The mental images you are exposed to, whether they be positive or negative, have a direct impact on your physical and mental performance.
When you know how to coach mental imagery and meditation, you’ll see that your athletes know how to:
- stay calm under pressure
- focus on the present moment task rather than getting caught up in the future or the past
Meditation and mental imagery increase the chances of success because they are the tools you need to build:
- enhanced preparation
- enhanced confidence
- enhanced present moment focus
Let’s talk about Mental Imagery:
Everything happens twice – first in your mind and then in reality
When you visualize what you want and then you put in the work to prepare, you’re giving yourself the the best chance for success.
Did you ever see an athlete standing in position with their eyes closed, right before competition?
They are doing their mental imagery – getting in those mental reps on what they want to happen. This is an advanced and elite form of preparation. The UFC World Champions, Cy Young Award Winners, Olympic Medalists and Navy SEALs I’ve worked with all use this strategy and you should too.
Did you ever see an athlete on the field “playing” a team sport all by themselves? Like a pitcher on the mound with no one up at bat and no one in the field? Or a quarterback going through the motions, getting ready to throw to … no one?
They are getting in their mental reps.
Mental imagery prepares the mind and body for the level of competition that’s about to come because it gives you a checklist of all the things that you need to be aware of. My feet are doing this, check. My hands are doing this, check. My eyes are here seeing this, check. My breath is steady and consistent, check.
Mental imagery sets the stage for the up-coming performance.
Let’s talk about Meditation:
The goal of meditation is not to empty your mind or achieve “no thoughts.”
Rather, the goal of meditation is to watch your mind wander to the past or the future and practice coming back to the present moment.
If you sit or lay down (or even stand in one spot) during meditation, you’ll see that it only takes a few seconds before your mind tries to take you from that place. Your mind will relive a moment from the past. Or worry about something in the future.
The goal of meditation is to recognize that wandering and come back to the present moment. Athletes can only compete in the present moment. So, being able to come back to the present moment is key.
Here is a strategy for practicing coming back to the present moment:
The 6-2-8 breath
For the 6-2-8 breath, you are going to inhale for a count of 6, hold for 2, and then exhale for a count of 8. While you do this, maintain your focus on the triangle of awareness (the tip of your nose to the corners of your mouth)
When your mind wanders to a thought from the past or a concern about the future, or when judgement arrives with questions about “what is this doing?” GOOD! … get those practice reps in …
Keep breathing and bring your mind back to your breath and your triangle of awareness.
Eventually you will:
- expand your ability to stay focused in the present moment
- expand your ability to be confident that you can come back to what you need to do to be successful
- expand your ability to prepare
Success is a result of being focused, recognizing that you’ve lost focus, and then regaining the focus.
The 6-2-8 breath trains that focus for you and your focus determines your future.