I’ve written extensively on “How” to visualize and the actual steps. This is actually the easy part. The hard part is developing the discipline to do it on a regular basis. In my work with athletes, I’ve discovered that those who don’t do it much, it’s because they are basically not convinced enough that it will actually improve performance. They are convinced that physical practice, training and drills will improve their performance and so they do that.
Think about this for a minute. You are driving a car to go somewhere and you get a flat tire. The car will not drive well. You are 100% convinced that if you fix the tire, the car will drive again. Therefore, you stop everything you’re doing and you fix the tire. Action always happens in this case.
In the case of an active visualization practice, you can see now that it’s not the “how” or the “resources” to do this action, it’s the “why.” So, here’s 3 huge reasons for why you should practice visualization to improve performance.
1. The greatest athletes in the world have told us it works. Follow their example:
“Before every shot, I go to the movies”
Jack Nicklaus – All-time Greatest Golfer
“Some guys need to see things on a grease board, I like when you can see it in your mind. And that’s what Marvin does, too. He visualizes. He sees things in his mind so well.”
Peyton Manning – American Football Quarterback
‘’I visualized where I wanted to be, what kind of player I wanted to become. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, and I focused on getting there.”
Michael Jordan – Basketball Great
I imagined my biceps as big as mountain peaks when I did my curling exercises. This visualization process was essential if I was to gain the kind of mass and size I needed to win the Mr. Olympia contest
Arnold Schwarzenegger – Bodybuilder, 7-time Mr. Olympia
“I have been visualizing myself every night for the past four years standing on the podium having the gold placed around my neck.”
Megan Quann – 2 Olympic Gold Medals, Swimming
“In the weeks before the Olympics, Mary Lou often lay in her bed with her eyes closed and let her imagination romp. She would visualize herself on each piece of equipment, performing her best routines and hitting every move perfectly,”
George Sullivan writing on Mary Lou Retton, Olympic Gold Medal Gymnast
2. Visualizing in sports boosts confidence.
Where does confidence come from? It comes from a belief that you can achieve something. The stronger the belief, the greater the confidence and the feelings that flow from it. The most obvious way to have that belief is if you have already successfully achieved that something before. If you’ve done it in your mind over and over again, you will make the belief stronger with each mental success.
How confident would be if you had a lot of success, in the past, at coming through in clutch situations? You can do that in your head in advance of the real competition very easily.
Visualization is something that is overlooked a lot. It’s another tool that can give you that added confidence. Through visualization, you can simplify the game. It can free your mind to focus on one or two things so you can be that much more comfortable. It’s on par with work ethic and one of the more important parts of my game.
Evan Longoria – ML Baseball
3. It’s time efficient. Visualization allows you to get in more reps and practice in than you can in real life.
When I visualized the dive in my head, I would see it in slow motion. I was able to take the dive apart and memorize it step by step.
Greg Louganis – Diver, 4 Olympic Gold Medals
Every athlete knows that the more you practice and drill on the correct movements and skills in your sport, the more likely that your best performances will be automatic in competition.
When we perform anything, physical or mental, the same way multiple times, the body lays down a chemical called Myelin along the nerve pathways that make that action happen. Myelin makes it easier for us to repeat the performance the next time. The more repetitions, the more Myelin is laid down on the nerves. The more Myelin, the easier it is to be consistent. This is why “Repetition” is so important to sports performance.
But athletes only have so much time in the week for every type of repetition of skills that they need to practice. This is where visualization can supplement real practice and it lays down Myelin just the same.
You can practice your skills lying in bed as you fall asleep. You can do drills in your mind while on a car ride. You can do it anywhere and any time and you will be getting in more reps to solidify your skills!!
I have a friend, Tom Mitchell, who is a sports psychologist and has worked with some of the greatest athletes on earth like Joe Montana, Chris Mullin and many more. He also served as the mental coach for the NBA Golden State Warriors for years and teaches sports psychology in college.
When I asked him what is the one thing that lower level athletes lack that elite athletes do? He told me:
“They don’t visualize enough”
Do what elite athletes do to get to your next level of sports success using mental practice and visualization.
Let’s do this,
Mental Toughness Trainer