Mental Rehearsal can help you gain your winning edge
Dozens of world-class athletes cite visualisation or mental rehearsal as an essential practice in their mental preparation, where the difference between winning a medal and missing out can come down to a mere thousandth of a second.
Many experiments have illustrated the success of visualisation. One study, mentioned in “The Psychology of Winning”, by Dr Denis Waitley, studied free throw scores of three groups of high school basketballers. The first group were instructed not to practise at all for one month. The second group were told to practice shooting free throws for one hour every afternoon. The third group were instructed not to practise physically but to practise visually shooting baskets successfully for an hour every afternoon, for a month.
At the end of the month, the first group’s average score slipped from 39% to 37% – (the control group.) The second group (who physically practiced) improved their average scores from 39% to 41%. The third group, who only practised in their imagination, improved their average scores from 39% to 42.5%. A similar experiment with basketballers quoted by Maxwell Maltz in “Psycho-cybernetics” where one group of basketballers physically practiced for 20 minutes a day and a third visualised only, found both physical practice and mental practice improved performance by 24% and 23% respectively.
Why does mental rehearsal work?
A key reason why mental rehearsal works is that memory and imagination use the same neurological circuits. Neurologically, your body can’t tell the difference between a ‘real’ experience, and a vividly imagined one. This means when you use visualisation, your brain is being activated in very similar ways to as if you were actually doing the event. Neural connections are strengthened, connections are added or removed and new cells formed. The famous quote from Einstein, ‘what you can imagine you can create,’ rings true.
Embracing mental rehearsal, whether or not you are an athlete can help your results. Whether it’s imagining yourself succeeding at a job interview, performing a new skill precisely or giving a winning presentation, you have nothing to lose and much to gain.
So why don’t more people use this technique when it has been proven to improve results? First, you have to commit to practice. Not just vaguely imagining what you want, but with intention, a specific outcome, consistently and for around 10 – 20 minutes at a time. Unfortunately, consistency and hard work are at an odd to our reptilian brain. Simply visualising a picture of what you won’t get you what you want. While Performance Psychology has come up with a precise model for achieving maximum benefit from visualisation, I believe the following two steps are crucial in addition to the above:-
- Make sure you feel a positive feeling. If you want to win an award, you must connect with the sense of winning, so your body produces the chemicals and puts you right in that winning moment. If you are going for a job interview, feel the feeling of having been successful.
- Make sure your thoughts are positive and focused on what you want. If you allow your wayward mind to think about what might go wrong, or how you mustn’t be nervous or fluff the interview you will negate the benefits of your mental rehearsal. Energy flows where attention goes – so make sure yours is going in the direction of your outcome.
- Be consistent. Like anything worthwhile in life, consistency and practice are crucial and are the sticking points for many people. Make your mental practice a priority. Schedule it into your diary and do it – whether or not you ‘feel’ like doing it. Stick with it and watch your results grow.
To discover exactly how to use mental rehearsal fully, and for other winning techniques, mind tools and action strategies, then come along to the Sunshine Coast, and attend my final workshop for the year, ‘The Winning Edge Formula.’ Guaranteed to help you hone your skills and sharpen your focus, finish the year strong and boost your results.