In Force 4 of our 5 Forces To Mental Mastery, we focus on an absolute key element of success in performance. Despite the importance, it is often times neglected, or not used properly, therefore holding a lot of athletes back from the true peak performance.
So what is the Mental image and visualization skill set? It really comes down to the fact that it is the process of creating mental experiences that will resemble actual physical experiences.
It is similar to reading a story written in the second-person narrative. The big difference is, it is not on a piece of paper, it is all in your mind.
A lot of people and athletes view the mental visualization part of the game as just a practice they do on occasion. However, to truly see its full benefits, it is important to realize that it is a SKILL! A skill that can be learned, trained and improved, which will have a direct reflection on your athletic performances. It builds confidence, better prepares you and helps you overcome adversity.
When practiced correctly, mental imagery, visualization, mental rehearsal will indeed prepare you far greater than you can imagine and really sets you up for how you expect to perform in your mind's eye.
Weather we're aware of it or not, the mental images we create and carry around with us have a direct impact on our physical and mental performance.
When you begin to train and develop the skill set of mental imagery and visualization, you will notice that you start to stay much more calm during adversity, staying focused on the present, not the past or future. You are much more able to evaluate circumstances and respond to situations logically and rationally, rather than allowing emotions to take over. You are able to demonstrate grit, and the desire to stick to it, even if things get hard. Mostly, you are able to manage the ups and downs that sports can bring and have the ability to switch off the stress button when needed.
For many athletes, they have never done, or are not used to mental visualization. Some do it directly prior to competition and that's it, but to truly take advantage of the skill, it has to become a regular practice. It doesn't take long and it doesn't take much to improve on this skill set. Let me give you a quick example I give my clients to get them rolling in the right direction when it comes to mental visualization:
This example takes the guessing out of mental visualization and will keep you from asking yourself if you are doing it right. It is a simple, 5 step process of going through the exercise.
Step 1. GOING IN = Relaxation (2 to 5 min). Just find a quiet place where you can relax, clear your mind without distractions.
Step 2. CONFIDENCE CONDITIONING / SELF TALK AFFIRMATION (2-5 min). This is where you tell yourself confidence creating messages like, "I control what I can control", " I trust my routine and compete in the moment", "I carry my body language in a positive light always", "I am confident in my ability and know I am getting better everyday".
Step 3. MENTAL RECALL (2-5 min). This is where you focus on previous successes. Things like what you have done well this season, the last competition and in the past. In your mind, bring up those things and focus on the success, how you felt about it and truly capture the moment.
Step 4. MENTAL REHEARSAL (3-5 min). Now you are on to your next performance. What you are going to do. What successes you will have. How your going to handle situations that come up in the competition and how your going to have success dealing with it. Visualize winning, working your hardest, beating your competition and ways in which you will do so.
Step 5. BRING IT OUT (1-3 min). Now your bring yourself out of the visualization. Relax just a couple of minutes. Reflect on what you just did and end with one final thought of positive success in your upcoming competition.
The goal is really simple, its only 5 steps to get you started with visualization and getting used to the practice. There are more advanced techniques, however, for the beginner or someone who may not feel they are doing things right, this is a great place to start!