Imagery is a powerful tool that has numerous benefits that all lead to enhanced performance. Need to improve your touch on the ball in soccer? Visualize it. Feeling unprepared and nervous to step out onto the track before a big meet? Visualize it. These are two of many different ways that imagery can help you.
However, just like any physical skill, this mental skill takes time before it will be of any help to your performance. This is why I have come up with three necessary steps to help you master the art of imagery…
Step 1: Know what works for you.
Imagery is a very personalized skill. When practicing imagery, there is a perspective component to consider. You can imagine the image through your own eyes (1st person) or you can imagine watching yourself perform the act (3rd person). This takes a few imagery sessions to determine which perspective you feel works best for you.
Another component to consider is involving the senses that work best for. Whether it’s vision, hearing, smell, taste, or kinesthetic, determine which senses are easiest for you to imagine and which are more challenging.
Step 2: Vividness and Controllability.
In order to have effective imagery, you must be able to make your images as vivid and detailed as possible while also being able to manipulate your images so they do what you want them to do. Making the images as realistic as possible allows you to trick your brain into thinking you are physically performing in the act rather than imagining it. This is why imagery is so powerful, yet it is not as easy as it sounds. This is why you must follow step 3…
Step 3: Practice, practice, practice!
Just like you would practice a new physical skill, you must practice imagery in order to get better at it. Do not be discouraged if you have trouble controlling the images or staying focused during the imagery sessions. This comes with time and the more you practice, the better you’ll be! A great way to practice imagery is to listen to guided imagery (you can google or YouTube “guided imagery for [specific sport or issue, i.e. anxiety]”), then using what was talked about in Steps 1 and 2, create your own imagery script. Finally, you can record yourself reading your script so that you can accomplish Step 3!