I am guessing that many of you have made New Year resolutions, and possibly some of you are already losing the motivation to keep to your plans. How often do we make a decision to change something only to find ourselves heading back down the old familiar route and getting back to what feels comfortable.
Take for example a decision to stop smoking or drinking too much alcohol. Now visualise stopping this activity. Can you do it, visualise stopping? I can’t, I find it almost impossible to visualise stopping something. What is there to see in the your mind? So, what about visualising starting something. Does that work? So, instead of “I am going to stop smoking”, you can change the statement and then visualise, “I am going to start breathing in cleaner air”, or “I am going to start feeling a looking healthier”. The same could be said for drinking too much alcohol, a statement that says what you will be doing instead, and a visualisation to match may have a beneficial effect. For instance, “I am going to take care of my liver and drink soft drinks more frequently”, or “I am going to take a walk each day and shorten the time I spend in the pub/bar”.
We know that successful sports people such as athletes and gymnasts spend a lot of time visualising their moves, races and matchplay. It surprising to understand that they don’t need to be actually racing, playing, performing, and that they can improve their performance with visualisation.
In the 1970’s, the Soviets and East Germans were the first to formally use structured mental rehearsal. At that time, they dominated in several Olympic sports. Today virtually all elite athletes use visualization extensively, as we now know that the brain cannot differentiate between real practice and practice that is vividly imagined. Look at my blog for more clinical studies on the effectiveness of imagery, relaxation, meditation and the most effective ways to exercise.
OUR BRAINS ARE LIKE COMPUTERS, WAITING FOR A PROGRAM TO BE INSTALLED.
In their book, A General Theory of Love the authors also discuss this, and suggest that visualisation creates new neural pathways. So, the more we visualise a new activity, the more likely we are to create a new pathway and achieve our goals.
So, I don’t make New Year resolutions, and I gave up smoking 13 or so years ago. However, I have procrastinated here in France for 6 years now, hoping that the French books on my desk or beneath the coffee table will somehow be absorbed by my brain. Actually, maybe I haven’t been procrastinating quite as much as I think. I know I most certainly understand and speak much better French than I did 4 years ago, and I suspect I have some new neural pathways already waiting for some more tweaking. I am not a great “student” and find book learning really difficult. Last night I was discussing with my French friend my desire to really get moving on improving my French language. We were discussing how my experience of being corrected by French people doesn’t seem to work for me, and for some reason I block the correction. He says that it takes him 3 times to learn a new piece of grammar/English sentences. I had heard this before that people need to see/read/hear something 3 times for it to sink in, and I am hoping that will work for me. I suspect that this is yet another way that we create new pathways. What I have to visualise is myself listening and repeating the correction several times in order to absorb it. Tomorrow night (snow depending!) is my chance to move on, as I am joining a new group of people who want to improve their French speaking skills. That these people will mostly be French will certainly force me into the place where I really now want to be.
So, wish me luck….we’ll know if 2013 is the year I become fluent, as I shall start writing my blog in French.
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