Your mind cannot tell the difference between something which is vividly imagined and something that is real. My mental rehearsal exercise uses imagination and visualisation as a mental practice of performing a task rather than actual practice. This means that when you engage in mental rehearsal, you imagine performing without actually having to do something physical.
It is important to recognise the difference between imagination and visualisation. Imagination is the conception and creation of an idea, visualisation is what you actually see, a vivid recall of something you have a belief in.
What can you choose to visualise? This is where imagination comes in!
Many sports people and athletes have used visualisation successfully to increase their performance. When using visualisation, your brain believes that success has been achieved and then acts accordingly.
Muhammad Ali was one of the greatest boxers of all time. He achieved amazing results using imagination and visualisation. He would put together images of actions he would take in the ring, then act it out in detail repeatedly in his mind. When he came to the actual fights, he had won already many times, and saw no alternative – winning was natural to his mind.
We all know the saying ‘Practice makes perfect’. What if we could practice perfectly every time? This is called perfect mental practice. Practicing events going the way you want them to go will give better results than if you practice and things go wrong, which tends to lead to repeated failure.
Using perfect mental practice to experience success increases our confidence, even if we know that experience is imagined. This is particularly useful when we experience stress. When we perceive threats or opportunities we feel we cannot handle effectively, we are likely to experience stress. We can reduce or even eliminate this stress when we convince our mind that we have already achieved what we want to do.
It is also important to relax before visualising, successfully visualising and dealing with our challenges with a relaxed body and mind will reduce stress and enhance the levels of achievement.
Try this exercise to experience your mental rehearsal:
1. Find a time and place where you won’t be interrupted.
2. Find a comfortable place to sit or lie and close your eyes.
3. Relax and focus. Take deep breaths and exhale slowly. As you exhale, imagine that stress is leaving your body. Start at your feet … feel all the stress leave your feet … then your legs … then your chest … all the way to the top of your head … feel all the stress leave your body. Free your mind of distractions and allow your mind to focus on the relaxation process.
4. Once relaxed, focus on the specific challenge or task.
5. Imagine what you will see just before you begin the task. Visualise yourself as an active participant, not as a passive observer. For example, to mentally rehearse putting a golf ball, imagine that you are standing on the green rather than watching yourself from the gallery.
7. Remaining relaxed and focused, mentally rehearse successful performance of this task. Imagine going through the process and seeing successful results.
8. Imagine the scene in as much detail as possible. Engage as many of your senses as you can in your visualisation. Who are you with? Which emotions are you feeling right now? What are you wearing? Is there a smell in the air? What do you hear?
9. If negative thoughts creep in, push them out of your head and start over again.
10. Finally, open your eyes and smile.
Now you have performed successfully in your mind, you have set yourself up for the actual performance. You can now be confident that you will perform successfully! Remember to praise yourself, this is another key to success.
Mental rehearsal is not magic, the power of the mind is so amazing we must make the most of it’s potential!