The art of visualizing success

How running cross-country inspired my life journey.

July 26, 2019 08:31
The art of visualizing success

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” – Eleanor Roosevelt. (photo credit: TNS)

Every morning, I run.
In the rain and in the wind, I run. Even when the baby did not sleep all night – or more likely that I did not sleep all night, because I have too much work to do – I run.
I am a runner.
The art of running, as I like to call it, has been a consistent part of my life since I was 14. I first learned about the sport in high school in Kansas, when I was informed that as a short Jewish girl I was unlikely to make the varsity basketball team and should find another passion. The cross-country coach saw my 90-pound frame squat 180 pounds and recruited me to his team.
I will never forget that first season, running on streets, trails, in meadows and up hills with nothing but a pair of tennis shoes and determination. I felt so free, yet so focused. By spring, I was the team captain, training two-a-days with the boys’ team and completely addicted.
Nearly 30 years later, I have lived in four states and two countries, I’ve been a rebbetzin and a reporter, a vice president and an editor-in-chief, been married, divorced and remarried, given birth to five children and am helping raise two stepkids, but I have never stopped running. It is the one hour each day that I leave my cellular phone on the table and my children and my work behind to be alone with myself.
Each step is creativity, clarity, realignment and a reminder that I can make it through whatever comes my way that day.

WELCOME TO the Magazine’s new monthly column “Running uphill.”
Editor Erica Schachne and I started talking about the need for this column, because we are both involved in many online professional and personal groups where people are regularly looking for advice on how to manage their busy schedules. These individuals are searching for a secret sauce or magic formula for how to balance their children and work and a clean house and cooking healthy food, and, and, and.
I am asked for advice on a regular basis. I assume it is because I am the news editor of The Jerusalem Post; am a mother of seven smart, clean and kind kids (this is the only unbiased statement in this column); have an organized home; and still exercise every day.
Unfortunately, there is no magic wand, and I am not a superhero.
And nothing is as easy as it looks. Still, each month I will provide you with a combination of personal stories, expert interviews and tips, and we will work together to achieve what I like to call PRs – personal records.

IT ALL starts with visualization.
My high school running coach used to have us meditate the day before an important race. We would lie down on the cold gym floor and close our eyes and “run” through the course in our heads. We would picture ourselves running in snow or fog, without our shoes. We would create false hills, runners who shoved their elbows into our stomach or even tried to trip us up, and we would picture ourselves winning nonetheless.
By race day, we were more confident and capable. We knew it would be easier to tackle than anything we visualized in advance.
Recently, I had the privilege of meeting with author and educator Azriela Jankovic, who shared with me that in Hebrew, the word for a faithful belief is “emuna,” which shares the same root with the word “amen,” an affirmation spoken after a prayer or blessing, and with the word “omanut,” which is an artistic creation.
What is the connection?
“Talent is the product of some ability combined with deliberate practice,” she said. “As this is true in the arts, omanut, it is also true for living our lives with the underlying faith, or emuna, that we are working toward creating and building a bigger picture.”
“Spiritual and physical creation are preceded by vision,” she continued. “The practice of visualization increases the likelihood of that vision being manifested.”
She explained why my high school pre-race meditation worked so well: visualizing affects brain processes that mimic those of identical physical actions. Similar to how memories or dreams can be experienced in the body as real events, future or imagined visions can also be experienced by the mind and body as real experiences.
Jankovic relayed the story of how former Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky stayed sane during his nine years in solitary confinement in a Siberian prison by playing chess with himself in his head.
He told the BBC that in his dark, empty, freezing cell, with no one to talk to, where he was forbidden to read or write, he played in his head, obviously having to move for both sides, white and black: “Thousands of games – I won them all,” he said.
Years after his release, in 1996, Sharansky beat the world chess champion at the time.
“The power of visualization was studied in the lab with a group of volunteers who wore arm casts for four weeks,” Jankovic continued. “Half of the participants did mental workouts of wrist flexing, and the other half did not. After four weeks, the visualization group had 50% more wrist strength than the group that did nothing.
“This is the power of the mind, and we can utilize it in any area of our lives.”
So start running uphill – or at least picture yourself doing it.

Five tips from the running trail:
1. Set goals. Nothing significant can be achieved without clear and powerful goals.
2. Stay disciplined. Training for a long-distance event takes months of consistency, sacrifice and effort – the secret ingredients for turning vision into reality.
3. Believe you can overcome obstacles – and do so. I’ve competed in a 5K run while bleeding after a taller runner inadvertently kicked me with her sharp spikes at the starting line. I’ve finished a half-marathon in weather so cold my lips felt frozen shut, and conquered Jerusalem’s hills. Enough said.
4. Compete against yourself. Competing against others is OK, but competing against yourself is ideal. I’m always striving for my next PR.
5. Build networks. Runners spend hours on the road interacting with others, through which relationships are built, which lead to intricate networks. As the saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

The writer is
The Jerusalem Post’s news editor and head of online content and strategy.

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