Guest post by Laurie Cheeley
So. You want to win your next race… add parkour to your repertoire… lower your blood pressure… drop 20 pounds in time for your cousin’s wedding…climb Kilimanjaro.
As someone who used to weigh 130 pounds more than I currently do, I can attest to there being both a grueling method as well as a much smoother, enjoyable and enlightening path to success.
Will that hard-core, just keep pushing, no-pain-no-gain plan work? Absolutely. But why work so hard when it is possible to reach your goal sooner and more easily, all the while having a whole bunch more fun along the way? Learn to use all the tools available to you: harness the near-magical power of your mind. One way to pull this all together is to create a 'vision board'.
Let's talk science. “First, research has demonstrated that imagery strengthens the neural pathways for certain movements (i.e., psycho-neuromuscular explanation). When you imagine performing a particular sport skill, your muscles fire in the same sequence as if you were actually performing the skill.”  For years, scientists, along with top athletes, have known that “mental imagery impacts many cognitive processes in the brain: motor control, attention, perception, planning and memory. So the brain is getting trained for actual performance during visualization.”  “Visualization has long been a part of elite sports. Al Oerter, a four-time Olympic discus champion, and the tennis star, Billie Jean King, were among those using it in the 1960s.”  If you go there in the mind, the body will follow.
Although there are many avenues to building mental imagery programs—some of them already pre-packaged for you (see Sources)--probably the simplest way to begin is by making a Vision Board.
You will need:
- A specific goal that, while you might think it may be difficult to attain, you must believe is achievable. If it seems outside of your grasp, begin by setting the objective a step or two under your larger goal (but still a measureable distance from where you are now). Once you see how easily you reached this first objective, obtaining that final destination will seem well within your newly-minted capabilities.
- Vivid pictures that evoke strong, positive emotional responses in your body (happiness, love, pride, peacefulness, enthusiasm, gratitude). Best to stay away from words—the part of the brain you’re trying to access doesn’t understand words; it gets images, and, most especially, those images that elicit and excite emotion. Magazines, Pinterest, Google Images, etc. are some great places to find images. Find pictures that conjure as many of your senses as possible (smell, sight, sound, touch, movement, etc.)—you may not come across all that in a single image; use as many as you need.
- To paste all these photos/illustrations on a board. I like to use a large mirror, so that I get glimpses of myself whenever I’m looking at it.
- To place your board somewhere where you’ll see it every day, and then be sure to make it part of your routine to focus on it for a few minutes, yes, every day. Get into the way each image makes you feel, then go on about your normal routine.
All that’s left is to stand back and marvel at how easily this specific goal was made tangible.
Want more? We’ll cover specific visualization scripts in our next installment.
For now, just begin.
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao-tzu
Guest Blogger: Laurie Cheeley Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org
 Yukelson, David “Teaching Athletes Visualization and Mental Imagery Skills” Penn State University
 Angie LeVan, MAPP 2003 December
Quinn, Elizabeth (2014) “Visualization Techniques for Athletes” About.com Sports Medicine
Mintz, Zoe (2014) “Emotions Mapped in the Human Body” International Business Times
Gabriel, Jon (2008) The Gabriel Method
 Clarey, Christopher (2014) “Their Minds Have Seen the Glory - Olympians Use Imagery as Mental Training” The New York Times