Following on from last week’s blog here are more examples of how visualisation exercises have helped improve performance, taken from my book Get Lucky Now.
These days, athletes are spending more time daydreaming with their eyes closed and less time in the gym or on the sports pitch. They are not lazy, nor are they wasting their time. What they are indulging in is deep mental practice.
Close your eyes and imagine
The following example describes how competition skiers prepared for a downhill run. Physiologists wired their muscles and attached them to recording machines, and this science is called electromyography. They have discovered that when skiers stand in the laboratory with their eyes closed and visualize their next competition run, the same muscle groups are flexed at the same time as would happen on the real run, mirroring the ski terrain.
Follow the science
This is called “covert practice,” as described by Dr. Simon Jenkins, principal lecturer in sports coaching. “Covert (rather than overt) practice of a skill in that no actual movement occurs. It involves the use of imagery and verbal thoughts.”
Jenkins confirms the value of mental practice, too, from a scientific standpoint. “There is evidence to suggest that mental practice is better than no practice, and that mental practice in combination with physical practice is even better.”
Playing golf in Vietnam
If you are still not convinced, then this famous example may be the clincher. It was written by Hirini Reedy. It is also quoted by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his legendary book, Flow.
Major James Nesbeth spent seven years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. During those seven years, he was imprisoned in a cage that was approximately four and one-half feet high and five long. During almost the entire time he was imprisoned he saw no one, talked to no one and experienced no physical activity. In order to keep his sanity and his mind active, he used the art of visualisation.
Every day in his mind, he would play a game of golf. A full 18-hole game at his favourite course. In his mind, he would create the trees, the smell of the freshly trimmed grass, the wind, the songs of the birds. He created different weather conditions—windy spring days, overcast winter days and sunny summer mornings. He felt the grip of the club in his hands as he played his shots in his mind. The set-up, the down-swing and the follow-through on each shot. Watched the ball arc down the fairway and land at the exact spot he had selected. All in his mind.
He did this seven days a week. Four hours a day. Eighteen holes. Seven years. When Major Nesbeth was finally released, he found that he had cut 20 strokes off his golfing average without having touched a golf club in seven years.
So now you are ready to develop your own visualization of success and join the lucky people. Fortunately, you will not have to pay for an air ticket to Vietnam to learn these skills. Just wait for the blog next week.
Visualisation is a huge subject and therefore is included in my NLP coaching programs. More information can be found here – http://drstephensimpson.com/techniques/nlp/