Visualization also known as imaging or meditation is a technique which has been used by amateur and professional athletes for a long time. It takes place prior to a game or an event in which they wish to perform at their highest level. Normally it’s done in a quiet area where there are no external stimuli, the individual mentally imagines their performance in the upcoming activity. While this has been used for years by athletes, it’s a wonderful technique for anyone who wants to improve their ability to function in everyday situations. While concentrating with your eyes closed you should visualize yourself interacting with the environment you’ll be in and performing at your best.
Last weekend professional golfer Jason Day could be seen, imagining a difficult chip shot he had to make out of the bunker onto the green. Once he was ready not only did he get out of the sand trap, but watched this ball drop into the cup. His performance at Whistling Strait was the first time in history any golfer had finished a major tournament 20 strokes under par. In the post-game interview he talked about his visualization prior to the match and how much it helped him.
“On the 11th tee, with Day in the middle of his elaborate pre-shot, eyes-wide-shut visualization routine, a fan interrupted him with a warning about the wind. Day shot the man a look that could maim, if not kill, and then took it out on his golf ball with a 382-yard drive that brought Spieth (his leading rival) to his knees.” espn.go.com
An even more amazing example of visualization occurred during the US Women’s Soccer Team’s 5-2 victory over Japan during the World Cup Soccer Finals. The hero of the game and outstanding player of the tournament was American midfielder Carli Lloyd. She scored three goals, which had never been done before, in 16 minutes to help power the US over Japan. In a post-game interview they talk to Carli about her preparation for the tournament in general in the game specifically.
In an article in Yahoo Health Lloyd said:
“It sounds pretty funny, but over the years and definitely over the last four years, I’ve taken that visualization part to another level,” Lloyd told The Philadelphia Inquirer last week. “I’ve basically visualized so many different things on the field, making these big plays, scoring goals.”
She even visualizes how many goals she’d like to score. After the game, Lloyd told The New York Times that she visualized scoring four goals in the 2015 World Cup Final, adding that she was so in the mental zone at the start of the game that “I feel like I blacked out for the first 30 minutes or so.” What amazes me is that she just missed scoring a fourth goal on a header which was about a foot wide of the goal.
The question becomes is it really effective?
“Absolutely, says Nicole Detling, PhD, a psychologist who has worked with the U.S. Olympic team, and founder of sports psychology company HeadStrong Consulting. ‘The mind doesn’t know the difference between what’s real and imagined,’ she tells Yahoo Health. ‘It’s one of the most effective tools you can use.’ ”
“Social scientist and executive coach Frank Niles, PhD, tells Yahoo Health that visualization actually tricks your brain into thinking that you’re doing something, creating new mental pathways in the process that you use for memory and learned behavior. As a result, he says, you feel like you’ve done something before and end up feeling more comfortable when you actually do it.”
“We often hear about athletes who visualize, but both Niles and Detling say it can be just as effective in everyday life for everything from going on a date to giving a speech.”
What does this mean for those of us in the disabled community who struggle daily with constant challenges just to make it through? Take time to visualize yourself functioning at your highest level through the day. Imagine what you can do when you marshal your resources to deal with the challenges that are ahead of you. So what is keeping you from practicing the visualization technique and improving your daily life?