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What We See Matters! The Benefits of Visualization!

Mindset Made Simple Tip #64 - To watch or listen, click HERE.

“It depends on how you look at it.” Have you ever said this?

When you said it, did you mean how you look at it with your eyes, or what you are seeing? Or did you mean how you are thinking about it?

It has been my experience that this saying is more about how we are “looking” at something in our mind (based on thought) than what we are seeing with our eyes.

Not only does our language imply that we “see” thoughts, we actually DO SEE THOUGHTS!

As former Cleveland Indian turned professional baseball mental coach Zach Sorensen says, “thoughts become things.”

It is said that everything happens twice, once in our heads and then in reality.


Each of these pictures begins with a thought – some pictures are helpful, some are not!

Several tips ago I shared a picture of a brain in an fMRI machine.

The images showed no difference in how our brain reacts to something we are seeing with our eyes and something we are seeing in our minds.

Maybe it doesn’t matter how you look at it 😊!

I had a surprise visit this weekend from one of my doctors…and when I say “my doctors,” I mean one of my former players who is a doctor.

Yes…there are several of them and I am ridiculously proud of each one (and all of the amazing young women I was blessed to coach, all doing amazing things in their disciplines).

Dr. Miller, now Medical Director Gill Obstetrics and Gynecology, and I had an amazing conversation, just like we did in her weekly academic meetings when she was a Viking. As we discussed being a Chief of Staff at a hospital in California during a pandemic and being a young woman in leadership, we talked about the highs and lows of being a surgeon.

We then moved on to the art of surgery, the pressures of the job and the preparation for each specific case.

As every good mental performance coach would do, I asked if she practiced visualization before she entered the OR or while she was operating.

The answer was a resounding YES!

Before each surgery, Jackie walks through each step of the process.

She visualizes what she will see when she “gets in there” and how she will navigate through any issues that may arise.

One thing that stuck out to me in our conversation was the fact that going through this exercise ensures she has every single instrument she may need to complete the surgery successfully.

This issue never struck me. One would assume that this is just a given.

However, this is critical; It saves time while the patient is on the table, keeps everyone in the OR (otherwise someone must leave to get another instrument she needs on the double), and allows her to move flawlessly from one step to another…even when things don’t go as planned.

And “planned” is the operative word (no pun intended).

When Jackie goes through her pre-surgery visualization, she lays out her PLAN. This serves as an opportunity to plan for what she wants AND how she will handle those things she may run into along the way. Without this exercise, these things would be “unexpected”, and she may not have the tools she needs on hand to do the job or solve the problem!

Aside from building a mental plan, this practice increases Jackie’s confidence (not that she needs more confidence, maybe I should say it increases her comfort level). She is prepared both mentally and physically as she lays out her step-by-step plan.

Visualizing the process also serves as practice…it increases her abilities as a surgeon.

Recent research completed at the Cleveland Clinic has found significant increases in strength through “imagining” building muscles without actually performing any movement.

A recent study built on a past study that showed significant strength gains through visualizing muscles in action. This Cleveland Clinic study found that watching a fitness video and imagining doing the workout increased fitness by over 13%.

Do you mean it is possible to imagine doing exercise and increase strength and fitness level?

Although it sounds sort of crazy, Dr. Yue found that the measured brain activity during visualization exercises suggests that increases in strength and fitness were related to the brain's ability to more efficiently signal muscle activity.

Put simply, the patterns activated when someone performing a skill, performing surgery or working out are activated in the same way when they imagine doing these same things!

This “imagined” practice creates more efficient signals and pathways and signals our muscles as if they were physically engaged!

Just like with physical training…practice makes perfect!

Each time Jackie visualizes a surgery, she becomes more efficient physically as well!

The benefits of visualization are incredible! Getting our athletes (or anyone who performs in any way) to learn to use their incredible brain to make a plan, imagine an activity or watch themselves succeed can provide a huge boost in performance and confidence.

The problem…and there is always a problem…is that most expect instant results! Just like practicing a physical skill, visualization takes practice and repetition. We must encourage our athletes to push through the instant gratification expectations and give this practice a chance!

Since thoughts become things and images in our minds already exist, let’s train our brain to be more efficient with what matters for our performance!

What we see matters. I sure hope all my doctors are practicing like “my doctor” does 😊! If they are, both of us will be more confident as we enter the OR!

Have a great week!


P.S. I would love to help your team increase its performance. Give me a call or text at 234–206–0946 or send me an email at to set up a team session!

Certified Mental Performance & Mindset Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946




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