Visualization – Mental Rehearsal an Overview

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What is Mental Rehearsal?

Mental Rehearsal has been credited by some of the most prolific athletes, CEO’s, scientists and successful people of our time. Sometimes referred to as “The Secret Sauce”, it is claimed to be one of the key factors to success. It is defined as “The cognitive rehearsal of a task in the absence of overt physical movement”. It’s primary function is to lay a subconscious foundation for a task prior to action. On the surface this is something that we do in our every day lives. If you have ever prepared for an interview, had to ask someone for permission or forgiveness, or just simply envisioned yourself performing an action before actually performing it, then you have exercised some mental rehearsal.

Research and Studies

Tons of available research

Visualization and Mental Rehearsal have a lot of documented research that has produced some surprising results. One of the more wild examples of this comes from a 2004 study that showed the effects of physical strength gain through Mental Rehearsal alone. This study outlines very small portions of the body, but there is a lot of information out there claiming benefits for weight lifting and muscle tone.

Other studies involving physical activity tend to focus around sports. Such as Tracy C. Ekeocha’s 2015 thesis “The Effects of Visualization & Guided Imagery in Sports Performance.” This study largely focuses on Free Throw shooting in Basketball. The experiments showed a modest increase in performance within their test groups. Though the testing had small sample sizes, it still proved that forms of guided imagery did make improvements to the overall percentage.

If you go searching for more information regarding Visualization and Mental Rehearsal. You will also come across extreme embellishments of the act, particularly in self-help articles. There are a lot of broad theories that circulate books and mediums that speak about visualizing long term goals and being rewarded with success. I will not speak on that aspect’s validity. However, I will say that it stands to reason if you’re thinking about a specific goal enough and you are dedicating your focus to said goal, you will tend to lead closer towards it.

Limitations and the Need for Action

You hold the key

Mental Rehearsal, Visualization or Guided Imagery alone will not produce the amount of growth needed to perform in a higher tier. Though it can yield incredible results. When it comes to improvement by the percentages, pure physical rehearsal will always have a higher percentage of improvement than visualization. Not only is this well represented in studies and statistics, it’s a known fact.

It goes without saying that there is only so much the brain can do. You have to possess a base level of skill or experience to perform the activity. Otherwise, just merely visualizing can’t do much to prepare you for the real thing. I can visualize racing in the Indy 500 for hours every day. I can imagine driving at 237.498 mph. Maybe even make surprisingly accurate car noises with my mouth. But it can never prepare me for the real thing.

One of the more important aspects to Mental Rehearsal is how specific and detailed you can envision the scenario. So, if you don’t possess the experience required to improve upon specific situations, your growth potential shrinks immensely.

Mental Rehearsal + Action = Highest Yield

All of the studies researched share the same conclusion. If you combine the two with focus on a specific activity and fundamentals, it will bring you incredible improvement.  More than you can get while using either of the techniques singularly. You should look at Mental Rehearsal as an addition to all of the techniques you use.

Jack Nicklaus, one of the world’s greatest golfers utilized a lot of this thinking throughout his career. When talking about hitting specific shots in his 1969 autobiography “The Greatest Game of All: My Life in Golf” he said, “I feel that hitting specific shots — playing the ball to a certain place in a certain way — is 50 percent mental picture, 40 percent setup, and 10 percent swing.”

Similarly, Lindsey Vonn, successful female skier was quoted saying, “I always visualize the run before I do it. By the time I get to the start gate, I’ve run that race 100 times already in my head, picturing how I’ll take the turns.”

In the next post, you will read about the Mental Rehearsal procedure. Along with a detailed look at it’s benefits, applications and risks.


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