The Power of Imagery Rehearsal

October 25, 2010  |  brain, emotions, imagery, sports, visualization

The most successful athletes, performance artists, and business people routinely use imagery rehearsal. It is even used by both patients and doctors to speed surgeries and reduce the likelihood of complications.

Imagery rehearsal is a standard part of sports training now, especially at the higher levels of competition, where the mental game determines success as much or more than the physical characteristics of the competitors who are all athletically gifted. In the early 1980’s, visualization was not nearly as well known as it is now.

A pair of twin brothers, Phil and Steve Mahre, dominated World Cup skiing during that time and won Gold and Silver medals for the U.S. at the 1984 Winter Olympics.  A huge worldwide audience was introduced to imagery rehearsal as we watched the brothers close their eyes before each run and mentally go through every turn. You could see them making subtle body shifts and head movements as they vividly imagined what they wanted to do on their competitive runs.

Jack Nicklaus, still the greatest golfer of all, never hit a golf ball in competition without first mentally imagining where he wanted the ball to land, the trajectory he wanted the ball to take, and the swing he wanted to make. His competitors said that he was the best not because he had the best body, but the best mind.

Begin the imagery rehearsal of any plan you have by imagining carrying out each step of the plan, including what you will do, who if anyone you will meet with, and what it will be like to reach a successful conclusion. There should be some kind of positive feeling at the end of your imagery. If there isn’t, I’d question whether or not your goal is genuinely important to you. At the very least there should be a sense of relief, and preferably a positive feeling of accomplishment.

Imagery rehearsal is a powerful form of affirmation that brings your senses and feelings to bear on your motivation. By imagining what you see, hear, and feel as you got through your action plan, and especially by allowing yourself to really feel the emotional benefits of success, you create new associational pathways in your brain that pair those good feelings with the image of successfully carrying out your plan. You get to reap some of the emotional reward in advance, and that can help keep you focused and motivated as you work your plan.

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