Episode 1: What is Visualization and How Can it Help Struggling Learners? The Personal Brain Trainer Podcast

Below you can view or listen to Episode 3 of The Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

What is Visualization and How Can it Help Struggling Learners? 


Watch Video:  

Mentioned Links:

Brought to you by:

Full Transcript for Episode 1

Welcome to the Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

I'm Dr. Erica Warren and I'm Darius Namdaran and we're your hosts.  Join us on an adventure to translate the scientific jargon and brain research into simple metaphors and stories for everyday life.  We explore executive functions and learning strategies that help turbocharge the mind. Come learn how to steer around the invisible barriers so that you can achieve your goals.  This podcast is ideal for parents, educators, and learners of all ages.

This podcast is brought to you by Bullet Map Academy. We have free dyslexia screener app called dyslexia quiz.  It's a fun, engaging and interactive app.  Try it now.  Just search for dyslexia quiz on the app store and see how your score differs from your friends and family.

This podcast is brought to you by www.goodsensorylearning.com where you can find educational and occupational therapy lessons and remedial materials that bring delight to learning.

Finally, you can find Dr Warren's many courses at www.learningspecialistcourses.com .  Come check out our newest course on developing executive functions and study strategies.

So what's the topic for this week?

Erica our topic this week is what is visualization and how can it help struggling students?

Okay, let's do it.

You know all the smart words and definitions and things like that.  You're clued up on all of this.

So tell us a definition of what is visualization, what do you mean by what is visualization and how can it help struggling students.

So visualization is the ability to create mental images within one's mind and these imaginary pictures enable us to see experiences from the past, conjure up ideas in the present or even project visuals into the future.

And I love this because what I tell my students is it's the ability to travel through time.

So if you want to travel through time, you can do that and you do that through visualization because you can look at the past, you can go back into the past when you're younger, you can drop into the present moment, or you can actually visualize into your future.

And the interesting thing is that research suggests that when you visualize into the future it can actually help you manifest what you want.

Okay, so part of our conversations Erica is that we take these kind of statements that you just made and we kind of fight over a little bit, wrestle it chew on it a little bit, be Devil's advocate, everything else, you know, So I'll be Devil's advocate a little bit here and I'm not going to be Devil's advocate all the time in these conversations, but let's just say now visualization has a little bit of a mumbo jumbo kind of rep, if you just visualize it will happen and all of that kind of I don't know, sometimes people poo poo it shake it off and I don't, but I do often see there's a kind of laziness sometimes associated with visualization.

So let's just talk through a little bit about that, then, you know, what's your take on what visualization actually is rather than how people sometimes approach it.

Well you know it's really your capacity to see images in your internal mind.

So it's your mind's eye is another common term for visualization.

And or you could go back to when you were a kid and think of imagination when you were a kid, most of us did pretend to play and and we pretended to have a tea party or we pretended to see things and in our mind we would think about it and it was like it would really come alive in our mind and I think that some people continue to visualize throughout their life and other people kind of let it go let there and they don't visualize very much.

And and some people even claim to have what they call a blind mind's eye.

Well that's your term, isn't it blinds mind i isn't it is it's a term that I I kind of point because there are those people that just can't see any imagery in their mind.

Okay, so one of your questions here, you've got can everyone visualize so visualizing the ability to picture something?

Imagine something, imagine yourself in a setting.

And it's a good question can everyone visualize?

And it's different from does everyone visualize because you can do something but do you do it?

I remember reading lots of positive thinking books norman Vincent Peale and So on and when I was 18, 19, that was like 30 years ago and he was talking about visualization quite a lot and picturing yourself in certain settings and picturing your goals and so forth.

And if you can't imagine it, you can't achieve it.

And I think so there's some people who can imagine things but don't but is there some people who can't visualize?



I've actually worked with quite a lot of students that have come to me because they they didn't realize that that's why they came to me, but I figured out that's why they came to me, they were not able to visualize.

So they hated reading for example.

Well reading is not very fun if you can't visualize because it's like going to a movie with your eyes closed, wow, that's a good way of putting it.

Yeah, I've had really interesting experiences with students and being able to tap into that capacity has been fascinating and took a lot of exploration.

I find that a lot of the students that I work with that come with the blinds minds, I I am able to open up there in her eye and it's typically by talking about dreams because dreams are inter visualizations while we're sleeping.

So how can we have those inner visualizations when we're awake.

So we know that we have the capacity to visualize because we dream and we remember our dreams.

So that's how I kind of went with.

I had one student though, that was fascinating.

He couldn't, he couldn't see in his dreams.

And so we talked about it, we traced it back to night terrors when he was a little boy and and what we we kind of decided together was that the reason why he couldn't visualize or dream was because he had blocked that capacity because of fear.

And I've had this happen with a number of people that I've worked with, either trauma or fear caused them to shut down their capacity to visualize because they had these scary experiences that would come up all the time.

So the way that I helped him to visualize was I had to help him see his dreams again.

And it all started with he could what he what we also another term that we coined was specialization.

He could feel himself in space in his dreams but his eyes were closed and and eventually I got him to do things like fly in his sleep so he had a little bit more control over his dreams and then I got him to open his eyes and once he opened his eyes and his dreams he was able to visualize and that that was the door that opened for him and then once he was able to visualize he could actually visualize what he was reading and then his comprehension improved dramatically.

So what I find fascinating in this Erica is that you're an educational psychologist is that the right way to describe your role.

I have a master's degree in educational psychology, my doctorate is in a combination of school psychology specialist and adult education.

I call myself an educational therapist, therapist.


And so student like this is coming to you not to visualize, but to read better.

Is that right?

That is right.

They might want to read or write or maybe their memory is poor, they have a poor specifically working memory and I often trace trace back for many of my students these difficulties with a poorer in capability of visualizing.

So visualization is really one of the core skills to working memory, which is the number one indicator of academic success, they call it the visual spatial sketchpad.

So I this has been really helpful for me over the last four months since you started talking to me about this, I think of it more as imagination and picturing things.

I sometimes think visualization, I suppose internally in my own language is a little bit woo woo and new age sometimes, and I think sometimes people might prefer to just think of it as picturing things and imagining things either way it's the same, it's just a different label we put on it and I know as a dyslexic individual myself and I work with dyslexic students in my day job and you work with dyslexic students as well in your day job.

What I found fascinating was that often people with dyslexia have got a very strong ability to imagine and picture things and visualize.

And yet when it comes to doing something often they in school work, often they don't visualize it so often, they don't imagine it often they don't picture it.

And what I really I learned from you is that often they're using so much cognitive load to decode stuff that they're finding difficult, decoding, that they've got no more mental capacity to do what they're really good at, which is the visualizing side.

And I'll give you an example where it really hit home to me is I teach Children how to mind map for dyslexia.

So what often happens is when people do mind maps, they write lots of words and branches and often there's not very much visuals in it.

And even highly creative artistic kids are doing that.

And I noticed this and I'm thinking to myself, I know you're a very imaginative person.

I know you know that doodling in your maps is really helpful, but why are you not doing it?

And it's a combination of things?

It's part of their automaticity, they're not in the habit of it.

Maybe, maybe they think people are expecting words are more important, etcetera.

But it's also that they're spending so much time processing the words that they're kind of sucking away energy from their imagination and I have to stop them and just say, look, you've just talked about photosynthesis here in this in this map, what picture would you put around this word called photosynthesis and they'll go, oh, I don't know, I'm like, well what is photosynthesis about?

Like, well it's something to do with the sun and shining on plants and so on.

Okay, so what shape or image should we put around the word photosynthesis?

To help you imagine what photosynthesis and they'll go, I don't know, and what's happening is they're not engaging their imagination with what they're learning, but the moment you say, well, it's to do with the plant, is there anything to do with the plant that maybe we could put around this and what color could it be?

And they're like, well it could be green.

Yeah, and it could be a leaf, maybe.

I'm like, great, let's put a leaf in there and they put a leaf around it and you know what, They'll remember that because they've kind of visually digested it.

Yeah, yeah, I I call visualization the secret weapon to learning.

It's it's really, really phenomenal and it becomes almost like a no brainer because you just if you visualize it, it just it's just there, it's stuck and and that is Einstein had one of the best capacities to visualize.

And he said that pretty much everything that he did and even the theory of relativity was through his imagination and that he was able to visualize all of his theories and that's what gave him, you know, all of his intellectual capacity and ability to to come up with these new ideas was was through his capacity visualize and actually postmortem studies show that his brain in the area of of visual processing and visualization was far more developed than the average person.

Isn't that interesting?

That is interesting.

Did you hear the story about relativity?

He imagined sitting on a beam of light?

So I need to verify it but when I was told about this I read about it.

So Einstein in order to understand the theory of relativity, imagined he was sitting on a particle of light or a beam of light because he wasn't quite sure if it was a particle or a wave yet.

And while he was sitting on it he tried to imagine what was happening to him and to the world around him.

And that's when he started to see clocks going backwards and you know him getting heavier and E.

Equals M.

C squared started to start emerge and he ended up imagining it during a dream and that's when part of his breakthrough happens when he was continuing this this picturing of what it would actually be like.

So what what I find fascinating is that often we underrate the power of picturing things.

We think it's childish often Children are told to stop doodling on their papers in class and stop imagining things and visualizing things and start getting serious and thinking about facts and formulas and so on and yet the person who creates those formulas is the one who is doodling and dreaming and visualizing, you know, like Einstein and so one of the big issues I think with struggling students is your topic here is that we, as educators and as parents are unconsciously sometimes telling them to park their imagination outside of the classroom door.


And the fascinating thing about that is that visualization is also one of the best methods to be able to sustain attention because you are visualizing what the teacher is talking about, then you are fully focused.

So it's a great way of being able to teach kids, which I do as well, how to sustain attention is just make sure you're visualizing what the teacher is talking about.

And if you don't have a good idea of what the teachers talking about, say it's a history class, go into Youtube and find some pictures of ancient Egypt or the roman empire and look at those videos and then when you go to class the next time, make the effort to bring up those images and actually make them come alive and make them personal, put yourself in it are actually that what that reminds me is I often go to google and google images because just having those distinct images can trigger you know me and stimulate me to picture it rather than Youtube, which you can get lost in.

So an interesting exercise I did with one of my students recently was, she was doing some notes, a map, a mind map on cigarette smoking and the effects on the lungs as part of her biology course.

And she, I do something called flash mapping, where I get them to put their map down and then just quickly doodle it and try and draw out from memory and if there's something they miss out, they check.

That's often a weak point in the map.

And there was this one that she kept forgetting which was the effects of smoking.

And I said, so what picture can we put there that can remind you of effects?

How can we visualize effects?

And she said, I don't know how I would visualize effects.

And I'm thinking to myself, I don't know how I'd visualize effects either to be honest.

And I said, well let's do what we normally do, let's put effects into google images and see what happens and we get effects and there's not much there.

So we put in smoking effects next and we start seeing people with sunken faces and yucky lungs and things like that.

And I'm thinking, oh there's some good choices there.

And I said, so what picture shall we go for?

And she chose a picture of a tree?


Yeah, she chose a picture of a forest, green forest and then a forest that was burnt.

And I'm like, why did you choose that?

And she said, well I quite like that one.

And I'm like, okay, can you explain it to me?

And she said, well, I think the lungs are a bit like trees and you know when you're smoking, it's kind of like damaging those trees and so on.

And I'm like, oh my goodness, that child has just internalized, envisioned owns the information of the effects of smoking on lungs in a way that I couldn't have prescribed for her.

She's digested it, she's visualized it.

And the choice of that visualization doesn't just help her remember that topic, but actually start understanding the nature of lungs.

Yeah, it's actually really brilliant and the research shows that it's really important to let the kids come up with their own strategies because there's so many great strategies out there, you know, that have already been created.

But part of what really lodges it in long term memory as if you created yourself.

So what you did is you walked her into it and it's funny, I do that a lot too.

I use a graphic art program called Canada and I use that all the time to find really great images for kids again so that they can come up with really clever strategies and and whether it's for math or science or english or writing, it's just amazing how finding these images to help them even to remember a speech, you know, visualization goes way, way back to Aristotle and goes back to ST thomas Aquinas it goes to greek and roman intellectuals and then even people like modern philosophers such as Deckert lock carbs, Berkeley hume all talked a lot about the power of visualization.

So it's not like it's some woo woo thing that just popped up lately, granted a lot of woo woo people do use the term to say, oh you can manifest whatever you want.

But it's really interesting when you think about it.

It is quite true that it does help you to manifest what you want in the sense that if you are thinking about this beautiful home that you want, then you're working towards it.

You're constantly reminding yourself that that's what you want.

So it's always focusing your attention and then you start to see what you want.

Like, you know, when you get a brand new car, say you get a BMW, you get a gray BMW, you never noticed the Great BMWs until you got one, Or until you wanted one.

You started to see them everywhere, preparing yourself for it.

And it's the same with academics, kids can prepare themselves to do better in school instead of going in and feeling fearful and anxious.

Which triggers cortisol in the brain which gets in the way of memory.

They can do the opposite.

They can try to trigger an A on the test by really visualizing that and feeling excited about it and feeling confident and then that that triggers other types of of chemicals in the brain that actually helped them to achieve it.

Well, it's all tied into the particular activating system, isn't it?

In the back of our brain, I find a particular activating system fascinating.

And for those of you who are new to that term is it's a part of your brain that basically the more you look at something, the more it shows you of that thing.

So it's a filter in your brain and so you can program that filter in your brain.

So if you keep looking at a particular kind of car over and over again, every time your brain sees that car it will alert you to it.

Whereas if you're not paying much attention to those particular cars forever, your brain will just filter that out.

So you're basically, every time you look at something you're creating like a vote for that particular thing that you're looking at and your brain will say, oh he wants to see more of that or she wants to see more of that.

And so you start programming your brain to identify and filter through certain bits of information and it's very valuable trait to be aware of and used to your advantage.

It can be used to your disadvantage as well, you know, with negative self talk or you know, paying attention to things that you're not actually interested in and aren't really essential to you, etcetera.

So particular activating system is is a fantastic tool to to use one of the things that I haven't done for a long, long time and I've not shared this with you.

Erica is, you know, when you get these gold boards or picture boards and you kind of make a board with different pictures of things that you have that you're hoping for and dreaming for, you know what I'm talking about, like a vision board, a Vision Board, that's what they're called.

Yes, yes.

One of those and I did one like 15 years ago and then I did another one a while back and I did one this year, you know, did you do one this year?

Yeah, it's right over there, fantastic.

And I've got it as my, you know, screensaver on my ipad.

So every time I open the ipad, it just for a moment flashes up that vision board as it were.

And it's got things like I want to go for walks with my dad more and I've got a picture of me and my dad walking and, and it's got little pictures of goals and I've kind of done the pictures according to the size of the goal.

So it's a big goal, it becomes a big picture, if it's a little goal, it becomes a little picture and one of them was a Tesla, you know, it was kind of unrealistic at the beginning of the year when I did it, you know, and hey presto, you know, I got given a Tesla four months later, it was very nice by my brother in law, I was very appreciative of that, he didn't know that was on my board, but I think the power of maybe I'm going into manifestation territory here, but I don't wanna be Yeah, yeah, but it does, you have to really imagine, I really believe in, if you can imagine it, you can achieve it, it's that baseline.

If you can't imagine it, you can't achieve it.

So at the very least you've got to be able to imagine yourself achieving something to be able to achieve it.

It doesn't mean that you're going to, but at least you've overcome the first hurdle that you can imagine.

And I've got a good story for this that I shared with you a while back, which was learning how to juggle.

I had this really profound little experience when I was 19 years old at Edinburgh University in Scotland.

They do these kind of psychology reach exercises and they got these students to come in and they paid me £15, which seemed like a huge amount of money for an hour of my time and they did experiments on us.

And this was the experiment, the experiment was how can we teach them to juggle.

Okay, so it was just a simple psychology experiment was can we teach them to juggle in less than an hour And then they had three different techniques to teach three different groups how to juggle And saw which one was more effective.

Now one of them involved visualization and the other two didn't.

So that's the link here.

So here's what happened.

They got us all in as a group that ended up being a group of 10, 10 people in each group.

And what they did was they sat us in front of a video for two minutes that showed us the first step of juggling with one ball.

Then everyone watched that video in their separate rooms and then they said group number one, they said okay you can watch that video again for another two minutes.

Group number two, they said okay here's juggling balls, you can practice for two minutes.

And group number three which I was in, they said Okay, no more video, no more practice.

You're just going to spend two minutes picturing what needs to be done and visualizing it.

So the guy got us to sit on our chairs and just imagine it in our mind.

You talked us through it, feel the ball in one hand throw up into the air, see it press just past your head height, fall back down into the other hand, can you feel it lands in your other hand?

Good, throw it again And we weren't allowed to move our hands or anything like that.

We had to just visualize it, Picture it and we did that for two minutes and then everyone got another two minutes where everyone practiced with one ball.

So that was the only difference.

So we all got to watch the video all got to practice it but in the middle we did something slightly different for two minutes.

And then for the second ball we did it all over again, watched another two minute video, visualized it and then practice with two balls.

And then for the third stage we all watched the two minute video for the three balls and it's quite complicated and just imagine it.

Okay, we've just done a six minute session for the first ball And another six minute session for the second ball.

So we're 12 minutes in.

Okay, just 12 minutes in.

And then they're showing us how to juggle with three balls for two minutes training and that's it, Two minutes training done.

And We're like Alright, three balls.

And they're like you're gonna start juggling three balls soon.

We're like boy you got to be joking but okay, fine, it's a science experiment, doesn't matter if it succeeds or not.

And then they got us to sit on the, in, in our seats and the guy said right, you're going to imagine the three balls now and there's two balls in your right hand, One of them is read one of them is blue and there's one ball in your left hand, can you see that and you're like okay yeah, I can picture that.

He says right throw the ball up in the air, the first ball, the red ball, okay, it's coming up and now remember the other hand throw the throw the next ball, Okay, yeah, it's up.

And then think about the first hand and start throwing the ball up in the air etcetera.

And he's describing it and then he stops us all of a sudden and he goes, okay guys, how many of you dropped the ball?

And we all opened our eyes and we just kind of sheepishly put our hands up like we dropped the ball and he goes, you are aware that it's your own imagination, aren't you?

Why did you drop the ball?

Because it's your own imagination?

Why did you drop the ball?


We all thought to ourselves, gosh, yes, why did we drop the ball?

And we all thought to ourselves, well doesn't everyone drop the ball the first time they do it?

And he says you don't need to drop the ball.

Just imagine it going into your hand, slow it down, speed it up, change it around, take your time, get your head around it and picture how it works.

And so we just started again, we calmed down because we're all pretty stressed out because we didn't want to fail.

And we visualized, okay, this goes up and he says remember you can slow it down, you could even rewind it if you want if you think it's not quite right?

And we didn't really oh yeah, I suppose we could and I slowed it down and then it bent it back into my hand and he says, you can bend it back into your hand or whatever And we're kind of thinking, but that doesn't happen in the real world and that doesn't matter.

Just visualize it working please.

And so we did that.

And then after just two minutes of that, he put three balls in our hands and eight out of 10 people in our group could juggle in the other groups who got extra practice or extra video replay.

Only two or three could.

And the difference was we took the time to visualize succeeding In the activity and that really had a profound effect on me because I couldn't believe it.

I tried juggling beforehand, I was a bit clumsy at it.

I couldn't do it.

But now three sets of six minutes.

What's that?

Making time wise?

Is that 18 minutes?

In 18 minutes, I learned how to juggle with three balls properly.

Yeah, visualization is so powerful.

I am one of those people that really believes that everybody comes with their own set of needs.

So I don't have a program in my private practice.

I really create an individualized program for each student.

However, I like to use visualization training for all of my students because no matter where they are on the continuum whether they can't visualize it all or they have an outstanding capacity to visualize.

I want to teach them how to use it for educational purposes.

I have a great story of, I was working with a young boy and his grandmother brought him to the first session and I was talking with him that he had this great capacity to visualize, but that he didn't use it for school.

And his grandmother was really fascinated in this conversation and she she got very animated about it.

And I guess after the session ended, two weeks passed and I got an email from her and she said, you know, I can visualize and I can read, but I never thought of visualizing what I was reading.

And she said I picked up a book for the first time and I visualized when I read it and she said it was marvelous, Thank you so much for suggesting that.

And that goes back to the idea that even if you have the capacity to visualize, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're using it in a way that helps you academically.

They don't teach that in school.

There's so many crazy things that they don't teach in school.

And if I had my own school, I would spend a year teaching kids to visualize to a point of Automaticity before they even learned basic literacy skills.

Because if they were already automatic with visualization and became like visualization masters, my God, can you imagine how great we'd be at visualization.

If we spent half the time learning to visualize that we did learning to read Holy moly and then all those poor little struggling readers would be able to visualize and that would pull them through instead of not having the visual space because you can't multitask until something's become automatic.

So so many of the kids that I work with, I have to go back to those basic skills and say, okay, what's not automatic if they have poor handwriting, what's not automatic, you know, or or in particular note taking, they may not be able to be a good note taker because they have poor fine motor skills, you know, so we have to build those core skills to a point of automaticity so that their automatic because that's when we can multitask and reading writing.

Learning memory is multitasking even memory.

Memory is usually a combination of visualizations or at least good memory is a combination of visualizations and your inner voice.

How interesting and also tapping into past memories.

That's multitasking.

But once we develop that kind of sense of automaticity and just being mindful and being aware that you can do that Holy moly, you know, so many, so many of us sitting in the backseat of the car letting our mind just take us wherever it takes us when in fact we can hop into the front seat and direct where we want to go and how to do it.

Yeah, there's so much more in this and we should do another episode on visualization and just keep going on this topic.

And I think it's useful to talk about automaticity.

You know that's another one of those jargon terms that is so crucial in the realm of understanding your mind.

Especially if you've got dyslexia or ADD or executive function disorder.

I've got dyslexia and a bit of ADD too, and I realize when I learned about automaticity it's a very helpful thing. Why don't we make that the topic of the next one? You know do a quick definition just now.

We'll talk about automaticity and visualization because I've got some thoughts on that too.

But why don't you explain what automaticity actually is?

Okay so automaticity is just your capacity to do something automatically.

For example, when we first learned to brush our teeth it took all of our cognitive capacity.

We couldn't do anything else with brush your teeth and we weren't very good at it.

We have to think about it.

All right I have to go to the back of the brush down and oh I don't want to forget the bottoms of the two.

So there's a there's a lot to think about but eventually it becomes automatic and we can do it without even thinking about it when you're driving a car.

When we first learned to drive a car it took all of our cognitive capacity particularly if it was a manual car but eventually it becomes automatic and we can drive and we all know that feeling.

If we've been driving for a while where you're on a highway And you've just drove 30 miles and you were lost in five.

It's like time just disappeared and you were like wow, how did I get here so fast?

Because you're on automatic, you know how to drive and so you're able to go somewhere else and do other things.

You're able to have a conversation with someone sitting in the car.

Initially not a good idea when you first learn.

So you can do that with all of the basic academic skills, whether it's how to hold a pencil, how to maneuver the pencil to draw the different letters, how to make sense of what you're reading, how to decode words, you know?

And then there are all the different types of visual and auditory processing and memory.

And but but sometimes I'm working with kids that are struggling at school and it goes right back to something as simple as visual discrimination.

So even even within visual processing and auditory processing, their multiple little subsections and something like that, something like visual discrimination.

Being able to discriminate things that look similar if you if you're weak at that it really can create a lot of problems with you academically.

So sometimes we just have to go back and strengthen that skill and the beautiful thing is just like the body.

If we have a weak bicep, we can't strengthen it with a whole body workout.

But we can do the same thing with the brain.

If we have a weak cognitive processing area, we can, if we go in and find out where they are and then slowly strengthen it.

We can actually build cognitive skills.

So those issues don't trip them up anymore.

Yeah, another example of that would be, let's say you're driving and you keep messing things up at a certain stage.

You know when you're going around the corner around about or junction of some sort, you keep messing it up and you're like, I don't know why, but it could be because you're not very confident moving from second to third gear for example, because finding that you're, you're always hesitating your mind's on it and you get momentarily distracted and that momentary distraction constantly fluffs up some bigger thing, you know, But you need to take it back to that.

I mean I even had that experience, I was learning how to sail a yacht.

It was kind of and it's called a day skipper license in the UK And you have to go away for a five day course and do 40 hours of training and you get this license which allows you to say sail a yacht, I don't have a yacht, but I sometimes go and help a friend with a yacht.

So I got this license and there was one exercise where it was a man overboard exercise, which is a crucial exercise if someone falls off the boat, you've got to be able to do it in a very systematic way to, to save them within about four minutes, within about three minutes, get them out the water.

So they don't get called shock because you know, under 15 C in Scotland, the, the water you get cold shock and that can really be problematic.

So I had this nailed, I was sorted, I was really good at it.

You know, I've done it quite a few times in dinghies.

Anyway, I asked the instructor to do it again because I hadn't made a mistake and I was like, no, I'm gonna keep doing this until I make a mistake and mess it up and see what happens when I mess up.

Sure enough, I messed it up and I really messed up.

I mean, I was six minutes, I was going all over the shop and I got totally disorientated and I didn't know which way to go around to him and so on.

And I got it done eventually.

And then in the debrief I thought to myself and we discussed it and I said, when did it go wrong?

And that, that sometimes the most important question to ask, which is what you're saying, You know, when did it go wrong?

And we, we went, we said, oh, this happened, Was it that no, was that this, was it, that And eventually I figured out was when I put my head down to switch on the engine of the boat and then lifted up my head, I got momentarily disorientated and because I was disorientated about what direction I was going, what direction the wind was going.

I just lost my bearings literally and everything went pear shaped and I said, so what do I do?

And the instructor said, well, you don't have to put on the engine, you could say crew number one, please put on the engine and you keep your head up so you're constantly orientated.

And just that insight made me less dangerous.

Made me more safe on that boat because I could have the confidence to say, could you put the engine on?

And I don't just do it because I know the cost of losing my orientation is important.

And that's just one little example of that kind of thinking of, you know, in, in a learning process.


Even when kids are struggling with writing a story, writing anything.

I, and I'll encourage parents to take some of the load off because if they have weak fine motor skills, then be there secretary, so they can develop the other skills too.

So it's really fun to do that to take off some of the load and see, oh my gosh, I didn't even realize that my daughter had this incredible imagination and it's incredible capacity to write, well, we never were able to go there because she was stuck in the fine motor process.

So that's why it's so important to go back and build those core skills.

Figure out what are the little things that are tripping us up like you did in that scenario so that we can be so that we can really drop into our best self.

Because if we have, if any anxiety comes into it we get a cortisol burst, too much cortisol blocks memory, then we kind of fall apart.

But in the other scenario where you feel more empowered then you'll get a dopamine burst and that improves memory in confidence and you're able to really work at your full capacity.

And the interesting thing in that scenario was I could have just said with that experience oh I'm just not very good at this yet or I'm just not very good at this at all and I'm just not very good at this.



Or I'm a bit unreliable at this, you know?

And from the outside, oh he's a bit unreliable sometimes he's completely spot on.

Sometimes it's completely off.

And often that's a trait of dyslexia or a d d I mean I've got it and I see it and then you could just say oh well that's just the way it is.

But no it's not that's right if you take a moment to reflect and say actually maybe there was some sort of mental process that tripped you up without realizing.

And for me that the fact that I put my eyes down, I actually dropped my head because it's in an awkward place and then I lifted my head up and really looked again, small shift in wind, small shift in orientation, I was momentarily lost.

I mean that's only a 12th, five second shift, but if that caused anxiety and you got a big boost cortisol, it can unravel you.

So I had a choice there and I'm just breaking this down because for you as a listener or with you and your child or whatever or your students, I think it's important to not just accept the most obvious reason, which is, oh, they're not very good at this yet or I'm not very good at or yeah, I'm not very good at this yet.

Or it's going to take a lot more practice or whatever and you like, no, it's not always just keep practicing.

Practice, makes permanent.

You need to practice the ideal scenario and make that automatic and permanent.

And so in that scenario, I had enough self awareness to say, no, that's not acceptable that I just sometimes fluff it up because I know I'm good at this something about the way I did there that I wasn't quite aware and I had to take ownership of it myself as well, The instructor didn't realize the instructor didn't see it.

If they were maybe a different kind of instructor, maybe they would have picked up, but I had to take ownership of it and talk it through, reflect on it, replay it, re visualize it.

What did I do?

What how did this go?

What did that go, slow it down and then I go, ah that was the point and then I've got a choice.

And the choice is either I get really good at bending my head down and switching on the engine and then lifting my head back up or I delegate it to someone else and keep my head above the ground and keep my eyes on the prize because that's my actual role as the skipper of a ship.

Do you know what I mean?

Well, you know metaphorically you are describing exactly what we do in our own work.

That's exactly pay careful attention to the student.

I look at their assessments um and figure out what it is.

It's tripping them up and then we address it and then all of a sudden they're able to move through academics with more grace.

Well, yes, absolutely.

So that's why you're my personal brain trainer Erica and that's why you're mine.

I think these moments help us just actually these moments, what they're doing is they're training are reticulated activating system to become aware of these moments.

So this type of thinking just as a listener, you'll be thinking about this and it's just trained your particular activating system to say I'm going to be aware of key sequences which tripped me up that I'm maybe not automatic at right.

Or maybe they're not following the right approach and they need to try a new approach because they have to, you know, the brain gets kind of used to following a certain pathway and sometimes, and and it just some, sometimes something becomes automatic, that shouldn't be automatic, in fact, and so many of the kids that I work with, they have il efficient ways of doing things.

You know, they're told read slowly, read really slowly and later on, you know, they need to let go of that and they don't, you know, they're still reading like they can't decode.

In fact, they need to speed it up.

We have to establish new neural pathways.

Sometimes, you know, some people with dyslexia, they like to listen to a book And often they put the speed up to three or 4 times the speed and then the speed of the information coming into their mind is fast enough to match the rate that their mind is thinking.

And so ironically, sometimes we need to speed something up for it to be understandable to us because it's just the rate of information coming through is too slow.

And so I do this with kids sometimes and you can tell some Children they really love, you know, 1.75 times speed summits to I get a little bit frustrated that it's capped at two sometimes because my rate is about 3.5 times and I just wish some of these Youtube would allow 3.5 times because that's the speed I can think and listen at.

And there was one guy who was doing a law degree with dyslexia he couldn't read very well at all but his speed was six times and that's the point where he could actually.

It was fast enough for him to think.

Anything slower was just way too slow.

And so isn't that fascinating with that slow reading and so on?

You you just need to find that way of thinking that way of working that matches your way of thinking right?

Because sometimes if it's if it's going to slow that's when you lose attention because then things can slip in that pulls you away and you want something to fully grab you.

Yeah pretty interesting.

Well and I've got some topics on that one I should talk about in another podcast episode because you know your rate of speaking is around about 120-240 words per minute.  And most people's rate of thinking is about 400 words per minute.

So there's this shortfall. there's this extra attention - if you've got ADHD. ADHD isn't attention deficit disorder, attention surplus disorder. So, you've got this extra attention that is not being filled by anything.

So what do you fill it with and what I teach my students is you've got to fill it with taking notes.

Taking visual notes -  not just writing lots of words but you're using that extra 260 words per minute worth of thinking capacity to take some visual notes and translate it into something visual.

So you're doing everything that we're talking about - taking in information, keeping your attention on it, taking notes, and visualizing and processing at the same time.

So you're bundling it all into the cognitive ability that you've got at that moment rather than splitting it out over time.

I'll take some notes just now.

Daydream a bit.

Come back to it, reread it, turn it into some visual flash cards and then test myself on flashcards. It’s four times as long.  You know you can do it all in the lesson itself - if you have a way of working to do that.

So we’ve completed another episode and what a beautiful way to wrap this whole conversation up - to bring it back to visualization because again I believe that visualization is the secret weapon to learning. When we have that capacity and we build that capacity it enables us to learn in a way that's so much more comfortable.

Yeah, it's the ultimate learning hack.

Visualization is the ultimate learning hack.

So Erica fantastic discussion.

Looking forward to our next discussion.

What did we say our next discussion would be on?

I think we said we're going to talk about automaticity.

That's it.

But yes, so I think that should be our next discussion.


So, if you're listening to this for the first time, hope you enjoyed this podcast episode. This is us getting into the groove and we hope to regular personal brain trainer podcast here. Bring a new nugget of something for you to ponder on and chew on and apply to your life.

Thank you for joining our conversation here at the personal brain trainer podcast.  This is Dr. Erica Warren and Darius Namdaran. Check out the show notes for links to resources mentioned in the podcast, and please leave us a review and shares on social media until next time.

Bye bye.