The answer is Visualization. By that I mean, closing your eyes and picturing yourself completing a task or activity.
According to an article in Psychology Today, mental imagery and visualization have direct impact on many functions of the brain, such as motor control, attention, planning, and memory. When you visualize yourself doing something, you are, in fact, training your brain for the actual activity. Often times athletes and performance artists spend much of their training time using visualization and guided mental imagery to help prepare their brain, and their body for the upcoming task or event. Many say that the visualization portion of their training is equally critical to the physical part.
You may have seen LeBron James just before the start of a basketball game, off to the side of the court, with his eyes closed and his body moving slightly. In this case, he might be visualizing himself making every single shot he takes. He is probably envisioning slam dunks, 3-point shots, and some steals.
The same may go for Lindsey Vonn right before she shoots out of the gate in a ski race. She pictures herself taking every turn at top speed, cutting through the snow and nailing every single jump with ease. She visualizes doing all of this faster and more efficiently than her opponents.
Now, you might be thinking- I’m not an Olympic or pro athlete, what does this have to do with me? Well, the power of visualization translates to the average person, and is just as beneficial.
In my personal training business I work with clients not only on toning their legs, arms, and flattening their bellies. I also work on Training the Brain and creating behavior change. As both a licensed social worker and certified personal trainer, I know the critical importance of the Mental Muscle, especially when it comes to physical activity.
A large part of training the mental muscle involves visualization when learning new tasks. This could include running a lap around a track, doing a pull-up, executing a squat, or holding a difficult yoga pose. Whatever the task is, visualizing yourself executing it from start to finish in perfect fashion will maximize your chance for success. Visualization is just as powerful for a person trying to complete his/her first push-up ever, as it is for Michael Phelps to visualize winning a gold medal.
If you can SEE yourself doing it, your brain and your body are more invested and ready to actually get it DONE. If your brain can paint a picture of what success looks like, chances for that success materializing increase. The image you see in your mind creates a shift in the way your brain and body perceive the activity. It no longer seems “impossible” when you are able to picture yourself doing it with ease. The possibility of achievement is cultivated in your brain, and the body feeds off of that shift in energy. The overall result is unification of the mind and the body working together to reach new goals.
It has been said that “seeing is believing”. Close your eyes; what new goal do you SEE yourself achieving today?