Awhile back, I was out with a group of people at a bowling alley. As I was waiting my turn, I began chatting with a friend who was telling me how horrible she was at bowling. Out of curiosity, I asked her what she thought about as she was throwing the ball down the lane. She looked at me kind of funny for a second and then said, “I picture the ball flying into the gutter before it can even come close to hitting the pins.” I asked if she would try a little experiment. I said the next time it’s your turn, take a minute to visualize the ball in your hand, the lane and the pins. Think of releasing the ball, only this time, envision the ball being thrown straight down the middle and all the pins toppling over.
When she was up next, she did just that. Where others may have seen something that resembled hesitation, I knew she was visualizing the scene. She picked up the ball, took a few steps down the lane, released the ball and watched as it went right down the middle of the lane and seconds later every last pin came a tumbling down. She turned around and caught my eye with a big smile on her face. She came running over and asked what I did. I said, “I didn’t do anything. You did it!”
Think About It
When you’re working toward a goal, just thinking about it may actually help improve your chances of success. It may not necessarily mean you’re going to get a strike every time you bowl, but it sure does look like it may give you better odds. What my friend was doing is called visualization. There are other names and methods for it. Guided Imagery is done with a practitioner who helps to guide you through images in your mind. Neurolinguistic Programming involves changing behavior patterns through the retraining of the mind. Autogenic Training involves meditative techniques to relax the body in times of stress. Brain studies now reveal that thoughts produce the same mental instructions as actions.
Ball in Motion
In the 1920’s, Dr. Judd Blaslotto conducted a study at the University of Chicago on three groups of basketball players. The goal was to see how many free throw shots they could make. For 20 days straight, the first group practiced free throws every day for an hour, the second was asked to visualize throwing free throws, and the third group didn’t do anything at all.
At the end of the study, the group that practiced improved by 24%. The group that visualized improved by 23%, and the group that didn’t practice showed no improvement. Imagine getting better at something just by thinking it?
I had the privilege to see things first hand at an air show with a pilot (Buick) who flies with the Black Diamond Jet Team. We were standing out on the tarmac, next to a Czech-designed L-39 Albatros single-engine jet, with its arctic, camouflage paint scheme, before the show began.
There were a group of us chatting and I realized Buick was no longer among us. I looked behind the jet and I saw him doing something that at first glance looked like Tai Chi. He was gracefully moving forward, backward, sideways and in wide circles. His arms were making circular motions and his full focus was completely inward. It was really amazing to watch.
After the spectacular air show, I asked about what I had seen him doing earlier. Buick said he had to go through the whole sequence of flying in his head before he headed up. He pictured each dive, turn, roll, etc. The mental preparation was just as important as the physical act.
So how might picturing a desirable outcome be relevant to something you want to accomplish? The following are some steps you can try out for yourself.
Give It a Try
In a quiet moment, perhaps as you’re waking or just as you’re ready to fall asleep, take a few minutes to focus on your goal.
- Close your eyes as you hold a mental picture of the goal in your mind. It should feel as though it is happening in the present moment.
- Use all your senses. For example, if you want to learn to sail, feel the boat beneath you in the waves. Smell the salt air. Hear the seagull’s overhead. Feel the breeze blowing across your face. Feel the sheet in your hands as you’re controlling the sail.
- Get in touch with your feelings. Are you excited or exhilarated?
- If you start to feel doubt at any time, recognize it and just mentally brush it away.
Practice makes perfect. You be the judge. Try this exercise, see if it helps and let me know. I’m picturing your success right now!
Would love to hear your thoughts,
most especially if you think it can help others!
Take what flows for you and let the rest float by.
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