Just as affirmations can help you motivate yourself and focus better to achieve your goals so can using visualization, or mental imagery.
Although it has only become really popular as a personal development technique since the late seventies and early eighties, we as humans have been using mental imagery since the beginning of time.
Whenever we have an idea or notion to do something we visualize it first. For instance, if we're hungry and want to eat we picture different food possibilities; whether we want to cook a meal or go out to eat, and whether or not we want company at our meal. When we have a function to attend we picture what type of outfit to wear and where we might shop for it.
What is Visualization?It is the use of the imagination through pictures or mental imagery to create visions of what we want in our lives and how to make them happen. Along with focus and emotion it becomes a powerful, creative tool that helps us achieve what we want in life.
In sports, mental imagery is often used by athletes to improve their skills by picturing the achievement of a specific feat, such as hitting or shooting a ball, skiing a hill, swimming or running a race, among other things.
Using it as a technique invariably results in a much better performance and outcome. This also holds true in business, or in life, such as in delivering a speech, asking for a raise, or any other situation that requires preparedness and forethought.
How does it work?
Visualization or mental imagery works because when you imagine yourself performing perfectly and doing exactly what you want, you physiologically create neural patterns in your brain, just as if you had physically performed the action. The thought can stimulate the nervous system in the same way as the actual event does.
Performing or rehearsing an event in the mind trains it and creates the neural patterns to teach our muscles to do exactly what we want them to do.
In the case of competitive sports, not only are exceptional physical skills required, but so is a strong mental game. Most coaches preach that sports are 90% mental and only 10% physical. That's why so many athletes train in visualization or mental imagery along with their physical routines.
To be effective, like any skill, mental imagery needs to be practiced regularly. The four elements to mental imagery are relaxation, realism, regularity and reinforcement.