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SELF-CONFIDENCE – Part C – Visualization and Positive Imagery

June 27, 2013
Chaung Tzu

Chaung Tzu

Consider the following quote.

“When you’re betting for stones in an archery contest, you shoot with skill. When you’re betting for fancy belt buckles, you worry about your aim. And when you’re betting for real gold, you’re a nervous wreck. Your skill is the same in all three cases – but because one prize means more to you than another, you let outside concerns weigh on your mind. He who looks too hard at the outside gets clumsy on the inside.”
Chuang Tzu – influential Chinese philosopher (399 – 295 B.C.)

Today’s section on confidence deals with imagery. One of the most fascinating things I ever learned about imagery came from discovering something called Psycho-Cybernetics, by Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a highly successful plastic surgeon based in New York. In 1960, Dr. Maltz published his theory of image therapy, after working closely with patients who had undergone total changes in their physical appearance after extreme plastic surgery but who still vehemently reported seeing no change in how they looked after staring at their newly created features in a mirror. This resistance that Dr. Maltz witnessed in these patients’ brains to accept the drastic changes in their appearance fascinated him. The struggle between what the mind was seeing in the real world, verses the selves they still felt like internally yielded the same results again and again with patients who were not able to ‘release’ the images they had of themselves – not even when reality of their new face literally started them in the face.

Psycho-cybernetics Book by Maxwell Maltz

Psycho-cybernetics Book by Maxwell Maltz

In one of the studies he performed, there were three groups of basketball players. One group was included entirely as a control group and did nothing other than just sit in the gym after school for about 30 minutes. The second group of basketball players was given basketballs and worked to practice their foul shooting skills continually for 30 minutes. The final group was not given a basketball at all. They sat in place, closed their eyes, and were instructed to imagine and visualize themselves practicing foul shooting with 100% accuracy during the half hour.

The results: NO CONTEST! The final group, the one whose members imagined perfect shooting without ever touching a basketball improved tremendously over the first group whose members did nothing (the control group) and the group of players who physically practiced foul shooting for the half hour.

Under relaxed, stress-free conditions, when a person imagines themselves successfully accomplishing something, there is no stronger catalyst for yielding positive results. World Class athletes always spend moments prior to a major event visualizing themselves accomplishing what they are setting out to achieve prior to starting. Coaches have known about the power of tapping into the mind’s ability to visually rehearse and produce an image of success that the body follows through with.

Dr. Maltz considered the human brain like a computer on a guided missile. Once we set the tracking by positive imagery, our brain directs us to carry us to our target. If the track we set is one of success, we reach a successful target; if the image we have of our outcome is not one of success but one riddled with negativity and things going wrong along the way, we reach THAT target. Let me restate this because it is probably the major point of today’s post.

Success Image and Quote

Success Image and Quote

We are successful in reaching our target ALL the time. The difference isn’t in being successful or NOT being successful at reaching the target we visualize. The difference is the visualized target. In the first example, we had visualized success and we got there. In the second, we had gotten to our target too, but we visualized it as being one of failure. In BOTH cases we reached our targets successfully, but in the second instance, the target was one of failure…so in other words, we successfully failed. We pictured the failure, activating our guided missile to our image. Our image was one of failure and that is exactly what we accomplished.

Here are a few resources about positive imagery. Please visit a few of them because I can’t stress this enough – the more we are able to imagine positive outcomes successfully, the more successful we become.

Psycho-Cybernetics Maxwell Maltz

Psycho-Cybernetics – blog

Psych Central

Psychology Today


I’m a licensed clinical social worker and have worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. I combine professional experience in the mental health field along with my love of writing to provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. I hope my down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life is easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

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