How Entrepreneurs Can Leverage Visualization: A Neuroscientist Explains

Making a mark in an ever more competitive arena is challenging, and entrepreneurs are looking for new ways to gain an edge. The new generation of entrepreneurs is starting to look to neuroscience for insights to improve their performance. Psychologists have long understood the usefulness of visualization as a method of behavioral therapy, but its application can extend far beyond that.

Visualization has been shown to improve musical ability, athletic performance, self-confidence, mental health, and even physical strength. From a neuroscience perspective, visualization can be used to improve performance in almost any setting, using only the power of the mind, and action is no exception.

Mike Tranter is a neuroscientist at the University of California San Diego, specializing in the neural circuits within the brain. He holds a PhD in Neuroscience and is the author of the bestselling book A Million Things to Ask a Neuroscientist: The Brain Made Easy. Tranter explores the benefits of neuroscience in everyday life, and is now turning his attention to helping entrepreneurs gain an edge in business, particularly using visualization.

Make imagination intentional

As Tranter explained, “Your brain naturally uses some form of visualization every day. The frontal cortex is heavily involved in decision-making and future planning. Throughout the day, you make decisions, whether consciously or unconsciously, based on the expected outcomes and potential consequences of your actions.” Interestingly, visualization enables a person to control this process and orient himself to scenarios in which he decides not only the outcome, but also choices and actions. during the operation.

“When you close your eyes and visualize something, you turn on the neural circuit in the same way as you would if you were really experiencing it,” Tranter explained. “For example, imagining your partner will activate the visual cortex in the brain, as if you were seeing them in front of you.” Simply put, the act of visualizing can activate associated memories, emotional context, and even change heart rate. “Your brain doesn’t really care that you don’t really have the experience, your neurons are still active.”

Make a long lasting change in your mind

“Using visualization, the synapses in your brain are bombarded with messages as if you are experiencing a behavior and are constantly repeating it.” Over time, this leads to adaptive changes in the brain, called plasticity, “in which brain connections adapt over time.” When you get a real experience, such as learning to play the piano, the clamps will be release and the flexibility will occur. Imagining playing the piano triggers synapses and creates plasticity in the same way.

Taking advantage of this neural process can “help develop your skills when used in the real world,” Tranter explains. Close your eyes and imagine the most confident and successful version of you. What do they say, how do they speak, what do they wear? using a technique called visualize the result These feelings can make you familiar, and it quickly becomes second nature to act like the person you see. Imagine accepting your dream role, hearing a yes from your dream client, or seeing a certain number in your bank account. Your brain will think that this welcome news is actually happening, and you will act accordingly.

Change your way of experiencing the real world

The practice of visualizing key events can lead to a process called classical conditioning, which is an automatic response to a stimulus or real-world experience. “Say, for example, you have a presentation coming up. Imagining the moment you’re standing in front of an audience, over and over again, until it brings you excitement rather than anxiety, would translate into feeling excited (at least partially) when the actual time comes.” You can change your reaction to fear or discomfort in the same way. Imagine yourself running up a steep hill and enjoying the experience. Imagine yourself hearing a loud siren and feeling calm.

Imagination works best when what you are imagining is as real as possible, so “involve all of your senses.” When photographing certain scenarios, imagine what you can hear, see, and even smell. “This will cement those experiences into your mind a lot better,” Tranter says.

For example, if you’re going to meet a potential client in a conference room you’ve used before, try to remember what it looked like, smelled, or even felt on the table in front of you. If you were to meet a new client, would you stand or sit, would you shake hands or adopt another method? It may seem strange at first with this level of detail, but science backs it up, with study participants constantly gaining more and better with higher levels of detail in their perception.

The core idea of ​​visualization is that you need to visualize something as it will happen in real life from your point of view. What will it feel real? Will you be anxious or confident? Will your heart race or will you sweat? The more realistic the fantasy, the better prepared you will be.

Which gives you an edge at work

How can this help the modern entrepreneur, you may ask? Tranter recommends that in order for visualization to give you an edge in action, you should “imagining situations and pitfalls along the way, so when they occur, your brain thinks it has already gone through them.” The technical term for this is mental contradictionIt was developed by psychologist Gabriel Oettingen who specializes in goal setting and behavior.

If you want to develop your use of mental paradox to a higher level, you should think and plan how to overcome any obstacles you may encounter. You have to write it down and practice it or even add it to your visualization.

You can imagine being “challenged in your ideas when giving an important presentation, or hearing adverse news about the economy or a major client.” In doing this, when that happens in real life, your mind has already adapted to deal with the feelings that may come to the surface.

Imagination can take away the element of surprise from every encounter. If you have prepared for the client to be unhappy, or the interviewer to be intimidating, or the audience to be huge, your brain feels like it has already dealt with that part of your scenario. You now have more space to focus on getting your message across.

But where do you start?

The most common question about this technique is “Where do I begin?” Here, Tranter offers advice for those entrepreneurs who want to dive into visualization but are new to the idea. “Start by doing this for ten minutes in a quiet, comfortable and familiar environment, such as your bedroom. For best results, at least in the beginning, try to pick a point in your day where you are not too tired or stressed, perhaps an hour or so before bed.” Ultimately, as you become more confident and experienced, you can find moments throughout your day wherever you are. This could be in a park at lunch, on a train or subway, or even in a foyer a few minutes before a meeting.

Imagine how you want to feel the rest of the week. Imagine winning a new client or achieving your biggest business goal. Imagining the future and imagining it happening can make you feel less traumatized when it actually happens. Eliminating the trauma factor may lead to more deliberate rather than emotional responses. A calm, unobtrusive leader who cannot be surprised is a unique individual.

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