Visualize – “Mind Gym”

Why do all top athletes incorporate imagery as a part of their training? How can imagery be useful in becoming a world champion? Who came up with it, who can use it and can non-athletes benefit from the method?

These are only a few of many questions people might ask in regards to this weeks topic. Earlier in the blog I wrote about Mind Gym and how you can train your brain to acquire the 7 C’s and learn how to balance your mental game. This week I am uncovering one of the books topic on imagery, something everyone can practice no matter what profession they are in. John Wooden in specific preached about visualization but not until today are professionals fully using this technique.

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” ~ John Wooden

Now, let’s uncover the benefits of imagery and why Olympic Champions, world leading businesswomen/men, actresses/actors, engineers, designers and many others visualize their success before it happens. Obviously there are some athletes (Serena Williams, Usain Bolt, Michael Phelps, Tom Brady, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and a few others) that always seem to get it right, how do they do it?

To begin with, all of the athletes that I mentioned have a slight different approach. Let’s take Usain Bolt for example and compare him to Michael Phelps. While Bolt has a very funny and humorous approach with his signature pointing arms to the sky while Phelps sits down and listens to his music before the race. Both approaches are beneficial for those specific athlete, and that is why generalizing what works and not should be avoided in this field.

Now it is up to you to find how you like to prepare before a game/meet/match/race. Do you need to be calmed down, pumped up, focused or laughing? In another post we will dig deeper into how YOU can figure out how you should prepare 😉

He calls himself a living legend.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is another athlete who is known to be extremely confident and cocky before his games. Often being in this state of mind can result in a negative outcome but for Zlatan, it works. An example of when the overconfident approach entirely smacked a team in the face was in 2012 at the Olympic Games in London. In the final Mexico stood against Brazil who were the big favorites and on paper no one had a chance. However, the whole world was surprised when the game was finally over, and MEXICO were the new OLYMPIC CHAMPIONS!!!

Perhaps Brazil’s confidence, talent, skill and reputation from earlier years had relaxed them too much? Perhaps Mexico had nothing to lose and completely demolished their opponents because they were fearless out on the field.

This is where sport psychology reveals why and how people are able to create a mental block and not reach their full physical potential. This is also where sport psychology explains how the underdogs who have nothing to lose often win against the more skilled/talented players who have an enormous pressure.

What does imagery have to do with pressure?

If you can create a vision in your head of how you would want an event to progress, you are on the right way of practicing imagery. By imagining and eliminating all possible negative outcomes before the event and training the brain to do what the body has worked on for you will ultimately relieve mental pressure. For example, if Brazil would have pretended that their opponents were equally good with an equal chance of winning the OC and if they wouldn’t have played with an enormous pressure and arrogance but turned that pressure into enjoyment they would have won.

Why do people use imagery?

I will explain this in a very simple way, imagine being 7 years old and you and your friend are playing with legos. Your mom recently got you new legos and in the package there is a picture of the airplane you and your friend want to build. You have built airplanes before but never this specific one. You are excited because you see that it says the legos are for 10 year old kids. You cannot wait to see airplane you are about to put together.

Now let’s break this down:

  • The picture in the box that you are looking at is the imagery, what the finished product would look like. You are visualizing what the airplane is going to look like from paper to real life.
  • You have played with legos before and that gives you experience of how to put the legos together, and you know what kind of/hor much focus is required.
  • Lastly, the fact that you read “AGE 10 +” gives you confidence because you know you are 7 and you are playing with toys that are for older kids, there is no pressure if you make a mistake. You are eager to put this airplane together.

Obviously a child does not think like this but those are their actions and that is what actually goes on in their head if we put it in sport psychology language.

The reason we use imagery is to help ourselves complete tasks easier. In fact, we all do it, some more than others, but to intentionally use imagery it even when things are not going your way is extremely difficult but can also be incredibly beneficial.

How can imagery be helpful in different professions?

Going off of what I wrote in the above passage, everyone can and should use imagery to build their mental strength and to eliminate any weaknesses. Imagery can help one compete more effectively by revealing mental pressure and it can also help one relax physically to an optimal level for the required task. In addition, imagery helps control anxiety, boost confidence and increase focus in the moment of performance.

Lastly, Wooden and his Pyramid of Success

For all of you who are visual learners, we are now slowly climbing up the Pyramid. “CONDITION – Ability might get you to the top but character keeps you there – mental, moral and physical.” This being said, with the help of imagery the Brazilian soccer team might have been able to stay on the top and be Olympic Champions if they would have mastered their mental game 😉

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