“Proper visualization by the exercise of concentration and willpower enables us to materialize thoughts, not only as dreams or visions in the mental realm but also as experiences in the material realm.”Paramahansa Yogananda
Ever seen a job listing that has a position for an entry level job, but it requires 5 years experience? That’s some kind of paradox, right?
There is one way of getting experience WITHOUT actually experiencing it physically – visualization.
I first learned about the concept in an old wrestling book titled, “Wrestle to Win!” by Beasey Hendrix. It was a simple book, but the sports psychology concepts have remained with me to this day. One of the most important of these was of course visualization.
To truly understand the value of visualization, we have to talk about memory. Think about the last time you trained. Do your best to remember that session in as much detail as possible. Now ask yourself, “how do you know it was real?”
What separates your memory from a dream? Or in other words, what makes your memory real versus a dream?
Ignoring physical consequences, nothing. If you had a dream so vivid that it could be mistaken for a memory, it can allow you to have experience without actually doing it. This is a life hack of the greatest order that most people do NOT take advantage of.
But just day dreaming randomly is not going to give you that experience. There is art and science involved in being proficient at visualization, and it takes effort to create a useful imagined memory that will serve as experience.
The first thing is to designate the purpose of your visualization. What experience are you trying to achieve? In combat sports, we usually use this to experience an upcoming fight before the actual fight and being victorious.
This is a good way of using it, as if you can see yourself beating your opponent hundreds of times before you actually step in there with him, you will have more confidence and faith in your abilities, since you have already done this many times in your conceived memories.
Perhaps most important aspect of a visualization is the level of detail. Powerful memories have vivid details: sight, smell, taste, touch, sound, and feelings that anchor them to your core. Most people when they visualize something only do the visual, which isn’t the strongest anchor for a memory.
Think of yourself like you a movie director. You have to account for all the elements of your visualization. The more detail, the better. When you are in the back room warming up, who are the people around you, what are they talking about, what they are wearing, how they smell, what emotions are going through your head, what the temperature is, what are you doing, do you have headphones on and if so what music is playing, etc. As you can see, just from that small part of that visualization, there are a ton of details you can account for. The more details you can attach to your visualization, the more powerful and realistic it becomes.
Speaking of realistic, writing the story of your visualization is like writing a non-fiction book – you want it to be believable. If you just imagine yourself stepping in the cage with your opponent and obliterating him without breaking a sweat, it doesn’t generally work as experience.
If you watched the movie “The Matrix“, recall the scene where Agent Smith is telling Morpheus how they had to go through several iterations of the simulation before they discovered that making a paradise for the mind was a failure because no one believed it. They had to struggle and suffer a bit to make the simulation palatable.
Our visualization is no different. You have to create a visualization that you can tell yourself and believe it without hesitation. At first, that might be difficult if you aren’t a confident person. So the visualization will in fact help you gain confidence the more times you experience it. But if you were to tell your coach your visualization and he gives you a funny look, chances are you went into the realm of fiction.
So the more things you can line up that will match your visualization to your real life experience, the better the visualization will be. So if you have access to where you will be competing (the arena, high school gymnasium, etc.), take advantage of that and take pictures or film it. Then when you are creating your visualization, you can use those images to make your visualization more realistic. Likewise, you should know how your opponent looks, their coaches, referee, or any other people that will be involved.
A good way of making the script of your visualization is to first write it down, then record yourself reading it. You can then find a quiet space and time to lie down, and play the audio to yourself to live through the visualization. You will know it is a good visualization if your heart rate starts to jump up as you go through it. That means your mind is believing this visualization and creating a physical response.
It is similar to going into a meditation or trance. It takes practice and patience. If you have never meditated before, chances are your mind will wonder and stray off course. It requires focus to be able to experience this visualization as if it were a memory.
This might sound like a lot of work to do all this, but I can guarantee you it is less work than the actual experience itself, with the added benefit of suffering no ill physical consequences. All great champions utilize this technique heavily – and not just in sports. If you can master this skill and put it to use, you will be able to see things in your mind first – which makes it much easier for them to be seen by the world.
If you want to get more details into mastering the mind in combat sports, you will want to check out my brothers course, Black Belt Psychology. It is a collection of a combined 4 decades of competition experience between my brother and I and how we prepare for battle.
Comment with your take on this.