Mental Rehearsal, A Shortcut to Success!

by Robert McEntee on April 23, 2011

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”  Lloyd Jones  Spiritual Depression

Our minds function much more efficiently when we frequently shift to what’s desired rather than focusing on what’s not, or just random thoughts. An analogy would be turning on the TV or radio and just watching or listening to whatever happens to be on, as opposed to directed absorption by learning what’s on and seeking beneficial information out. I say “information” rather than “programs” because who wants to be programmed anyway, unless your ideal self is the one doing the programming?!

People who have to be truly “on” at certain times such as performers, athletes and I imagine surgeons and other tradesmen requiring complete attention and concentration, know how critical it is to get in the proper state of mind before commencing the task. As the saying goes, it’s ok to have butterflies as long as you get them to fly in formation!

Every distraction and useless worry imaginable presents themselves before performance time. So it’s critical to constantly switch back to the positive vision of what you want to create and be IN the moment. The famous magician Howard Thurston reportedly jumped up and down before the curtain opening saying, “I love my audience!” Even for more mundane tasks such as reading, a little time spent on clearing the mind and bringing to attention what you want to get out of the book before turning the first page, is more than offset by the resulting accelerated pace.

Olympic athletes use mental rehearsal to win races, because at that level, the fraction of a second difference among competitors in equal physical condition, appears to be mental. They are taught to use every sense in their visualization of the positive outcome. For basketball, they “feel” the ball leaving their fingers, “see” the ball going through the hoop and “hear” the crowd roar its approval over and over, long before the moment comes.

It’s a great way to “practice” a skill when you don’t have time to. I rehearse magic in my head on the way to shows etc. The more this is done the deeper the pattern is set in the mind and the easier it then runs when actually performing the task.

The whole concept of mental rehearsal was discovered through training astronauts with sophisticated equipmet to observe mind and body reactions to changing stimuli. They discovered that the astronauts’ brains produced  similar wave patterns when just imagining performing tasks, as they did when actually doing them! This insight was quickly transferred to the US Olympic training program and has been credited with many successes. Why not benefit from applying this same principle to to your own life?

The material covered in the following should help you learn or improve this technique.  Visualization: The Secret Key (Ross Craft)

The stories are legendary of POW’s in solitary confinement who frequently spent their time mentally playing games of golf, and after release and recovery, surprise everyone by playing a fantastic game after not playing for many years. However they are surprised they miss at all since they didn’t in their mental rehearsals!

For a final sports example, consider boxers who know they can’t afford to spend any time worrying about being hit, but instead must constantly imagine the opponent “going down”. In a sport where the wills of two opponents are perhaps most tested, the required internal verbal bragging is so intense it becomes externalized to convince not only the opponent but perhaps the bragger as well.

It’s impossible for our minds to be empty. Thus meditation techniques such as Transcendental Meditation (TM) teach one to quiet the mind by focusing on a mantra. Typically a mantra is a fundamental sound rather than an actual word which carries distracting connotations. The problem is one has to pay hundreds of dollars to learn a sound (plus pay “homage” to its founder in the training phase but that’s another story), when it can be just made up!

The technique though is still valid, as it leads the mind to a blissful state where creative thoughts and subconscious guidance often appear following a meditation session. This knowledge was already present but couldn’t get through all the mental static one’s mind typically conducts. It is an example of directed use of the mind, as is prayer, goal setting and the like.

This contrasts with just letting thoughts or more typically worries, constantly appear as one deals with every day situations. For example, shift focus from a concern over lack of money, to seeing ways to bring more of it into your life. Remember to involve your senses and create the feelings the end result brings. “Let him ask in faith with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6).

Alcoholics and drug addicts are taught to focus on being sober rather than not drinking or drugging. This perspective is critical to maintaining sobriety, while the concept of paying attention to what one wants and eliminating needless worries about what MIGHT happen is essential for overall success in most any endeavor.

In summary, the goal is to use your mind rather than let it use you. Direct it to where you want to go, rather than filling free time with mindless radio/TV or whatever thoughts happen to show up. The real benefit comes when regular time is actually set aside for positive visualizations. You may feel you don’t have time for this, yet consider the bow which must be pulled back before the arrow can fly forward.

Mental rehearsal enables the subconscious mind to provide guidance to the conscious mind and body to achieve the desired result. Thinking is not easy work which is why so few people actually do it, to paraphrase Henry Ford. Filling your mind with more positive directed thoughts and visualizations will quickly inspire you to do so even more often, as the results are spectacular!

Here are a few good general resources to help you achieve more desired outcomes:

How to Think Like Einstein: Simple Ways to Break the Rules and Discover Your Hidden Genius (Scott Thorp)

Accelerated Learning Techniques (Brian Tracy & Colin Rose)

Brain’s Unlimited Power (Leon Edward)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

German Saldarriaga April 26, 2011 at 8:26 am

Great article, as always. The boxer analogy was dead on target. Most old school boxer, especially from Mexico, are taught to have the heart of a warrior and extra emphasis on their “machismo”, before their technical skills. The theory is that is the heart desires the victory, the mind will follow and their attitude will mentally defeat their opponents confidence.

Truly informational and useful in our pursuit of greater achievement. Thanks.

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