The power of visualisation in the brain & mind approach

In personal development, the shaping of new behaviour occurs in two steps. First, it is planned in your head and then it is (physically) shaped. This concept is crucial in the brain & mind approach. With the brain & mind approach, you can develop new behaviour through visualisation. In this weeks’ blog, I will present  you with the building blocks. The core of this two-stage rocket is that you frequently visualize what your new behaviour should be. And then you train this on a daily basis.

What you give attention grows

The brain and mind approach is a new scientific discipline that combines the knowledge of neurosciences with leadership development. The brain & mind approach teaches you how to internalize new behaviour. This new behaviour is much more effective and fits the person you wish to be much better. Lots of training is crucial, because training increases the production of new brain circuitry. Whatever you give attention to, grows.


When you train this new behaviour, it is important that you visualize it. The effects of visualisation have been scientifically proven, as is demonstrated in the following research of Harvard University.  Three groups were examined. The individuals in these groups all had comparable intellectual abilities and none of them had ever learned to  play the piano. One group was asked to practice playing a scale on the piano every day. Another group was asked to practice the same scale, but they trained by only visualizing this scale. A third group, the control group, had no task.

The results were incredible. All participants had a brain scan done prior to the test. During the test, the brains of the three groups of participants (both the imaginary piano players and the real piano players) were re-scanned to measure any structural change to the brain as a result of the piano playing. It appeared that with group 1 and group 2, the part of the brain that coincides with piano playing finger movements had significantly grown. Therefore, even the group that had only visualized playing the scales exhibited verifiable changes to the brain when compared to the group that had trained physically. The control group did no exhibit any change to the brain (see also the picture).

What does this imply?

This implies that if you visualize something, to the brain, this is a real occurrence.  The brain does not distinguish between real activity and visualized activity.

This holds both advantages and drawbacks. It means that when you are contemplating a possible negative event in the future, your brain also sees this as a real event and so it produces stress hormones. Luckily, the opposite also holds true. When you think about a something that will happen in the future and you visualize the behaviour you wish for, you are actually already familiarizing yourself with this new behaviour. Now you understand why I love applying this knowledge in my training and coaching sessions.

How can we apply this knowledge

  • Increasing self-motivation: by visualizing yourself in a future position or situation, this can increase your motivation to actually achieve it. As stated above: your brain already recognizes you in this situation!
  • Improving your skills: by training a particular activity time and again, through mental visualization, your physical performance of this activity can increase too. This is something athletes use all the time.


You don’t have to be a star in visualization. Some people can visualize very clearly while with others, the mental image remains blurred. This however does not change the effect of the visualization. The intention of your attempt is much more important than the quality of your visualization. The intensity of the experience appears to be more important; the more intense the feeling that accompanies the visualization, the stronger the effect. When the attention of the brain is focused on your goal, that’s good enough.

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