In sport, mental imagery is used primarily to help you get the best out of yourself in training and competition. The developing athletes who make the fastest progress and those who ultimately become their best make extensive use of mental imagery. They use it daily as a means of directing what will happen in training, and as a way of pre-experiencing their best competition performances.”
Imagery is a strong tool when improving performance and setting goals. Children often use their imaginations to keep themselves occupied. Along with keeping themselves occupied, it helps improve brain development. Imagery is also a great method to use when thinking about and planning for the future.
If you think back and reflect on big events in your life, I’m sure that at some point, you imagined what it would look, feel, and sound like when you achieved your goal. I know from a personal standpoint, I have used imagery my whole life. As an athlete, I would picture myself ripping off long runs in games. I would imagine what it would feel like when I became the all-time rushing leader in college. I would also let my mind wander as I trained in the dog days of summer. Running the mountain side on the south side of Bethlehem, I would imagine how all my efforts would pay off on the field.
When I would accomplish my goals, it always seemed like déjà vu. It was never the first time I had achieved the goal. It was as if, it had happened before. It was if I had experienced the same event years before. As I reflect, I did. Everything we do takes place twice; first in the mind, then in reality.
Everyday I’m fortunate to work with athletes and do what I love doing. Helping people optimize their performance. Whether it’s in the gym, athletic field, or in the classroom, I’m able to teach strategies that improve strength, speed, and the mental aptitude needed for optimal performance. From my perspective, the mental strategies are the most important elements because everything we do is initiated through the mind. Whether it’s waking up in the morning and planning what we will eat or planning our day, everything starts in the mind. Here are a few strategies that you can use that employ imagery. You can work on these daily. The more you practice, the better you will get.
• Picture success- every evening before going to bed, relax in your bed and picture something you want to accomplish. It could be something you want to accomplish tomorrow or something you want to achieve in the future. Be as detailed as possible. Picture what the success will look like, smell like, and feel like. Imagine who will be present and how they will respond to your accomplishments. Be as vivid as possible. The more detailed the better.
• Frame while you train- Whenever you are working towards your goals, whether it’s academic, athletic, or professionally, remember why you are pushing yourself. Focus on the task at hand and think about how your efforts are moving you towards your goals. When studying for your upcoming exam, picture how it will feel when you receive an A. After you receive the A, think about the newfound confidence you will have. Because of your academic success, you will have more opportunities to pursue your dreams as a college athlete at the school of your choice.
• Picture obstacles then breaking through them- Big time goals will have big time obstacles. These obstacles aren’t bad things; they are only tests of your mental and physical fortitude. It is easy to live life with rose colored glasses and only picture the best. If you only picture the best, you may get knocked on your backside when faced with adversity. As you imagine your journey, think about what might get in your way. As you picture these obstacles, plan on how you will overcome them. Who will help you and how will you respond. This strategy will help you handle the stressors related to the event and will better prepare you for a successful outcome.
Imagery is a strong tool that all of us can access. We tap into our imaginations everyday when we daydream or think about the future. Instead of passing these thoughts off as daydreams, use them to move you closer to your aspirations. Remember that all of us had pictured at some point what it would feel like to live on our own, purchase a house, or become a professional in our respective careers. Everything begins as a thought and it is up to us to make those thoughts a reality.
Best in Performance,