Self-Appreciation, Visualization, and Mental Practice
Art by Martin Gee
In Daniel Pink's book, "Drive,"he shares findings from multiple scientific studies that reveal a non-intuitive truth: rewards don't work.
As a parent, I've seen the dark side. You want someone to do something, you offer them a reward, they do it. Great, right? Well, that might work a few times, but very quickly that reward becomes expected. No longer surprising, the shine starts to dull.
I've also seen this at work in my life and the lives of others. Maybe the reward is something you make up, a treat if you complete a task or take a brave step. A nice thing for a successful result.
Anyone who has quit anything knows how ephemeral those kind of external rewards last.
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How does this apply to appreciation and motivation?
In relationships, at work, in life, have you ever felt or said that you wanted to be appreciated more?
Is Acts of Service one of your Love Languages?
Do you ever get into a rut, like what's the point of all this effort when it goes unnoticed or just feels unfulfilling?
Lack of appreciation leads quickly to demotivation.
Demotivation leads to even less appreciation, or even a louder internal critic.
And it's a cycle.
Pink emphasizes the need to build up intrinsic motivation. If you have an internal drive, if there's something that compels and fulfills you in taking on any aspect of your life, external rewards are unnecessary.
Let's start with showing that it works, get to why, and then as always I'll offer a how-to tool for at the end.
A study from 1960(and others following) took a group of high school students and split them into two groups. One group practiced one-handed foul-line shots. The other simply visualized the action of shooting and making the shot. The study found that both groups saw significantly similar levels of improvement. Simply visualizing being better, made them better.
This raises the more extreme question: can you just imagine yourself into better shape?
Josh Waitzkin is perhaps most famous for being the subject of the film "Finding Bobby Fischer." What many don't know is that this child chess prodigy also went on to become a world champion in multiple martial arts, including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In his book "The Art of Learning"Josh Waitzkin describes his intense focus on deliberate practice, seeking to optimize every movement, every breath. He discovered that recovery time was one factor he could manipulate to his advantage. He used visualization to drastically improve the time he needed for physical and mental rest. During tournaments, he could use as short as a 60 second rest to bring himself back up to almost a fully restored state.
But that's not even the most interesting part!
At one point Josh injured his arm, and had to wear a cast or brace. He wasn't allowed to use that arm, at all. And with a tournament fast approaching, that would have been the end for almost anyone else. The arm would atrophy and he didn't have enough time to recover, nevermind excel.
But Josh got curious. And he used visualization.
Over the course of his recovery he exercised the rest of his body, and he would imagine that his injured arm performed the same movements as the uninjured one. In as much detail as he could, he brought his injured arm along, only in his mind.
When the doctor removed the cast he was shocked. There were barely any signs of atrophy at all.
If you want another wild example, read the link below about how London cabbies brains literally physically grew and changed as they memorized maps of London. Equally fascinating, they shrank once they moved on to other jobs.
TECHNIQUE: VISUALIZING FOR RESILIENCY AND SELF-APPRECIATION
In Coaching, we often use powerful visualization exercises to help clients to connect to an ideal Vision, find Purpose, and reveal the internal resources they need to create big shifts, changes, and personal transformations in their lives.
This technique can also be used to strengthen your emotional muscles and build resiliency.
Here is one you can try at home. My caveat as always is that you can go much, much deeper with this work with a Coach.
Find a comfortable spot, sitting with back straight or lying down.
With your eyes closed, pick a specific future time and place.
This could be an event, a tough conversation you need to have, a milestone day at work, or a talk you're giving.
Now imagine you're at the END of the event, and it went REALLY well.
Imagine all the people in the room with you. Imagine how they are standing, the expression on their faces, the energy in the room.
Ask yourself the following, and write down your answers:
What and how do you feel?
What are the others saying, how has this event impacted or changed them?
Pick three words that you or others would use to describe you in that moment.
Now that you have this good feeling, and the others have their good feeling, what is true about you?
What are three words you would use to describe the person (YOU) who just did that?
Write those three words down in BOLD.
Now, what do you notice has shifted? I invite you to get BOLD and share your results in the comments.