Visual Thinking – Litemind Exploring ways to use our minds efficiently. Mon, 01 Jan 2018 20:43:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Remember Any Number With the Major Memory System Tue, 03 Feb 2009 12:43:25 +0000 Did you ever want to be able to recite pi up to 22,500 decimal digits? Meet the Major memory system, one of the most powerful techniques around for memorizing numbers. If you think you could use a boost to your memory, or just want to jog your brain a little, here’s a great way to do it.

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Major Memory System

Did you ever want to be able to recite pi up to 22,500 decimal digits? As for me, I never felt attracted to that sort of stuff. But remembering phone numbers, passwords, PINs, birthdays and all sorts of everyday numbers — that’s something I resonate with!

Meet the Major memory system, one of the most powerful techniques around for memorizing numbers. If you think you could use a boost to your memory, or just want to jog your brain a little, here’s a great way to do it. (And yes, you’ll also be able to pull off the pi digits stunt if that’s what catches your fancy.)

How the Major Memory System Works

Our brains are notoriously poor at memorizing numbers. The problem lies in the fact that numbers are abstract concepts. Although they are represented visually by symbols, they don’t feel very real or appealing to our brains. As I explored in a previous article, our brains usually work best using lively, vibrant images. Numbers hardly qualify.

And that’s what the Major system is about: converting abstract, dull numbers into vivid, striking images. When we do that, committing these numbers to memory is a snap.
Let me show you how to do it.

The Major Memory System in 3 Steps

1. Learn to Encode Numbers as Images

The heart of the Major system — and the key to convert numbers to images and vice-versa — is a 10-item mnemonic table. The table shows how to transform the digits 0-9 into corresponding sounds; which we’ll eventually use to form words. The mnemonics are easy to learn (it shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes to fully master them) and, once learned, they can be used for life. Here they are:

Digit Sound Memory Aid
0 s, z, soft c z is the first letter of zero. The others have a similar sound.
1 d, t, th d and t have one downstroke and sound similar (notice the tip of your tongue as you say them).
2 n n has two downstrokes.
3 m m has three downstrokes, also m looks like a 3 lying on its side.
4 r the last letter of four, also 4 and R are almost mirror images of each other.
5 l L is the Roman numeral for 50.
6 j, sh, soft ch, dg, zh, soft g a script j has a lower loop like 6. These letters also have a ‘whistle-like’ sound, and 6 looks like a whistle.
7 k, hard c, hard g, q, qu capital K contains two 7s (on their sides, back to back).
8 v, f think of v as in a V8 motor. f sounds similar (notice how your teeth touch your lips for both).
9 b, p

p is a mirror-image 9. b sounds similar and resembles a 9 rolled around (also notice how your lip movement is the same when pronouncing these letters.)

vowel sounds, w, h, y These sounds can be used anywhere without changing a word’s number value.

As an example, let’s take the (in)famous number 42.

According to the mnemonic table, the digits in the number 42 translate to r and n respectively. Now we need to form a word with r and n. We should fill the gaps between the letters using the ‘neutral’ elements (from the last row of the table: vowel sounds, w, h or y). The word rain comes naturally to me.

42 gets encoded as rain, then.

Decoding from word to number is even more straightforward. ‘Mouse’, for instance, becomes 30 (3 for m and 0 for s; vowel sounds are ignored).

The conversion process may seem a little slow and cumbersome at first, but with just a little bit of practice it becomes second-nature.

There are just a couple more notes to bear in mind:

  • The conversions are strictly phonetic, that is, based on how the words sound — not how they’re spelled. If a word has double letters that account for just one sound, you count only one sound (ex: the r sound in cherry counts as only one number). By the same token, mute letters (such as the b in debt) should be ignored.
  • When coming up with words, choose those that are easy to visualize. Concrete nouns — such as objects or animals — always work better than abstract nouns, adjectives or verbs.

2. Associate Images in Your Mind

Now for the fun part. We already have an image, now we’ll need a way to glue it in our minds.
The way we’re going to do this is by imagining a scene, a scene that combines two images: the encoded number image along with a peg image that will be used to trigger the memory.

As an example, suppose you want to buy a light bulb, and you must remember that it must be a 30-Watt one. The two images to combine would be the image for light bulb and the encoded image for 30. Using our mnemonic table, we find that 30 translates to the letters m and s. Mouse seems a pretty good word for these letters, so we’ll go with it.

Our mission, then, is to create a mental scene combining light bulb and mouse.

The secret for this to work is to make the mental scene memorable: make it crazy, ridiculous, offensive, unusual, animated, nonsensical — in short, make it fun! (For details on how to effectively associate images, check out this article.)

Let’s see: What’s the zaniest way you can combine light bulb with mouse? I don’t know about you, but here’s what I just imagined:

“I’m in my local supermarket, in the electrical accessories aisle. As I catch one light bulb to observe it more closely… Bang! It breaks in my hand, and a giant mouse jumps out of it! The mouse runs away, squeaking frenetically. Everybody in the supermarket stops and stares at me puzzled and in absolute silence…”

Well, imagine that scene vividly in your mind and try not remembering that giant mouse next time you’re in that supermarket aisle… “30-Watt it surely is!”

3. For Large Numbers, Extend the System

“Yes, but everyone can memorize a small number such as 30,” — you say — “what about the big numbers?”

The great thing about the Major system is that you can easily combine it with just about any other memory technique, simple or advanced. That’s what makes the Major System insanely scalable and able to handle gigantic numbers.

For memorizing a small number we created a mental scene combining two images. To memorize a large number, we need to link many of those scenes together, forming a sequence.

There are many ways to do this. Many people like to create a story linking the scenes together, for example.

My favorite method, however, is to use the Memory Palace technique. In short, you use familiar places for storing memories. If you’re not acquainted with it, check it out here).

Let’s try a practical example again: an 8-digit telephone number.

The specifics on how to memorize it are a matter of personal preference, of course. The way I do it is by chunking the number in 4-digit groups, and placing each of those groups in a memory palace location.

I’ll use my in-laws phone number (slightly modified), using their home as my memory palace:

Phone number: 2417-2220

Scene 1: Associate first memory palace feature (front door) with 2417:

Using the Major system: 24 = Nero, 17 = Duck.

“As I arrive at my in-laws’ front door, I see no one but the emperor Nero himself, laughing out loud, as he is about to set the whole apartment on fire! But he has no matches or a torch in his hands: he has a blowtorch — in fact, a rubber duck-shaped blowtorch! And it quacks as it spits fire!”

Scene 2: Associate second memory palace feature (sofa) with 2220:

Using the Major system: 22 = Nun, 20 = Nose.

“As I enter their apartment is the sofa, the first thing I see is a nun chanting and jumping about on the sofa, facing backwards. When I touch her shoulder, she turns around — and it’s actually a witch! She scares the hell out of me — and guess what — she has the biggest nose ever! And yuck — that’s the biggest zit I’ve ever seen” (yes, getting disgusting is also a great way to help your memory!)

This may seem like a lot of work for a phone number, but in fact, this all happens quite fast in our minds. Recovering a number using the process above takes me no more than 4 seconds total — and I haven’t been practicing that much lately. If you practice this regularly, you’ll be able to do it much faster and with less effort.

Bonus: Gain Speed with a Word List

The previous three steps are the basic tools you need to use the Major system. If you want to make it even more powerful and efficient, one way is to use a predefined image list for the numbers you use more often.

If you use a set of predefined images for, say, all numbers from 00 to 99, you’ll greatly improve your speed when forming images, as you won’t need to imagine different words each time you trip on those numbers.

Of course, memorizing more than 100 mnemonics requires a fair amount of time and effort, but once it’s all in your long-term memory, you can use it for life. To be fair, you don’t need to memorize it (in the traditional sense of the word). Let me explain. If you just start using the mnemonics, the images will soon automatically come to you. I don’t know, but there must be something about the phonetics that makes the images manifest themselves rather easily.

Here’s a set of numbers you can use. If you don’t like these words, feel free to substitute others that are more memorable to you:

0. Sow       20. Nose     40. Rose     60. Cheese   80. Fez      00. S.O.S.   
1. Hat       21. Net      41. Road     61. Sheet    81. Fat      01. Seed     
2. Hen       22. Nun      42. Rain     62. Chain    82. Fan      02. Sun      
3. Ham       23. Nemo     43. Room     63. Jam      83. Foam     03. Sam      
4. Row       24. Nero     44. Aurora   64. Cherry   84. Fire     04. Zero     
5. Hill      25. Nail     45. Rail     65. Jello    85. File     05. Seal     
6. Shoe      26. Notch    46. Rash     66. Judge    86. Fish     06. Sash     
7. Cow       27. Neck     47. Rock     67. Chalk    87. Fog      07. Sack     
8. Ivy       28. Knife    48. Roof     68. Chef     88. Fife     08. Sofa     
9. Bee       29. Knob     49. Rope     69. Ship     89. Fib      09. Sepia    
10. Toes     30. Mouse    50. Lace     70. Gas      90. Bus                   
11. Dad      31. Mat      51. Loot     71. Cat      91. Bat                   
12. Dune     32. Moon     52. Lion     72. Can      92. Pen                   
13. Dime     33. Mummy    53. Lime     73. Comb     93. Opium                 
14. Tire     34. Mower    54. Lure     74. Car      94. Bear                  
15. Doll     35. Mule     55. Lily     75. Coal     95. Bell                  
16. Tissue   36. Match    56. Leech    76. Cage     96. Bush                  
17. Duck     37. Mug      57. Log      77. Coke     97. Book                  
18. Dove     38. Movie    58. Lava     78. Cave     98. Beef                  
19. Tape     39. Map      59. Lip      79. Cape     99. Pipe                  

What do you think?

I absolutely love using the Major system. It provides a great brain workout — and a warm feeling of relying just a bit less on technology. Even better than that is the amount of wild private imagery to have fun with! 🙂

What about you? Do you have any experience using the Major memory system or any variation of it? If not, do you have any other ways you use to remember numbers? Share in the comments!

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Put Yourself in Any Mental State With a Mental Sanctuary Tue, 25 Mar 2008 17:10:15 +0000 How about using your imagination to create a place that you can go to at any time to generate or recreate any feeling, emotion or memory you feel like?

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Mental Sanctuary

We’ve already seen how to develop perfect memory by building palaces in our minds. That’s an amazing technique, but a great memory is only a hint of how powerful mental environments can be.

How about using your imagination to create a place that you can go to at any time to generate or recreate any feeling, emotion or memory you feel like?

This place can serve as a relaxing place for meditation, a place to feel energized, to bring good memories or feelings, overcome fears, solve problems or perform any change in your mood. In fact, how about creating a place that can achieve all of this and more?

Enter the Mental Sanctuary

The Mental Sanctuary is a metaphor for a specially designed place that exists only in your imagination. Think of that place as your personal fortress — a safe haven that you can “enter” at any time to recreate any feeling or mental state.

The place you choose as your mental sanctuary may be based on a real place you know well, or on one completely made up. Anything goes, as long as you can vividly picture it in your mind.

In that regard, the Mental Sanctuary is a virtual environment that works in the exact same way as the ones in the Memory Palace technique. (If you haven’t done so, I really urge you to read the article explaining the technique, as it lays out the foundation and shows the basic principles on how to create mental places.)

Ideally, your mental sanctuary should be a place with many ‘sub-places’ or compartments — such as a house with many rooms. The Mental Sanctuary can have a vast multitude of uses; each one of these uses will be associated with one specific sub-place. For every emotion you want to recreate — for every mental state you want to put yourself in — you should have a specifically designed place in your sanctuary.

That’s why I recommend that your mental sanctuary be an actual construction — such as a palace or big house. The highly-structured way these places are built — based on rooms, doors and corridors — makes them very effective as the basis for creating our visual environments. Of course, you can design your sanctuary in any way you want — just make sure it’s a pleasant place and make it as rich as you can so you can use it in many ways and expand it in the future.

Let me show how a mental sanctuary works by sharing some ideas of what you can do with it.

Ideas for Your Sanctuary

Here are some ideas you can use for your own sanctuary, based on the most important rooms of my own (which is a medieval castle in a mountain):

1. Relaxation Room

Relaxing is perhaps the reason people most often mentally transport themselves to other places (don’t you ever daydream about your next holiday destination?). In your sanctuary, you can have a special place to relax, and set it up the way it works for you.

As for me, this is the flat rooftop of my sanctuary. From there I can enjoy a magnificent view of green mountains. I can also hear the splashing of a waterfall nearby. The room is completely empty except for a small cushion on the floor I sit on to meditate.

In my imagination, my eyes are wide open, absorbing the visual richness of that virtual world. And this is how I meditate: instead of using common meditation techniques — such as focusing on a mantra or on your own breathing — my object of focus is simply keeping the imagery vivid at all times. I found that very effective for focusing and training the mind to ignore fleeting or unrelated thoughts.

2. Energization Room

Just like there are times when you must relax, there are also times when all you need is to be filled with enthusiasm. Here, again, your mental sanctuary can help. How about having at your disposal one environment especially designed to energize you?

In that room, you can place objects or people that are sources of motivation and inspiration for you. You can, for example, have a big LCD screen on the wall highlighting goal-achieving moments that are yet to come.

In my sanctuary, right next door from the stairway to the meditation rooftop, there’s a wooden door that takes me to what I call my ‘Vision Room’: a room that has the sole purpose of getting me motivated and energized about my goals. There, I have three pictures on the wall that represent my lifelong goals. Whenever I go in that room, I choose one picture, take a careful look at it and commit to do one action — no matter how small — towards that goal as soon as I get back out of the sanctuary. Grabbing the doorknob as I leave the room is the trigger to make sure I don’t forget to set that action.

3. Gratitude Room

Having a specific place and time to be thankful for all the things that you care about is a great way to put your life in perspective. This is a place that I believe every Mental Sanctuary should have, as it’s a terrific way to make you feel good — especially when done regularly.

How you set up this room — just like all the others — is a very personal choice. You can have objects, pictures, sculptures — anything. You can even meet real people that are important to you — either alive or those who already passed away.

One thing that I recommend is making this room the entrance hall of your sanctuary, so that it is impossible to miss it both on your way in or out.

Empowering Rituals as Journeys

Just like it happens with the Memory Palace technique, you tap into the full power of the technique when you define specific walkthroughs in your sanctuary, instead of just imagining isolated scenes.

By defining and following predefined routes in your sanctuary, you can easily go through any kind of standard ritual, procedure or checklist you have. Some quick examples:

  • If you have some kind of empowering morning ritual, you can easily transform it into a walk in your sanctuary. You can, for example, pay a visit to your gratitude room, and then head to your goal room to kickstart the day.
  • Instead of having just a relaxation room, you could, for instance, have a relaxation path, where you visit multiple rooms; maybe a corridor or outside path, where you progressively relax as you walk.
  • Follow through any checklist you like, even the ones that are ‘more technical’. If you’re into
    Getting Things Done
    for example, you can make your weekly review a virtual walk. By adding this sensory dimension to it, you can make it much more enjoyable than going through a dull, linear checklist.

You’re the Architect

Remember that you are the master of your mental sanctuary and, as such, its design is only limited by your imagination.

There are an unlimited number of ideas that might work for your Mental Sanctuary. You could have, for instance, a ‘Creativity Room’. Or maybe a place to talk to your future self. If you’re afraid of talking in public, you could build an auditorium and fill it with people.

The point is: the Mental Sanctuary gives you a structured framework that accommodates any visualization technique you like, in a very personal and powerful way.

As you become more familiar with your sanctuary, you’ll start ‘paying attention’ — creating, that is — sounds, scents and smells and all sorts of tiny details, just like a vivid dream. Being able to be in such a realistic and pleasant place at will is a truly rewarding experience.

Although my own sanctuary has only a few rooms, I’m enjoying the benefits from it and am really excited about expanding it.

Do you have your own Mental Sanctuary? Would you like to share some creative design ideas for new rooms?

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: Put Yourself in Any Mental State With a Mental Sanctuary.

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Develop Perfect Memory With the Memory Palace Technique Mon, 10 Mar 2008 19:54:52 +0000 The Memory Palace is one of the most powerful memory techniques I know. It’s not only effective, but also fun to use — and not hard to learn at all. The Memory Palace has been used since ancient Rome, and is responsible for some quite incredible memory feats. Eight-time world memory champion Dominic O’Brien, for […]

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Memory Palace

The Memory Palace is one of the most powerful memory techniques I know. It’s not only effective, but also fun to use — and not hard to learn at all.

The Memory Palace has been used since ancient Rome, and is responsible for some quite incredible memory feats. Eight-time world memory champion Dominic O’Brien, for instance, was able to memorize 54 decks of cards in sequence (that’s 2808 cards), viewing each card only once. And there are countless other similar achievements attributed to people using the Memory Palace technique or variations of it. Even in fiction, there are several references to the technique. In Thomas Harris’ novel Hannibal, for example, serial killer Hannibal Lecter uses Memory Palaces to store amazingly vivid memories of years of intricate patient records (sadly, it was left off the movie).

Of course, most of us are not in Dominic’s memory championship line of business (or in Hannibal’s line of business for that matter). But still, the Memory Palace technique is amazingly effective in all kinds of endeavors, such as learning a foreign language, memorizing a presentation you’re about to deliver, preparing for exams and many others — even if all you want is to jog your memory.

The Memory Palace

The Memory Palace technique is based on the fact that we’re extremely good at remembering places we know. A ‘Memory Palace’ is a metaphor for any well-known place that you’re able to easily visualize. It can be the inside of your home, or maybe the route you take every day to work. That familiar place will be your guide to store and recall any kind of information. Let’s see how it works.

5 Steps to Use the Memory Palace Technique

1. Choose Your Palace

First and foremost, you’ll need to pick a place that you’re very familiar with. The effectiveness of the technique relies on your ability to mentally see and walk around in that place with ease. You should be able to ‘be there’ at will using your mind’s eye only.

A good first choice could be your own home, for example. Remember that the more vividly you can visualize that place’s details, the more effective your memorization will be.

Also, try to define a specific route in your palace instead of just visualize a static scene. So, instead of simply picturing your home, imagine a specific walkthrough in your home. This makes the technique much more powerful, as you’ll be able to recall items in a specific order, as we’ll see in the next step.

Here are some additional suggestions that work well as Memory Palaces, along with possible routes:

  • Familiar streets in your city. Possible routes could be your drive to work, or any other sequence of streets you’re familiar with.
  • A current or former school. You can imagine the pathway from the classroom to the library (or to the bar on the other side of the street, if that’s the route imprinted on your mind).
  • Place of work. Imagine the path from your cubicle to the coffee machine or to your boss’s office (it shouldn’t be hard to choose).
  • Scenery. Imagine walking on your neighborhood or the track you use when jogging in a local park.

2. List Distinctive Features

Now you need to pay attention to specific features in the place you chose. If you picked a walkthrough in your home, for example, the first noticeable feature would probably be the front door.

Now go on and mentally walk around your Memory Palace. After you go through the door, what’s in the first room?

Analyze the room methodically (you may define a standard procedure, such as always looking from left to right, for example). What is the next feature that catches your attention? It may be the central table in the dining room, or a picture on the wall.

Continue making mental notes of those features as you go. Each one of them will be a “memory slot” that you’ll later use to store a single piece of information.

3. Imprint the Palace on Your Mind

For the technique to work, the most important thing is to have the place or route 100% imprinted on your mind. Do whatever is necessary to really commit it to memory. If you’re a visual kind of person, you probably won’t have trouble with this. Otherwise, here are some tips that help:

  • Physically walk through the route repeating out loud the distinctive features as you see them.
  • Write down the selected features on a piece of paper and mentally walk through them, repeating them out loud.
  • Always look at the features from the same point of view.
  • Be aware that visualization is a just a skill. If you’re still having trouble doing this, you may want to develop your visualization skills first.
  • When you believe you’re done, go over it one more time. It’s really important to “overlearn” your way in your Memory Palace.

Once you’re confident that the route is stamped on your mind, you’re set. Now you have your Palace, which can be used over and over again to memorize just about anything you want.

4. Associate!

Now that you’re the master of your palace, it’s time to put it to good use.

Like most memory enhancement systems, the Memory Palace technique works with the use of visual associations. The process is simple: you take a known image — called the memory peg and combine with the element you want to memorize. For us, each memory peg is a distinctive feature of our Memory Palace.

The memory pegging technique is the same one described in the article Improve Your Memory by Speaking Your Mind’s Language, so if you haven’t read it yet, I highly advise you to do so.

As described in that article, there’s a ‘right way’ of doing visual associations:

Make it crazy, ridiculous, offensive, unusual, extraordinary, animated, nonsensical — after all, these are the things that get remembered, aren’t they? Make the scene so unique that it could never happen in real life. The only rule is: if it’s boring, it’s wrong.

Although we can use the technique to memorize tons of information, let’s start with something very simple: using our ‘Home’ Memory Palace to memorize a groceries list. Let’s suppose the first item in that list is ‘bacon’:

Mentally transport yourself to your Memory Palace. The first feature you see in your mind is your home’s front door. Now, in a ludicrous way, visually combine ‘bacon’ with the sight of your front door. How about giant fried bacon strips flowing out from underneath the door reaching for your legs, just like zombies in those B-movies? Feel the touch of the “bacon hands” on your legs. Feel the smell of darn evil bacon. Is that remarkable enough?

Now open the door and keep walking, following the exact same route you defined before. Look at the next distinctive feature, and associate it with the second item to be memorized. Suppose the next item is ‘eggs’ and the second feature is ‘picture of mother-in-law’. Well, at this point you already know what to do… The process is always the same, so just keep mentally associating images until there are no items left to memorize.

5. Visit Your Palace

At this point, you are done memorizing the items. If you’re new to the technique, though, you’ll probably need to do a little rehearsal, repeating the journey at least once in your mind.

If you start from the same point and follow the same route, the memorized items will come to your mind instantly as you look at the journey’s selected features. Go from the beginning to the end of your route, paying attention to those features and replaying the scenes in your mind. When you get to the end of your route, turn around and walk in the opposite direction until you get to the starting point.

In the end, it’s all a matter of developing your visualization skills. The more relaxed you are, the easier it will be and the more effective your memorization will be.

Final Thoughts

What I like about the Memory Palace (and other pegging methods) is that it’s not only extremely effective, but also quite fun to learn and use.

With just a little bit of experience, the lists you memorize using the Memory Palace will stay fresh in your mind for many days, weeks or even more.

Also have in mind that you can create as many palaces as you want, and that they can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish to make them. Each of them is a “memory bank”, ready to be used to help you memorize anything, anytime.

Associating physical locations with mental concepts is the most powerful memory combination I know. Most other memory techniques (supposedly more sophisticated than the Memory Palace) are, at least in part, based on the concept of physical locations being used as memory pegs.

Have you already used Memory Palace or a similar technique? What do you think? Any opinions or testimonials to share?

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: Develop Perfect Memory With the Memory Palace Technique.

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How to Develop Your Visualization Skill Tue, 18 Dec 2007 17:14:06 +0000 The ability to see things before they actually happen is what enables us to pursue our dreams and ultimately achieve them. In fact, the better we visualize the future we want, the better our chances to make it happen. How do we develop and apply the powerful skill of visualization?

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How to Develop Your Visualization Skill

This is an article by guest writer Albert Foong of UrbanMonk.Net.

Think about this: everything we do begin as a thought. Every action, every word, every human creation exists first in our imagination.

The ability to see things before they actually happen is what enables us to pursue our dreams and ultimately achieve them. In fact, the better we visualize the future we want, the better our chances to make it happen.

Training the Mind is Training the Body

Your brain cannot differentiate well between real action and mental action. There has been research done showing that thinking about an action — even while your body is at rest — will fire the neural pathways in your brain just as you were actually doing it.

To see this for yourself: hold a piece of string and let it dangle. Then, keeping your hand as still as you can, imagine twirling the string around. Most likely, the string will begin to move, ever so slightly.

And that’s the good news: mental training can improve almost all our skills and fast-track us towards our goals.

For instance, many psychologists and life coaches recommend mental rehearsal for all sorts of things. Usually it is social or work-related: to enhance assertiveness, smooth out an interview or a meeting, or even to enhance a date. Athletes at the highest level are also encouraged to use visualization to improve their technique, motivation and drive. When interviewing Olympic gold medalists, they discovered that several winners used visualization, not just for the sport technique, but also to capture the feeling of being awarded a medal.

5 Applied Visualization Techniques

How do we develop and apply the powerful skill of visualization?

Here I present five basic exercises in order of difficulty. Do them in order, moving on to the next one only when you have mastered the first. You can take as many days as you like to get really good at each level, there is no rush.

1st Exercise

Find a photograph, and take your time to analyze it. Memorize every detail you can. Then simply close your eyes and try to recreate it in your mind. Bring in as much as you can: the colors, the birds in the sky, the freckles on the skin — whatever is there. Open your eyes to get more detail if you have to. Remember that this is not a test: do it until you get good at it.

2nd Exercise

For the second exercise, we’re going three-dimensional. This time, take up a small object: perhaps your pen or your keys. Again, analyze all the details and memorize it. Take your time.

Now, close your eyes, and see the object mentally. The challenge here is to start rotating it. See every detail, but from all angles. If you feel comfortable, begin to bring in some surroundings. Place it on an imaginary table. Shine a few lights on it and imagine the shadows flickering.

3rd Exercise

This third exercise builds on the second, and can be hard for some people, although others will find it very easy. This time, recreate your little object, but with your eyes open. See it in the real world, right in front of you. Again, move it around, rotate it, play with it. See how it interacts with the objects in front of you. Imagine it resting on your keyboard, casting a shadow on your mouse, or knocking over your coffee cup.

4th Exercise

This is where things start to get fun. This time, we’re bringing you into the picture. Think of a pleasant location. I like to use my favorite beach. Now, imagine yourself in it. It’s important to be in the scene, not just thinking of it.

Bring in your other senses, one by one. What can you hear? Are the leaves rustling, are there people talking in the background? What about the sense of touch? Can you feel the sand you are standing on? What about smell? Can you imagine eating an ice-cream, and feeling it slide down your throat?

Again, make sure that you are in the scene, not just thinking of it. Make this mental movie as strong and vibrant and detailed as you can.

5th Exercise

And in the final exercise, we’re going to make things a bit livelier. Bring up the mental location from the previous exercise. Now — begin moving around, interacting with things. Pick up a rock. Sit on a bench. Run in the water. Roll around in the sand.

Then, bring in someone else. Perhaps you could bring in a lover, and then choreograph a dance with him or her. Or you could imagine a friend. Hold a conversation with him or her. Imagine them smiling as you tell them a joke. Now, imagine them slapping you on the shoulder playfully. What does that feel like?

Detail and Realism

The reason we emphasize detail and realism is simply because practice doesn’t make perfect. As you might have heard, only perfect practice makes perfect.

If I asked you to imagine the execution of your goals — whether it be doing well in a business meeting, or a date, or sports — you probably saw yourself doing it perfectly straight away. You win big, you look cool, and everyone falls in love with you. This feels good, and can increase motivation but, to put it bluntly, it’s mostly a waste of time.

Realism is the most important consideration in visualization. Soldiers train in almost exactly the same gear they are going to wear in combat. None of them got really good just by playing shooting games on the computer or by playing paintball.

It is the same with mental training. Everything has to be as realistic as possible. I used to be an amateur boxer, and developed my visualization to help me train. My first mental movies were of me moving and punching like Muhammad Ali. But reality soon hit me in the face — the first time I met a live opponent in training, I got destroyed.

My mental imagery up to that point had merely been fantasies — building castles in the air. I had been wasting my time.

But when I began visualizing properly, I found that I made all my usual mistakes, even in mental rehearsal. My heart was beating fast, my fists clenched, and I felt overcome with the same fear. And all this, while I was sitting on the couch!

Did that mean I failed? No, it meant I succeeded. From then on, my mental training began working for me. Because I carried over all my flaws and fears into my mental arena, any improvements I made there would also begin to carry over into the real world.

Applying Visualization to Your Goals

Now, what if we’re not dealing with a physical skill? What if you had set a goal for something like money, a new career or a holiday?

Visualization applies in much the same way. Here are some tips for applying it to your goals:

  1. Focus on the positive. A common mistake is focusing on the opposite of what you want. When I wanted to lose weight, I initially made the mistake of posting pictures of my fat belly all over my room, thinking it was motivating me. But that was the wrong way: by focusing on my fat, I was just keeping the fat there. I should have been visualizing the stomach I wanted.
  2. Have it, don’t want it. Think of something you really, really want. Now, do you have it? Probably not. Most often, wanting is the opposite of having. So when you visualize, don’t think about wanting something, see yourself as already having it.
  3. Be consistent. You have to really work hard on this. Your mind is a muscle, just like your body. The top bodybuilders didn’t get to where they are by working out for two minutes a day. They worked hard for it. Make your goal your burning obsession, a passion and purpose in life.
  4. Be specific. Most people have vague goals. They vaguely want to be rich, or they want to travel somewhere nice. Where? Oh, never thought about it much. It’s like getting into a car with a vague goal of wanting to buy… something. Not going to happen, right? You want to have a specific goal: I’m going out to the supermarket to buy myself some shampoo and a toothbrush. It is the same with your goals. Set it in as much detail as you can: a specific amount of money, a specific outcome from a meeting, whatever it is.

Visualization is a very powerful tool for helping achieving your goals, and I’m grateful that Luciano is giving me a chance to share it with his audience.

About Albert Foong:

Albert runs UrbanMonk.Net, a practical personal development blog that has enhanced the lives of many readers, moving them out of suffering and into a life of joy, love and success. It draws upon ancient spirituality, modern psychology, real life experiences, and everything in between.

(cc) Litemind, some rights reserved. Original post: How to Develop Your Visualization Skill.

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Improve Your Memory by Speaking Your Mind’s Language Tue, 28 Aug 2007 17:01:10 +0000 By learning the language your mind uses, you’ll be able to tap into your mind’s full potential and develop a remarkable memory. It’s easier than you think – and you’ll actually have fun doing it. Your Mind Thinks in Pictures Along its evolution, the brain has become amazingly effective in dealing with sensory data. It […]

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Improve Your Memory by Speaking Your Mind's Language

By learning the language your mind uses, you’ll be able to tap into your mind’s full potential and develop a remarkable memory. It’s easier than you think – and you’ll actually have fun doing it.

Your Mind Thinks in Pictures

Along its evolution, the brain has become amazingly effective in dealing with sensory data. It is by correctly interpreting the five senses that the mind understands the environment and takes decisions.

Among the human senses, sight has become the most sophisticated and developed of all. For that reason, our brains have become extremely effective in storing and processing images; especially of concrete, real-world objects. Trying to memorize abstract symbols, such as words printed on a page, is very unnatural and inefficient. Words are useful units of communication created by us, but they’re not how our brains are best used to process information.

Imagery is the real language of the mind. Images are your mind’s vocabulary, the building blocks of its language.

If I ask you to think about a horse, what comes to your mind? Is it the letters H-O-R-S-E in sequence? Of course not: it is the picture of a horse – you can even tell me its color. Don’t dreams always come as images? Pictures are how your mind communicates with us, and we should take full advantage of that.

Visual Thinking and Memory

To fully illustrate the astonishing effect that images have on your memory, let’s walk through a basic memorization technique called memory pegging. If you still don’t know it, I guarantee it’s going to be fun. Just like most memorization techniques, it’s based on the concept of thinking in pictures, or visual thinking.

Before getting to the technique, let me give you a simple challenge: memorize a groceries list of ten items. Allow yourself two minutes examining the list, then don’t look at it.

  1. bacon
  2. eggs
  3. wine
  4. batteries
  5. bubble gum
  6. milk
  7. envelopes
  8. spinach
  9. coffee
  10. tomato

Learning Your Mind’s Basic Vocabulary

Just like when learning any new language, we’ll need to get some basic vocabulary to get started. Let’s begin with some very useful words: the numbers from one to ten. By bringing the numbers to our visual language, we’ll be able to use them to memorize our groceries list or any other list we come across.

There are many ways to convert a number to a picture. My favorite one is to use images that resemble the numbers’ shapes. By getting rid of abstract symbols and replacing them with images that are vivid, animated and colorful, we’ll have much better mental pictures for our minds to play with. Here are some suggestions:

  1. candle
  2. swan
  3. heart
  4. sail boat
  5. hook
  6. golf club
  7. cliff
  8. snowman
  9. balloon with string
  10. dinner plate and fork

Here’s a graphical version of the list to help you visualize the similarities:

Number Shape Peg System

(click for larger image)

Feel free to use different images that appeal more to you. Once you’re done creating your list, please take your time to familiarize yourself with it. These images will be our pegs and, once learned, you’ll be able to reuse them over and over again, to memorize just about anything you want.

Connecting Images

Now that we have established an initial vocabulary of images, we can memorize new ones by building associations between them. All we need is to combine both images and form a new one. Now is the time to use your imagination, because there’s only one requirement for your new image: it must be absolutely outrageous!

Make it crazy, ridiculous, offensive, unusual, extraordinary, animated, nonsensical – after all, these are the things that get remembered, aren’t they? Make the scene so unique that it could never happen in real life. The only rule is: if it’s boring, it’s wrong.

Let’s go back to our groceries list example. How do we connect the number ‘1′ (candle) with our first grocery item (bacon)?

We could start by picturing a really big and powerful candle being used to fry bacon in a fast-food restaurant. Make an effort to enrich the scene in your mind: focus on the bacon strips and take a second or two to make them as vivid as possible. If you engage the other senses, even better: smell the bacon and hear it being fried. Add some movement and wackiness: couldn’t the bacon strips be jumping in the frying pan, crying for help? Did I mention you should make it zany?

Let’s try this exercise once more, now connecting the number ‘2′ (swan) and ‘egg’.

A swan laying an egg is too obvious – it won’t work by itself. Let’s imagine the mother swan laying the egg just like a woman giving birth: in a surgery room, with other swans dressed as doctors around her. Put the father swan in the room, proudly taping the whole thing. In the end, everybody is astonished – it’s actually three eggs: triplets!!

Ridiculous? No doubt about that. Effective? You bet.

At this point, you already get the idea. At first, doing this for each item may seem like a lot of work, but really it’s not. This mental play quickly becomes completely automatic – and fun!

When the time to recall the list comes, there’s not much more to do: the recalling process is completely automatic. It goes somewhat like this: You ask yourself what’s the first item: ‘#1?’ and the image of the candle immediately pops in your mind. One split second later, sure enough, there they are: jumping bacon strips!

How Does It Compare to Traditional Memorization?

It’s time to check how well you did in our memory test. Without looking back at the original list, try to write down all the items in order. Award yourself one point for each correct word and one additional point if the word is in its correct position.

How well did you do? Most people score an average of 12 out of the possible 20. If you ask them one week later (without telling them you would), the results drop to a disappointing average of 5.

Using the pegging method, the results are mind-blowing: the usual score is a flawless 20 – even when people are asked one week later. And that is after using the technique just for the first time.

The pegging memorization technique is just a small demonstration of how powerful visual thinking is. In fact, visual thinking is behind many mind-enhancing techniques such as mind mapping and is the core component of most other more advanced memorization techniques.

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