentarily to access the answer in our brain, then look back to the questioner and answer the questions. If we are unsure of ourselves, we often look down; then we start to feel bad because we don’t know the answer, and we begin to doubt ourselves, engaging in destructive inner dialogue with our inner critic and following the spiral downwards.

From my personal experience and from talking to others, it seems that we naturally look up when we are trying to stop ourselves from crying. We perhaps do not consciously know why it helps, but unconsciously we know it does. In fact, when I was explaining this to a group of managers on a course, one of the men said he had noticed himself looking at the ceiling of the church during his father’s funeral, for exactly the same reason.

Key tip

Encourage yourself to look up when you feel down!

So we naturally and unconsciously look up to help us control our emotions, while at other times we end up looking down and losing the battle with our thoughts and moods. Now that you know about this, you can take conscious action to use this to manage your mood.

For some more on the theory underpinning this, see What the eyes can tell you in the NLP topic.

Visualising the future or a solution to a problem

When it comes to understanding human psychology, there seems to be a lot more research carried out into achieving sporting success than into how we can be successful in our daily lives. However, we can learn from the techniques that have been found to help sports people.

One of the findings is that those people who back up their physical practice with visualising the successful completion of a game, shot or race are more successful than those who only physically rehearse.

Many successful sports people spend time visualising their success beforehand and even while travelling to an event. Golfers visualise playing the whole golf course in their head, runners visualise (see, hear and feel) themselves running each step in a race, while rugby players visualise getting the ball over the bar or scoring the try. It has been found that when people do this, their muscles react accordingly, and it is as though their whole body mentally rehearses the successful completion of the event or game.

Visualising success, not failure

What we often do, with the help of our nagging inner critic or fearful child, is to visualise failure and things going wrong. This can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy, as it affects how we feel, our motivation, how we communicate, our behaviour and therefore the end result of the action we take.

How to visualise success – even if you can’t ‘see’ it!

One word of advice about visualisation: not all of us find it easy. Having coached a lot of people through this process, I’m aware that not everyone gets a clear visual image in front of them; others see things in their mind’s eye, or feel them or hear them. People often think they need to be able to see a vivid movie of their visualisation. This isn’t necessary – you will do just as well if you feel it in your body or see it in your mind’s eye. One client, who was not at all a visual person, found that persisting with this process definitely helped him to visualise how he wanted to handle challenging situations.