Using Your Imagination to Perform at Your Best
Your mind's eye is for more than memory.
Imagery is a vital tool for anyone looking to achieve at a higher level.
Imagery uses all senses to create a vivid virtual reality type experience where mental practice can take place.
Supported by numerous scientific studies and theories, imagery has been proven time and time again to effectively reduce anxiety, improve skill, increase motivation, and improve performance.
Develop your ability to use imagery by practicing it and then develop a plan to implement it into your life.
Imagery can take you back to places that you've been before as well as create a world that has yet to exist. One can utilize the skill of imagery to enhance their state of mind or to prepare for a competition. In fact, you can incorporate this skill into your training and practices as well. The skill itself should be practiced as often as possible so that it can be perfected. Once the skill is mastered, your mental skills will take you to a whole new level.
"Imagery can take you back to places that you’ve been before as well as create a world that has yet to exist."
What is imagery?
You can define imagery in many ways but to keep it simple, imagery is a virtual reality like experience that incorporates all of your senses within the confines of your own mind. It may be of previously experienced events or future ones that you plan to encounter.
What can imagery do for you? Here’s how it can be used.
Control and prepare emotional responses
Overcome pain or injuries
Keys to effective imagery
Utilize all senses
Elicit emotional responses
Continuous practice of positive images
Weinberg & Gould (2014) offer us the following theories related to imagery:
Imagery facilitates learning of motor skills (ideomotor principle)
The idea is that brain to muscle connection during imagery mimics that of brain to muscle connection during physical activity
Symbolic Learning Theory
States that imagery encodes the brain with the information people need to understand and acquire movement patterns
People need to become familiar with skills to learn them
The top theoretical idea for imagery’s effectiveness
Mental imagery should include the imagery you are practicing and a response to it
Triple Code Method
3 parts to an image
Somatic or bodily response (how do you feel)
Unique meaning of the image (specific meaning to you)
Psychological Skills Explanations
Attention-arousal set theory
Imagery helps achieve optimal arousal levels
Increase in confidence and concentration skills
Imagery is motivational
Here are some quick tips on developing your ability to use imagery:
Create the where, when, why, and what.
Where – pre-training or training (outside or on the training surface), pre-practice or practice (on our way to and once we arrive on location), pre-competition or competition (days leading up to the game, as we enter the arena of competition, once we step on to the playing surface, and as we compete).
When – before, during, or after training, practice, and competition.
Why – motivation (see yourself winning or performing well) and instruction (coaching up specific motor skills or competition strategies)
What – environment, character of images (positive/negative), type of imagery (motivational or instructional, visual, kinesthetic, auditory, olfactory), and consistent perspective (1st vs 3rd person).
Understand your skill level
Performers at any level can utilize imagery.
Visualize skills you are capable of doing and refine them in your images.
Practice your ability to image
Practice imagery along with the practice of physical skills.
Practice imagery in a familiar room. Close your eyes and recreate everything you noticed in the room. Now write down everything you remembered from that room. Once you are done, re-enter the room and compare your writings with what you see. Repeat this exercise trying to increase the amount of detail you recall.
Try the previous exercise in an unfamiliar room, notice the sights, sounds, room temperature, and even smells. Leave that room and go to a place where you can recreate your experience. Now write down everything you remembered from that room. Once you are done, re-enter the room and compare your writings with what you see. Repeat this exercise trying to increase the amount of detail you recall.
Practice imaging by recalling a skill you are particularly good at. Write down that skill. Think of as many details as you can about the skill and include that in your writing.
Practice these skills with a past positive performance. Use a time when you experienced “the flow” or felt as if you were “in the zone” and everything was going your way. Be as detailed as possible!!!
Use the below imagery script example to help you create your very own. Tailor your script to fit any upcoming event you have. You may need one for a game, practice, speech, test, etc. Scripts work for anything.
Take a deep breath. Exhale. Breathe in again. Now let it out slowly. You’re in the locker room dressed and ready to go. Look at your helmet sitting on the ground in front of you as you take in the sights, sounds, and smells of the locker room. Stand up to make your way to the field for pre-game. As you exit the locker room, listen to the grind of your cleats on the pavement. Now center your focus on the field. The temperature seems to rise as you approach the dark green turf. As you walk out onto the field, with your helmet in hand, feel the movement of the small black pellets under your feet. Adjust your shoulder pads so that they are sitting comfortably on your body. Slide your helmet on as you start a slow jog towards the 50 yard marker on your sideline. Rep through a few quick high knees and butt kicks as you feel your legs begin to loosen up. Wow, you’re feeling incredibly smooth and powerful! Listen to the rustling of your shoulder pads as they adjust themselves and become one with your every movement. Now stop. Take a look at the yard lines, the stands, your teammates, and your coaches. Feel the crisp night air begin to make its way into the stadium. Take in the sounds and smells coming from all around you. The band is warming up. Your school’s cheer squad is practicing some of their best cheers. The smell of popcorn is making its way on to the field from the concession stand. Concentrate. Breathe. Exhale slowly. It’s Friday night! Let’s do this!
Weinberg, Robert S., Gould, Daniel (2014). Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology (6th Edition). Retrieved from Amazon.com