Monday, June 17, 2013

Mental Rehearsal: The Secret to Superior Performance

When you observe truly outstanding performers in any field, it’s like looking at the tip of an iceberg. You can see only a tiny fraction of what lies beneath the surface.

You aren't able to watch the commitment, preparation and repetitions that preceded the performance. And you don’t have access to another element that plays a critical role in their success: mental rehearsal.

The most decorated Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps, learned how to use visualization techniques from his coach Bob Bowman. After each swim practice, the coach gave Michael instructions to go home and “watch the videotape” before falling sleep and upon waking. But the videotape was not physical. It involved mentally visualizing the perfect race in exact detail, with each movement being executed flawlessly. This mental practice, combined with intense physical practice, led to repeated Gold medals and the setting of world records during the 2008 and 2012 Olympic games.

When he was at the peak of his career, world-renowned golfer Jack Nicklaus, revealed one of the secrets to his success: “I never hit a golf shot without having a sharp picture of it in my head. First I ‘see’ where I want the ball to finish. Then I ‘see’ it going there; its trajectory and landing. The next ‘scene’ shows me making the swing that will turn the previous images into reality.”

But this type of mental preparation is not limited to top athletes.

You can use visualization for every area of your life: getting the job you want, starting a business, finding your life partner, or being a strong parent.

In 1983 I was the top producer in a regional sales competition, and in the following year I was #2 nationally. In addition to putting forth the commitment and effort required, I invested time in picturing myself on stage, accepting the award, and feeling the excitement and pride in my accomplishment.

When I spoke to 900 entrepreneurs at a conference in 2011, I spent hours preparing my talk. But I also recognized how critical it was to play mental movies depicting my presentation and the positive response I wanted from the audience.

Maxwell Maltz refers to this technique as “Theatre of the Mind,” in his classic book, The New Psycho-Cybernetics. You learn to watch yourself completing each action perfectly, and you do this repeatedly.

Why is mental rehearsal so successful in improving performance?

When you vividly imagine, in rich detail, the steps to achieving a positive outcome, you strengthen your self-image and build confidence. At the same time, you block out the doubts, fears and insecurities that typically creep in when you’re attempting to do something new.

When you have an important goal you want to reach – or simply a bad habit you want to change – add mental rehearsal to the process and experience the benefits of this powerful strategy. As Maltz reminds us in his book:

“Human beings always act and feel and perform in accordance with what they imagine to be true about themselves and their environment.”


  1. Brilliant article. Thank you.

    "Your imagination of achievement and positive outcome is a preview of your reality"- that's my perception of visualization.


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