“I’m bad at visualization,” said a young tennis player I've been working with recently. I get this a lot. In fact, I would say about a quarter of the people I work actually verbalize this statement out loud (there's no way to know how many people believe it but choose not to say it).
So, I wanted to take a little time to talk about visualization, to break it down a little further. After all, visualization is one of the most powerful tools you have for training your subconscious to achieve what you say you want to achieve. And it's not just for sports, it's a highly valuable tool for all parts of your life. Research has shown us this time and time again.
If you are a coach, parent, or an athlete, not only should you be utilizing visualization to help you achieve your own goals, it should be the backbone of your mental training program.
With all this on the line, why isn’t everyone utilizing this powerful (and super simple) tool?
There are a few common myths about visualization that prevent people from making it a habitual part of their life, much less practicing visualization at all. To help athletes and coaches achieve more with visualization, we thought we should put these myths to rest once and for all.
MYTH #1: VISUALIZATION IS COMPLICATED.
It’s not. We do it all the time naturally. For example:
Visualization is not complicated, it’s simple; which brings me to one of my favorite exercises to help athletes understand that they visualize every day.
The exercise begins by asking your athletes this:
Most people can pinpoint EXACTLY the car they want, down to the tiniest detail; but when you ask them what exactly they want in their life or their athletic career, the answer is not always so clear and specific.
Why does this matter? It matters because we see what we are looking for. Back to the car analogy- Let’s say you are car shopping and decide you want to get a Subaru Forester. You will start seeing them EVERYWHERE, and I mean EVERYWHERE. You will wonder why you never noticed them before.
Priming your mind by visualizing what you're looking for will allow you to go find it. You will see things that were always there, that you never even noticed.
MYTH #2: PEOPLE ARE EITHER GOOD AT VISUALIZATION OR THEY'RE NOT.
It doesn’t matter one bit if you are ‘bad or good’ at visualization, the benefit comes from just doing it. It's less about your subjective opinion and more about how many visualization repetitions you can do.
The problem with this myth, of course, is that when we believe that we are either good or bad at something, we become disempowered to improve.
Athletes especially are highly driven people. When they aren’t good at something and don’t believe there is a way to get better, it’s hard to be motivated to do it. When they look around and are convinced everyone else is so good at it, it’s even more de-motivating.
Instead, we have to remember that visualization is a skill like anything else; the more we do it, the better we get.
MYTH #3: VISUALIZATION IS ALL ABOUT SEEING WHAT YOU WANT
There isn’t only one way to visualize. Some people sense themselves playing more than see themselves playing. Some people feel the experience they are visualizing but struggle to see details. There isn’t one right way to visualize.
In fact, our mind is better at visualizing when it involves more than one of our five senses at the same time. That’s why when we are watching a scary movie, the music or background noise is almost as important as what's happening on the screen. When we use the term visualization, what we really mean is experiencing an event in whatever way works best for you.
MYTH #4: IT TAKES TIME TO LEARN HOW TO VISUALIZE THE RIGHT WAY.
It’s great if you can sit down and do a proper visualization exercise (like The BRAVR™), take some deep breaths, or reserve ample time to clear your mind. But there is also nothing wrong with daydreaming, (or what I like to call) ‘mind surfing’ on your future. The mind is always listening, and the more positive pictures you can show it, the stronger your motivation will be to pursue your goals.
Don’t take visualization too seriously, or rather, do, but don’t feel like it ALWAYS has to be serious. It’s great to practice visualization, anything we do regularly helps us build healthy habits. For this reason, I suggest training your athletes to do a visualization every day before practice.
Don’t discount the small moments of visualization either. You can visualize before you go to bed or while you are waiting for the bus. You can close your eyes or keep them open, what matters most is getting in those positive ‘reps’ and reminding yourself of the future you want.
So, there you have it. 4 Myths that maybe have been holding you or someone you care about back from utilizing visualization and tapping into the power of your mind.
I’d love to hear which myth has been holding you back in the comment section below!
For more information on visualization, you can check out our pre-practice visualization technique, The BRAVR™.
Or you can watch our FREE 4 part video series on visualization with our popular Mental Training 101 here.