18 MIND OVER MATTER AND MENTAL REHEARSAL

FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT 

Athletes do it and top performers wouldn’t be without it, I am of course talking about using the power of your mind to help you achieve success. The fact is that when your mental images are accompanied by strong emotions they form the blueprints of your reality. Of course, this is absolutely nothing new. The simple steps of using desire, imagination and expectancy to help you achieve success have been known since ancient times but what is so exciting is that they are now also being upheld by the latest scientific discoveries, especially within the field of quantum physics.

Once you know what you want then the next logical step in the process of coaching yourself is to draw up an action plan to go out and get it. But  I  would like to suggest another step along the way and that is to ‘pretend’ that you already have it. Fake it till you make it the saying goes. Pretending that you already have what you want is not a new idea, nor is it just another crazy new age strategy which leaves you with your head in the clouds. It has real value because when you pretend that you already have the qualities of the thing that you want, you begin to harness the conscious direction of your thoughts towards actually achieving it.

By mentally rehearsing your success you are creating an inspiring vision of the future to help increase your readiness for change. It helps to build up the motivation you need to keep focused on your goals and shows you how to focus on an altogether bigger, brighter and bolder vision of yourself.

One of the truly fascinating things about mental rehearsal is that it’s the subject of a great deal of research which shows that by actively rehearsing an outcome in your mind you are actually creating the same neural patterns and pathways in your brain as by doing the real thing. Perhaps the best news of all though is that these same techniques that are used by athletes the world over can actually be used by you too, to help improve your performance or increase your alignment with your goals.

 

HOW MENTAL REHEARSAL WORKS

It’s a fascinating fact but your brain cannot always tell the difference between what is real and imagined. Current research suggests that this strange phenomenon can be invaluable when it comes to improving your outcomes, including helping you to heal or improve your wellbeing. Put simply, your body responds to your thoughts, so what you pay attention to really matters. If you stop to think about this for a moment you will find many examples in your everyday life. Take blushing for example, or salivating at the thought of a tasty snack, or even sexual arousal. They are all physical responses in the body that have been stimulated by thoughts and images in your mind.

Your subconscious mind sees to it that you automatically act according to the thoughts and images you hold in your subconscious database. For example, when you say, “that’s easy for me,” you find it easy and of course the opposite is also true. If you believe that something is going to be difficult or hard for you then it probably will be.

Just about everyone can use imagery successfully to bring about some positive changes in their life. You can do it too even if you don’t think of yourself as being particularly visual. Some people naturally prefer to get a sense of what can be heard or felt rather than what can be seen and that will work too as long as what you are experiencing connects you directly to that concept of your potential. In essence, if you can daydream, you can do it. Perhaps you have already heard the saying ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’? Well, that has never been truer than with the use of guided imagery and mental rehearsal, as the mental images of success that you create act as a bridge between the conscious and unconscious parts of your mind and help to bring about real change.

 

IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT DAYDREAMING

But let me also offer a word of caution here not to confuse true mental rehearsal with techniques of guided imagery or visualisation. Technically when you rehearse a future outcome you should be looking out through your own eyes as if you were actually an actor in your own movie, whereas guided imagery or visualisation techniques are more akin to active daydreaming where you are looking at yourself as if  you were on a mental screen of some sort, observing the whole situation rather than experiencing it directly.

Being in such a strongly associated state makes this a much more powerful technique than simply visualising what you want. For the purposes of this book though, I believe that both of these techniques have tremendous value as coaching tools as both can help inspire and motivate you towards greater wellness.

 

GETTING THE MOST FROM GUIDED IMAGERY

The first step to successfully coaching yourself is to build up your desire for what you want. Your desires are the motivating force that push you towards your goals and having a strong passion for something means that your mind is also actively involved in searching for solutions for you.

Once you are clear about what you want your new outcome to be, you need to add as much vivid detail to that picture of success as you can. This helps your subconscious mind understand clearly what it is that you want to achieve. Mental rehearsal, visualisation and guided imagery techniques are all really useful to use alongside coaching. They all use images as a form of ‘language’ to appeal to that part of your brain that can ‘communicate’ with your body to help bring about changes or achievements. Of them all, guided imagery is probably the easiest to practice on your own and I have included a short guide here, by way of example, to help get you started.

Finally, my advice is to keep it simple. Don’t try and do too much on your first session. Just pick one aspect of what it is that you want to achieve. This will help make your results more measurable and give you the confidence to carry on.

Before moving on let me mention a couple of concerns that are often raised about these techniques. Firstly, some people think that all this inner reflection about your ideal state is encouraging you to live in fantasy land but really this is not the case at all. All that I am suggesting here is that you engage your active imagination in a few moments of vivid imagery each day to give your subconscious mind the clear message that you intend to change. Secondly, some people worry that because they find it difficult to see pictures in their mind that these techniques won’t work. But they will work just as long as you can create a vivid sensory impression of your success using any of your senses. If you can also add the feelings of achievement, then so much the better.

Even if you are not sure that these techniques can work for you I would encourage you to have a go, just actively daydreaming a little bit more about having what you want, or falling asleep at night imagining yourself enjoying your new success will all be helpful.

 

THE EXPERIMENT

This simple guided imagery exercise that I have called ‘The Experiment’ can be used as a visualisation technique by looking at yourself as if you were playing a part in your own mental movie. Or as a mental rehearsal technique by imagining yourself actually stepping into that image of the ‘future you’ and looking out through your own eyes rather than looking on.

In a moment I’m going to invite you to take a sneak peek at what the healthier and happier you might be like. I’m going to invite you to imagine that future part of you that has already been successful. A future part that already exists just a short distance into the future from now.

Imagine you are reading this rather like a bedtime story and let my words encourage your imagination to show you your potential.

So if you are ready settle down somewhere comfortable now and become aware of your breathing for a moment, as you begin to relax and enter a quieter and more focused state of awareness. Let the focus of your awareness be inside your imagination, just for a little while.

And in your imagination, become aware that you have the opportunity to take part in a fascinating experiment to find out what the future you might be like… and like most experiments, this one requires that you sign a form giving your consent… so become aware of this form now in your mind’s eye…

And as you imagine this contract in front of you, get  a sense of what the words on the page may say… perhaps there are certain things that you need to  agree to start… or stop doing… if this trial is to be successful… after all a contract should always be read extremely carefully before you sign it and give your consent to change…

Because if this experiment works… Something wonderful and new and different will happen and I want to be sure that you have really agreed to this.

So if and only if you are ready, sign that form now giving your subconscious mind your consent to go in search of those positive changes for you.

And although this is just your own personal experiment… It is important for you to know that many other people have gone before you and their results have been excellent… I mention this because the chances are that you will get really good results too.

Get a sense of that future version of you now… a future you that is willing to try out new ways of thinking and new ways of doing things… and I wonder what ideas you will try out first on your way to reaching your milestone or achieving your goal… allow these images to become as vivid and bright as possible… give yourself a few moments to play around with those images…

Now of course as with any experiment it can take time for all the results to be published, or evident for other people to see… but because they are your results you can have a sneak preview… A glimpse ahead of time… to look at the results of your new beliefs or your new choices.

So take a look at those results now by running a mental movie in your imagination as you enjoy those new choices that you finally decided upon

…for standing in front of you now is the you that has already made the best choices… has got the best results… notice how this future version of you had to change to be successful… perhaps letting go of some old beliefs… or by doing new things… and I wonder which aspects of these changes you will find the most surprising and the most pleasing?

Allow yourself a little more time to enjoy this mental movie… turning up the brightness… the colour… the sound… rewinding or pausing that flow of images if you would like to… they are your images and you are free to enjoy them in any way you wish.

And even though it may take a little time for those final results to be published in the real world, that doesn’t matter because you have already had a glimpse of what is to come and you know that this experiment has already been successful.

And the truly amazing thing is that this successful you already exists as a potential just a little way into the future from now… and if that future you could reach back through time to give your present self some advice… what would that advice be?

You may even like to imagine stepping into that image of yourself for a moment, looking out through your own eyes at the changes that have occurred… what do you see and hear that tells you… you have already been successful? How do you feel?

And one of the greatest benefits of this experiment is that you don’t have to keep these changes if you really don’t like them. Yet with your  permission, your subconscious mind will continue this work on your behalf… without any conscious effort on your part at all… you might even like to give your subconscious mind your permission to continue to make these changes on your  behalf  whilst you  sleep at night… knowing that you can revisit these   results as often as you wish to see just how well those changes are progressing.

Allow yourself a little longer to enjoy these scenes… and then when you are ready gently return your awareness fully and completely back into the present moment.

Returning with all the learning you need from this experience to help you take the next step and the then the step after that on your journey to better health.

Bringing your attention fully back to normal alert awareness… bringing back with you all the new understandings this experience has given you…  as you become vividly aware of what is in the room around you now so that you can safely carry on with your day.

 

ACTIVITY: CREATE YOUR OWN MENTAL MOVIE

Now think of something about yourself that you would like to improve on and practice creating your own short mental movie in which you have achieved these improvements.

For example, many people like to rehearse reaching one of their milestones on the way to greater goal achievement.

Make this mental movie as vivid and real as you can. Do you look, feel, or think differently now that you have achieved this milestone? Perhaps you can hear other people congratulating you, or perhaps something has changed about your physical appearance that you can see. Take your time to imagine yourself in the most vivid detail that you can. Then ask what you could do in the present to help move towards that future success.

 

GETTING RESULTS 

I’m often asked how long it will take to get results with these techniques and the answer really depends on many factors such as the extent to which you need or want to change and how well you can maintain a state of focused attention on your new outcomes.

At first, you will probably find that you can only hold these images for a couple of seconds at a time. Don’t worry most of us aren’t really used to holding our attention still for very long but even a few seconds placed with focused intent on your success and then repeated regularly throughout the day will be helpful.

With practice, you will probably find that you can hold your attention on your ‘rehearsal’ for much longer, say up to 20-30 seconds at a time which will be much more effective. You could also help yourself by choosing to dream of your success as you naturally fall asleep at bedtime, or perhaps make yourself a simple recording by adapting the suggestions I’ve given you here or even making up some of your own. Just remember to make it entirely personal to you and as specific as you can.

In general terms the more often and the more clearly that you can focus your attention on the vivid images of yourself being healthy and well, then the better your results will be.

 

 

“It is madness to only prepare yourself physically and to leave your mental frame of mind to chance. The difference that makes the difference is learning how to feel strong in your mind as well as your body. Every athlete should understand that you don’t have to have a gold medal around your neck to feel like a champion.”

ROGER BLACK M.B.E, OLYMPIC SILVER MEDALLIST

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