Visualize Then Execute! Peak Performers' Dirty Little Secret! | Dr. Sarah Zaldivar | Skillshare

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Visualize Then Execute! Peak Performers' Dirty Little Secret!

teacher avatar Dr. Sarah Zaldivar, Professor at Miami Dade College

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

12 Lessons (29m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Why Is Visualization Important?

    • 3. What is Neuroplasticity?

    • 4. How To Meditate

    • 5. Meditation Tips

    • 6. Visualization is Powerful

    • 7. How To Visualize

    • 8. Visualization Application

    • 9. The Habit of Visualization

    • 10. The Neuroscience Behind Visualization

    • 11. Resistance

    • 12. Outro Skillshare

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About This Class

Not sure why The Rock, Oprah, Arnold Schwarzenegger and countless other successful people are obsessed with visualization? Well...

What if I mentioned to you that scientific studies have proven that imagining a behavior physically changes the brain AND body in the same way as if you actually did that behavior?

This means that if you have an injury that prevents you from working out, then you could literally imagine lifting a heavy weight, and you will get physically stronger?!!! Seriously. It's a scientific fact! I'm sorry I just took away your excuse!

That also means that if you are worried about having an important conversation, you could imagine the way you would like to conduct yourself successfully during that conversation. Every visualization session is considered gaining experience by your brain and body. The more you visualize, the more experience you're gaining in confronting the tough conversations. And experience means that you are getting better at that task.

If you can't seem to wake up at 5 am to crush the day, you could visualize yourself successfully winning in that moment.

If you can't focus on writing a book, you could imagine yourself sitting there, focusing, and resisting the urge to follow the distracting thoughts that crop into your mind.

If you can't resist junk food, you could visualize a strong and disciplined version of yourself that finds it easy to resist unhealthy food.

....And I could go on and on but you get my point.

If you're into growing yourself and progressing in every area of your life, then visualization is an important piece of the puzzle. This course is an arrow-pointed and efficient tutorial that will get you from where you are right now to be able to gain control of your mind and focus on what you want to achieve in your life.

If you're in, I will see you on the inside!


Meet Your Teacher

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Dr. Sarah Zaldivar

Professor at Miami Dade College


Hey there! I'm Dr. Sarah Zaldivar. I hold a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology from the University of Miami in addition to both a Master's and a Bachelor's degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. I am a Licensed Dietitian in addition to being a certified Exercise Physiologist with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). I am currently an adjunct faculty in nutrition and exercise physiology at Miami Dade College, DeVry University and ACSM. Previously, I taught nutrition and exercise physiology for 5 years at the University of Miami.

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1. Introduction: What do all peak performers have in common from Arnold Schwarzenegger and Oprah Toe? Will Smith. These phenomenally successful people understand the importance of visualization and mental rehearsal, they imagine, and practice in their minds optimal results unshackled by the limits of the physical body. In fact, visualization has been studied in piano players as a substitute for physical practice. Hi, I'm Dr Sarah Zaldivar, and I create lifestyle and fitness content on various social media platforms to help you achieve your goals faster. So if you're interested in peak performance and would like to gain an edge over the competition in your chosen field, joined this course and I will see you on the inside. 2. Why Is Visualization Important?: Why is visualization important? The brain cannot differentiate between a physical reality and an imagined one. This means that your brain cannot tell whether you physically practice playing the piano or you simply rehearse a melody in your mind. Repetitive visualization or a Pettitte of mental rehearsing physically changes the brain in the same way that doing an action physically re wires the brain. Imagining that you're doing the action does the exact same thing. However, the advantage here is that mentally rehearsing an outcome allows you to imagine it perfectly without being limited by your physical body. You can mentally rehearse a perfect shot, but you can always physically practice with perfect shots all the time. So when you allow your mind to experience what it feels like to make the perfect shot or the perfect presentation, for example, it causes the release of chemicals in your brain and in your body, just like it would when you physically taken action or did that behavior physically. That way, you literally create the experience of success in your brain and body. Now repeating that mental rehearsal cement that imagine reality through the adaptations that take place in your brain body the more visual ization or mental her soul you practice , the better you get at it and the easier it gets. That's important because those with a more vivid imagination are more effective at creating the desired brain changes. When you fire a set of brain cells that are involved in mentally rehearsing a task, they develop thicker and stronger connections between those two sets of brain cells. This is how you adapt a visualization in the same way that your muscles and the gym adapt to the weights that you're lifting and become stronger and bigger so that the next time you live that same weight, it's easier. It's the same thing that happens with visualisation. Every time you do it, it becomes easier and easier. That is why the discomfort that you might feel in your first few sessions when you're learning how to visualize that is comfort dissipates. Eventually, the more you practice and this adaptation, and the brain is called neural plasticity 3. What is Neuroplasticity?: What is neuro plasticity? Neural plasticity is the scientific discovery that your brain cells, also known as neurons, can develop thicker and more numerous connections to other brain cells that are activated at the same time. This is known as heavy and learning, named after the newest psychologist, Donald Hebb, and you could describe it by saying neurons that fire together wire together and neurons that fire apart wire apart, which means that the brain cells that no longer fire in close succession to one another eventually that connection with there is a part. You're a plasticity is literally how you can create new habits and allow bad habits to die off with her apart and overcome them. 4. How To Meditate: How can meditation teach visualization? Well, the basics of meditation are the basics of visualization. Learning how to focus on your breath will give you the tools you need so that eventually as you know how to focus, you can swap your object of focus away from a focus on breath and towards a focus on whatever you want to visualize or manifests in your life if you've never meditated before, something that really helped me learn the basics of meditation was downloading the app Headspace. I've also heard great things about the App calm. And I think column is free, but Headspace is free only for the first 1010 minute sessions. And then you would have to pay a membership which is around $99 per year or $13 per month. So you could, for example, just do, let's say the first 1010 minute free sessions on headspace. I'll teach you the basics and then maybe subscribed for just one month and do the longer guided meditations. And then from there on, you can simply just meditate yourself and improve your practice that way. You can also purchase books on the subject, but really, it's very simple. Let's go through a quick overview of the basics of meditation right now. First, you wanna sit straight, ideally on a chair, believe it or not, it's actually more conducive to focus than sitting in the Lotus position on the ground with your hands and feet crossed. And that's because sitting on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your arms on your lap, or maybe on top of each other on your lap. This posture is the least distracting and it's going to be the one that introduces the least amount of distracting thoughts about your posture while you're trying to focus on the breath. However, if you prefer the lotus position, you can still do that. It's fine. The main thing here is to remember to not slouch or round your back because that can interfere with the breathing and also introduce further distracting thoughts into your practice. Now that you're in position, you want to take too deep, full breaths, inhaling and exhaling as hard as you can. And another one. And then if you haven't already make sure you close your eyes at this point. And now you want to shift your attention to any background noises and your environment just to be aware of them and kind of incorporating them into your practice as opposed to shutting them off. Also, you want to shift your attention to your posture. So as you're sitting there with your eyes closed, just try to see how do your legs feel. How do your arms feel? Do you have tightness in your throat or in your chest or back muscles? Just be aware of those sensations. Don't try to change anything. The simple act of being aware of them is going to automatically release that tension from your body. Also, it's recommended that you do a body scan. So just start from your toes. He how they feel, do they feel like do they feel heavy? Keep going up your legs, your torso, your chest, and keep going up until you reach the top of your head. It's called a body scan. And it also makes sure you're aware of any kind of physical constraints or discomfort that would automatically be released once you're aware of it. Now, you want to shift your attention towards your breath without attempting to change your breath, you're not forcing a calmer breathing pattern. Just note what it looks like. Is it shallow? Is a deep. Are you breathing rapidly or to slowly? So just be aware of that. And at this point, you should be able to breathe just from your nostrils without any mouth breathing involved. So you're simply breathing like that, not forcing it, but simply when you're calm and you've achieved a state of communists after doing the body scan and all the things we talked about, it's natural that you only need nostril breathing at this point, cuz you're not hyperventilating from the stress that's accumulated as you're focusing on your breath. Here, tension to your chess, how it's going up, how it's going down. Also, pay attention to whether or not you have tightness in your throat that might slow down the rate of respiration and then you start breathing a lot faster after you notice that. So that means you have tightness or stress there. Also, you want to be approaching every breath with some level of curiosity. You're not trying to change your breath or speed it up or slow it down by forcing that change. You're just aware of it. You're curious as to how your breaths are. Are they fast or the slow or the deep? Are they shallow? So your attention is really being shifted like touch of a light feather. You're not forcing anything, you're just observing. Because breathing is a natural process. You know how to breathe. So you're not trying to manipulate that, you're just observing. Now, inevitably, your focus is going to shift to other thoughts. And you're gonna notice that right away after the first few seconds of trying to focus on your breath. When that happens, the moment you realize that you are lost in another thought, just be aware of that. Be aware that there was another thought that intruded on your focus and gently bring your awareness back to a focus on your breath. Most importantly, don't judge yourself because meditation is the practice of noticing when your mind wanders and gently bringing it back again and again and again. So be quick to forgive yourself. Don't judge yourself and be very gentle and bringing that awareness back. It doesn't matter how long you were out in the other thought, the moment you realize it, bring your focus back to a focus on your breath. 5. Meditation Tips: Let's talk about some meditation tips to help with your practice. First is the noting technique. Denoting technique is basically applying a label on any distracting thoughts that come into your mind when you are meditating. So let's say you're meditating and then you have the thought that says, what's going to happen tomorrow because they have to pay this bill and i don't know where to get the money to do that. That thought once you're aware of that, after you're aware of it, add a label to it. Let's say, Oh, that's anxiety. Just very quickly, very gently noted in your mind as anxiety. And simply the act of being aware of it and aware of its nature is going to make that thought dissipated intensity until the dissipates. And you can go back to focusing on your breath and want to share with you what Andy, party calm, the co-founder of the Headspace app, and a former Buddhist Mom had to say about the noting technique to begin with, it is important to use noting spiritually in the practice, we do not need to know every single thought or feeling, but simply notice when we're caught up in something so completely that we have lost our awareness of the breath or whatever the object of meditation might be. In that moment of awareness, the moment were realize we've been distracted. We use the noting to create a bit of space as a way of letting go and to gain some clarity and learn more about our habits, tendencies, and conditioning. We don't need to think about any of this and the practice itself. It all happens very naturally. A second meditation tip would be to count your breath. So count from one up until ten with every breath and then start back again at one. This is supposed to help you stay focused on the breath, particularly if you are a novice. I personally found that to be distracting to my practice as a beginner and more advanced. So my point is, if it doesn't work for you as a beginner, you don't necessarily have to do it. Third tip, set a timer so you don't want to be focused on your breath. And all of a sudden have all of those distracting thoughts about whether or not you've done your ten minutes or five minutes or whatever the duration that you've set for yourself. So just set a timer and that will eliminate all of those potentially distracting thoughts that will inevitably come into your mind as you're meditating. A fourth tip is to wear looser, comfortable clothing. And that's because anything that's too tied could restrict your breathing and your breath. Your focus are very closely connected. So that's going to interfere with how well you can focus. A fifth tip is to read books on the subject. It doesn't just have to be books. The point here is to learn. So you can watch YouTube videos, you can get books, or you can just download the app Headspace or calm or countless other free meditation apps on the market. A book that I can recommend to you as a beginner would be by the ABC news anchor Sam Harris. And the book is called 10% Happier. And in it he lays down the foundations and also it's really fun and entertaining. And that's because he relates to how his two on-air panic attacks led him eventually to embrace meditation and become a practitioner. Once you've meditated for a few sessions and you've learned the basics of focus, you can now replace that emphasis on the breath with your visualized and goal wherever it is that you would like to improve in your life. Whether that is a certain type of behavior or certain melody that you're trying to learn how to play, whatever it is. Start focusing on that. Create a scene and created perfectly, and keep repeating it over and over in your head. 6. Visualization is Powerful: As we mentioned, visualization is powerful. It's been shown in scientific studies to physically change the actual body. In fact, a lot of studies have reported muscle strength increases simply by using the mind. You can think of that as a virtual workout. There are two types of visualization or a mental imagery you have internal and the tree and external imagery. Internal imagery focuses on how your body experiences a CR in outcome. So you could, if you're doing internal visualization, you could focus on what it feels like to do the perfect squad at the gym, or what does it feel like to execute the perfect turn in a dance, external imagery focuses on what that desired outcome looks like from afar. So you could be visualizing yourself as if you're watching yourself doing that perfect squat or that perfect turn or whatever it is that you're, that you want to improve. Studies have repeatedly shown that the internal form of imagery is superior to the external form. So it's better for you to visualize. It feels like to do that perfect thing, as opposed to visualize looking at yourself doing it perfectly from a distance. Things as tangible as your heart rate, your blood pressure, and your respiration rate have been shown to be more affected by internal imagery as opposed to external imagery. 7. How To Visualize: All right, how do you visualize? Let's say your desired goal is to have the physique of a fitness model to visualize that outcome. I recommend that you visualize the actions that you've been struggling with that would allow you to achieve that desired outcome. So maybe you're good with exercise and you're good with senior supplements and all that kinda stuff. And even good with eating a healthy diet 50% of the time. But once you get stressed out, you simply cannot say on meal-plan. And so you would want to specifically isolate that moment of being stressed and not eating and not following your meal plan and visualizing different outcome over and over and over again. The mistake that most people do is that they only visualize the perfect body and that's it. And while that helps, it's not even close to being as helpful as visualizing the specific thing that you physiologically, when a change, which is your mindset or your minds wiring, the way it reacts to being stressed. So visualizing an actual action that you can take will literally change your brain. It will have an tangible effect on your brain. And when you're visualizing a different outcome, it's as if you actually resisted eating foods when U-verse stress. So it literally changes the brain and your brain now becomes familiar and is experienced with choosing healthy foods even when you are stressed. Because according to your brain, you've already done that successfully many times before. So it's no longer a struggle. So always focus on the process or the actions within the process, and don't focus on just the end goal. That's where the focus of visualization needs to be, because it is the process that will get you your ultimate goal. So focusing on a micro level and a process on visualizing a better process for yourself is going to automatically lead to that macro desired goal being achieved successfully. And visualization is the skill in the mine. And so just like with any other skill that you want to develop is always going to be uncomfortable at the beginning, the same way that meditation was a little uncomfortable at the beginning, but he got better at it and then you became more comfortable doing that. The same thing is gonna happen with any new skill you want to develop, including visualization. So think of visualization as a mental workout and feel free to take rest periods in between your visualization attempts, just like you would take a rest period in between different sets at the gym. It's the same thing. It's still exhausting to your mind and so don't quit just because eventually you'll burn out mentally. Just realize, okay, I just need a monitor to the rats and maybe five minutes of arrest and then go back and visualize it again and again and again. 8. Visualization Application: All right, so let's do a quick visualization application first, decide on what is the area in your life that you really want to improve? What is that priority tasks that you really want to improve on? Whether that is finishing a project you've been working on, improving your communication or improving your physique. It's all the same. Just choose what is a priority to your life right now. And then look at the process that would allow you to achieve your end goal. In other words, look at the series of tasks I'm involved in allowing you to achieve that goal. Of all of those tasks that would be required. Which one of them are you struggling the most with? That would be the one that you would pick to visualize on over and over and over again. Now, you want to do the exact same things that you did when you first start meditating. But now the difference is that instead of focusing on your breath, you're now focusing on this scene that you want to create or that process that you're visualizing on that you want to focus on in your brain. A good example would be, How would you visualize resisting a slice of cake when your stress? That might be something that most of us who would benefit from visualizing. Because a lot of people struggle with emotional eating. And even if you don't realize you have some level of emotional eating, more often than not, you're eating addictive foods because they are improving your mood by raising dopamine. And so technically that's emotional eating. So to begin the visualization, once you're in position and you did all the steps of meditation except the focus on your breath. Now we focus on the visualization. So start bringing up the emotions that you normally have when you are stressed out. So imagine like you really are stressed. So if you're an actor, this should be the easy part, being in touch with your emotions and bringing them up on Q. Now, imagine what it would I feel like for you to resist acting on the urge of eating cake. It doesn't have to be a perfect visualization, but just repeat, bringing up the emotions of stress and imagine yourself resisting the urges over and over again. The more mental reps you execute, the easier it gets, and the more vivid of a visualization or an imagination you will have. Now the better you get at your visualization, the more details you can add into your scene that you're recreating. For example, you can add in now, the feeling that you would have after you've successfully resisted the urge, how proud and happy and confidence you feel right after resisting that urge. So feel that as well and link it to that experience. You can even add more vibrant colors, smells, and environment, or a 3D overview of the scene and try to see it from all different angles. But at the same time, don't let that get too close to external imagery. So you could do that three-dimensional thing, but always go back to doing internal imagery concepts a lot more effective. Remember that it's not always about getting that perfect visualization in your mind. The simple act of trying to bring that scene into your mind over and over again, even if you're not getting there, all of those attempts are creating actual changes in your body. And so even the trials are part of your progress. And then one day you will definitely be able to get that scene even if it's not greater first and then it starts becoming clear and clear in your mind. So it's really the same as if you're trying to pick up a really heavy weight of the four, let's say 50 pound dumbbell that you simply cannot lift. And so even if you can't lift that weight, but you're just trying to lift it over and over again. You get fatigued, you resonate trigonal every time you try, is making you stronger until eventually you will develop the power to be able to lift it just a little bit off the floor. And then the next time a little bit more and a little bit more. And that's how you keep growing and becoming stronger. So it's the same exact thing that happens in your mind that you are becoming stronger even if you don't see the end result just yet. So the key message that I'm trying to convey here is that attempts are valuable, every trial is valuable, and it is progress. I really don't care if you can visualize the first few times as long as you keep at it, because I know that eventually you will be able to. Now, it doesn't matter if you're convinced of how tangible visualizations effects are. Because if you don't have a clear, strong purpose for why you want to visualize, you will not be able to sustain the motivation to stick with it for that reason, identify a purpose for doing this. The stronger your reason, the much more motivation you're going to have to stick with the practice and sustain it over a long period of time. And it becomes a habit that you can apply to anything at hand right now that you need to improve. It doesn't have to always be the exact same thing. Obviously. 9. The Habit of Visualization: Really great hack to make sure you develop visualization as a habit is to pair it with another habit. So you could pair visualization with things like doing cardio or mowing the lawn while you're not going to probably get as best of equality visualization as you would when you're sitting in proper position and you've already the body scan and all those things, you're still going to benefit immensely because you can train your body to elicit those emotions even when you're doing other tasks. So it's still great. And in fact, that's what I generally recommend and that's what I generally do. And that way your cardio or mowing the lawn or whatever, your trigger habitus becomes a trigger or a queue for eliciting this other habit or stimulating the habit of visualization to kick in every time you do that cardio, let's say on average, it takes around 66 days to form a habit. However, that's just an average. So you could be quicker than that or you could be slower than that. It doesn't matter. The point is, the more you do it, the more you're strengthening that habit loop in your mind. And eventually it will become part of who you are. Mainly, you want to stick with that until you no longer have to make a conscious effort to visualize and it just becomes a habitual thing and that you do automatically. 10. The Neuroscience Behind Visualization: Now, for a little bit of fun science here, it is well-known that we activate the same brain regions when we're visualizing task versus when we're actually doing it. Specifically, those brain regions that are activated are the premotor cortex, supplementary motor area, and primary motor cortex. 11. Resistance: Alright, let's talk about probably the single most important topic in any area of your life. And that's going to be the resistance or the pain that you might face whenever you're trying to accomplish anything. First of all, if you haven't read Steven press Fields book, The War of Art, you have to read it. I highly, highly recommend reading this book. Basically the main point is that anything worthwhile that you want to accomplish in your life is going to involve some element of discomfort or resistance or pain, whatever you wanna call it. It's all describing the same feeling. Now, feeling like doing it at all. Not even things like Hobbes, the, say, learning how to play basketball or learning how to dance salsa, even things that are done for fun If you really want to improve in them, there are elements of discomfort associated with those. So visualization or mental imagery is no different if you wanna get better at it. And you want to be able to use your mind as a great tool to get you what you really want. You have to get ready to face some discomfort or emotional pain. The trick here is to know that you're not willing to suffer just a torture yourself, but rather you're willing to suffer or face steps, level of resistance and overcome that in order to adapt to that level of discomfort. Because once you adapt, then the resistance goes away. So it's really just in the initial stages that you have to go through, that you have to be willing to go through that, knowing that that's the only way you're going to eliminate that kind of resistance because the pain or the resistance is simply your body's way of telling you that it's still inefficient and doing that task is still hasn't laying down the groundwork physically to make that habit or that action automatic and pain-free or efficient. And so the question that I want to leave you with is, are you willing to suffer a little bit, at least in the beginning, in order to adapt. 12. Outro Skillshare: Alright, thank you so much for watching. I hope you found value in this course. If you feel like you benefited from this course, would you mind leaving me a review so you can help others find this kind of content a little bit more easily. Also, feel free to check out my other sculpture courses, motivation in a nutshell, the science of motivation and discipline in the psychology of success. How to become limitless. If you enjoyed this course, I know you will love these other courses. Finally, feel free to connect with me on social media or YouTube for more content. And I want to thank you again, and I hope to see you in a future course.