This month in our SEALFIT Online training program we’re spending some time dissecting the art and skill of visualization. As part of this effort I filmed a nice guided visualization video to be used to prepare for a SEALFIT OpWod. It was a pretty cool visualization exercise and it got me thinking a bit on why it is so hard to learn to visualize and to train it well.
I have spoken at length about how visualization is one of the major skills of mental toughness – so it should be no surprise that I’m a big believer in the power of effective visualization. Developing our visual acuity and directing it with focused attention on the mission we seek to accomplish has a powerful impact on mission success. Additionally, directing an emotionally charged internal visual representation, in a future time period, of the person we need to be to achieve our fullest potential plants a seed that the universe mysteriously nourishes to full stature. We cannot understand well (yet) from the scientific world-view why this is so. Nor does visualization sit well with the “quantified self” movement because it can’t be measured, tracked and isn’t suitable for a “hack.” So that leaves the skill to the mushy “I” quadrant of self-realization, actualization and mastery. But, IMHO, that is where the magic happens!
Before I get into visualization as a skill, I would like to discuss how the human brain’s development has steered us away from our natural born skills in this area. Modern man ascended from the apes when the brain suddenly sprouted a neocortex and frontal lobe, commonly called the forebrain. This relatively recent addition to the brain system of humans caused a dramatic shift in our development over other mammals. In essence it allowed for us to take control of time and to develop intricate, clever ways to plan and organize. We were soon formulating elaborate plans for the future allowing us to dominate other beings – including humans – and to manipulate nature. We also developed an obsession for dwelling on the past, which helped us learn from mistakes. These handy skills were absent in our mammalian-brained ancestors.
It appears to me that our infatuation with the frontal lobe caused us to throw the baby out with the bathwater by denying the power and value of the midbrain. Research has shown that that forebrain utilizes words and symbols to process and communicate information. However the language of the midbrain (or mammalian brain) is imagery and sensations. Thus modern humans have over-developed the verbal language based forebrain and allowed the midbrain to languish. To be fair, the imagery and sensations are still there, but they are largely drowned out by the noise of the frontal lobe, and ignored. What we get is fantasy and uncontrolled emotions. The result is that we have ignored and denied our visual acuity and sensory awareness – and the complimentary skills of remote viewing, healing, manifestation, pre-cognition and intuition – relegating them to the category of “special” and to the fringes of weird science.
Personally, I doubt that we humans were gifted the powerful frontal lobe so that we could ignore or ditch that pesky, emotional and visual mammalian brain. We were meant to operate as whole, complete beings, using each aspect of our brain-mind system to it’s fullest. But we have fallen in love with our frontal lobe and its awesome ability to analyze, rationalize, systematize, categorize and judge one’s size, relegating the rest of our brains to the obsolete column. The mid-brain, which had brought us visions of the future, the experience of living in the moment and a deep connection to nature and other creatures through symbols and metaphor, was left to atrophy. The consequences are disastrous – the collective brilliance of our frontal lobe caused us to identify it with it and elevate it to god status. Meanwhile, any true connection to nature, deep emotional resonance with others and mutual understanding was cut off. The results on a global scale speak for themselves.
Enough about the brain…so how do we get back in touch and learn to connect with our hearts, trust our guts and use our whole minds? How do we merge our rational mind with our heart mind for more wisdom? I think that we begin by developing our visual and sensual language so that we re-activate the mid-brain’s awesome power to connect and project into the future. This brings me full circle to my opening paragraph – it is tough to train visualization, especially in an age when everything is meant to be easy. At this time there is no pill that will activate our whole minds, like we saw in the movie Limitless. Achieving this whole-mind activation is done through hard work, daily practice and by learning a new language.
Like any workout, you cannot jump from beginner to advanced without consistent practice, diligence and focus. You wouldn’t expect to go from fat to fit overnight, yet so many people try out visualization, and then don’t feel like it’s working (or working enough) and then give up. It takes time and repetition to train the new circuits in your brain to picture new, more powerful outcomes – as though they were real. But as we’ve said, the results can be mind-blowing. Especially in the context of mental toughness, because a visualized image – held firmly in the mind’s eye — can power you through a tough challenge or roadblock that your normal, everyday mind might ordinarily succumb to. It’s powerful, but it’s not instant or overnight!
And therein lies the challenge. It is tough to teach the visual language when we can’t immediately see or test the results. Learning the visual language is a deeply personal endeavor and the best I (and other coaches) can do is to provide inspiration, a roadmap and to guide the trainee on the journey.
In the next post we begin the journey and delve into the process of learning this new language. Until then, train hard, stay safe and get out of your frontal lobe and into your mid-brain!
Hooyah! – Coach Divine
P.S. — I encourage you to mark your calendar for an upcoming webinar we’re hosting on August 12th — 11am PST — called “Think Offense, All The Time.”I encourage you to mark it in your calendar and be there. Click here to sign up now.