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What to you want to achieve? Your dreams of peaceful world domination could be closer than you think. By Maverick JASON KIM.

In Imagine: Using Mental Imagery to Reach Your Full Potential Dr. Lydia Ievleva lays out a few key concepts through which we can start to improve our performance, happiness and wellbeing. As an experienced psychologist, the author is able to apply her knowledge to an everyday context, and uses academic research to support her claims.

According to Dr. Ievleva, research suggests that the human brain cannot always tell the difference between a “real” experience and an “imagined” one. With this in mind, she suggests that visualising positive experiences can “trick” our brain into learning how to act when those situations arise in real life.

The author takes us on a fascinating journey, where she explains the benefits of things such as faith, learning to feel grateful, optimism, goal-setting and savouring happy experiences.

“It’s all about taking control over what is within control, letting go of what isn’t, and knowing where to draw the line,” explains Dr. Ievleva. “It’s a skill that may not always be as easy as it sounds, as it means that we have to take on a greater responsibility for our own wellbeing, rather than blaming our circumstances.”

The big take-home point from this book is that we all have the ability to do really great things. We all have the ability to achieve goals which we may not at first believe are within reach.

 

Focus on the Positive

An interesting example of these theories in action is to do with our natural tendency to focus on those things that we don’t want. Throughout Dr. Ievleva’s studies, she has found that if you tell a golfer not to hit the ball in the bunker, then that’s actually what ends up happening.

The more constructive way to go about it is to think: “Hit the ball onto the green,” because then your focus will no longer be on the bunker. This is perhaps why some of the most embarrassing moments we have (“OK, I CANNOT fart in this assembly”) happen to us when we are trying so hard to not do them!

“It takes a bit more conscious thought and mental preparation prior to such events, which will then give you more control during the event,” says Dr. Ievleva. “But too often, we leave such encounters to chance, rather than programming how we would prefer an event to unfold.”

This is just one of several examples of ways that your mindset can influence your behaviour, wellbeing, performance and even health.

In fact, skills like mindfulness and meditation (both explained in great detail in the book) – as well as mental imagery and visualisation – have now been adopted in school curriculums across Australia, where Dr. Ievleva is based.

“The big take-home point from this book is that we all have the ability to do really great things. We all have the ability to achieve goals which we may not at first believe are within reach.”

The author also notes that “the beauty of mental imagery is that it is applicable across the board, and the developing brain is most receptive and plastic.” That is, while these concepts may be a bit difficult to grasp at first, positive psychology and mental imagery are highly relevant to high school life. In fact, they are most effective when our brains are young and most easily moldable.

“Young people tend to also be more imaginative than adults, which is becoming an increasingly recognised attribute in business these days, but is too often overlooked… in school environments,” explains Dr Ievleva. “Also, adolescence is a time of establishing identity – i.e. self-image – so mental imagery can provide the most desirable blueprint.”

 

Testing the Theory

I work part time in a role that requires me to meet a weekly sales target. My friend and I were on the second consecutive week of falling just short. Between joking about looking for a new job and complaining about the stingey old people who refused to make our jobs easier, I casually let mention that I was reading a book about using mental imagery to unlock success.

The next time we were at work, my friend smashed his weekly target in a single day. Impressed and more than a little jealous, I asked him what changed for him. “I did that visualising thing you talked about,” he said. “I was having a super long shower before work today and visualised – step by step – getting our target.”

Are the skills taught in Imagine really that potent that one 15-minute session can be so effective? Was it total coincidence? Or was it some combination of the two?

To be completely honest, despite reading the book cover to cover and chatting with Dr. Ievleva herself, I still can’t say for sure. Mental imagery is an abstract topic which can be at times confusing to wrap your head around.

Just how well it can work for you will depend on a combination of commitment and aptitude, but one thing’s for sure: You won’t know until you try it.

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