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  • June 14, 2016
  • Mark Schulman

Excerpt from Conquering Life’s Stage Fright
Chapter 6: Visualize

Lucy Streeter stared down 120 feet and 9 inches to the water below from her square-foot perch. And jumped. The speed as she descended clocked in at nearly 80 miles per hour. She claims to have had no fear, that she’s “tough as nails.”

She’s jumped from the cliffs of Acapulco, where divers have to clear 22 feet and wait for a wave or be de-brained by the rocks below, but says, “I can’t tell you really that I’ve ever been afraid. It’s freedom to me. It’s flying through the air, and I feel like I’m a bird. I just love speed, and I love the wind in my face.”

Before I go out, I see myself doing the flip and landing perfectly straight up and down and squeezing as tight as I possibly can—because your body can be ripped apart as soon as you hit the water. I see myself coming up and waving and smiling to the crowd, ripping my entry. That’s always huge. No splash when you go in. Just fffffewt. You know, poof! You’re gone.”

Her process of clarifying employs visualization, the process of using your imagination to create mental images. Creative visualization is a method people use to find success by imagining specific behaviors or events. It’s the foundation for positive thinking, and athletes, speakers, soldiers and actors frequently use it to enhance their performances. Visualization practices are also a common form of spiritual exercise. In Vajrayana Buddhism, complex visualizations are a leg of the journey to Buddhahood.

There are a number of ways to use this process to gain clarity, but it’s especially applicable to your relationship with your audience. Try visualizing your audience as being full of loving allies. Grammy-nominated saxophonist Dave Koz always thinks of an audience this way.

“They can’t wait to love you. So, instead of gearing up worrying that people will hate you, remind yourself that they are just waiting to love you. Then, all you need is to go out there and just be yourself. If you have that confidence going in, it makes jumping off the cliff easier because you know that they’re there with the net. You have to really, really screw it up big time to not have that.”


♫ Action Step: Visualize ♪


Close your eyes and spend one minute breathing in for five seconds and then breathing out for five seconds. Continue breathing slowly and conjure up images of people you love and who love you. Imagine these people are the audience of your presentation, loving everything you say or do. Now imagine everyone in the real audience loving everything you say or do. Imagine that that audience really needs to get every ounce of information you are providing; it’s a lifeline they can’t live without. You are critical to their success and existence. Own and absorb their appreciation and love for you.


Sian Beilock writes about visualization in her book, Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To. She points out that sports trainers often suggest that athletes associate thoughts of love and family with the adrenaline rush they get with performance. It reduces their chances of choking, because instead of associating that adrenaline with reasons to fail, they associate it with positive thoughts.

Dr. Richard Bandler models the conscious and unconscious patterns unique to each of us in such a way that we are continuously moving toward a higher potential.[1] His neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) creates change in people, particularly as they respond to and utilize what they think (neuro), what they say (linguistic) and what they do (programming). And the process is all about visualization.

I have had some positive experiences using NLP techniques from motivational speaker Tony Robbins. In one, I think of a happy memory, note how I feel about it and then make it bigger and brighter in my mind.

The general function behind this, other than mood control, is to accomplish goals. You visualize yourself achieving a particular objective, and focus on that visualization until you have achieved it in real life. In theory, this allows you to focus on that particular goal more fully and achieve it more readily.

Lindsey Agness in her book, Change Your Life with NLP, writes that the conscious mind is the goal setter and the unconscious mind is the goal getter. The key to this is the reticular activating system that allows your unconscious mind to achieve whatever you put your conscious mind to. This is why a key phrase in NLP is “be careful what you focus on,” because it will manifest itself, whether positive or negative.

Claude Bristol was a forerunner to all of this back in the 1940s, expanding on 19th-century New Thought principles to suggest that there is intelligence in everything that exists in the universe. In his book, The Magic of Believing, he argued that we’re all linked by a universal mind.

Psychiatrist Carl Jung had a similar idea: collective unconscious. He thought the beliefs of individuals were quantifiable and could directly impact the minds of other people and even inanimate objects. The more powerful your “broadcast,” the more likely the world would pick it up and react accordingly.

Astrophysicist Sir Arthur Eddington was sure that the physical laws of the universe could be influenced by human thought. Some scientists think that modern quantum physics supports this belief, as well. Bristol’s explanation is that a person with a strong belief exists at a certain vibration that seeks its like in the form of matter. Thus, the startling conclusion: You do not achieve deep-felt goals by action alone, but are helped along depending on the quality and intensity of the belief that they will be achieved.


[1] Sue Knight, NLP At Work: The Difference That Makes a Difference in Business (Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 1999).


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