This is one of my favorite topics because I had an experience when I was 17 years old that changed my life forever. I think it’s one of the reasons why I do what I do. But, when I was about 9 years old it was the first time that I had ever gone to a tennis camp and I hit a ball and the coach was said, “Whoa whoa! Do that again!” And I did it again. After the first day of camp, he called my mom and told her you to have a tennis player in your hands and that I should start playing tournaments. So like any good mother would do, she enrolled me in my first tournament a couple of months later after I had practiced and took some lessons. And I played in my first tournament which was a Round Robin, which basically means you play everybody in the tournament.
Well, I lost every single match. And an umpire that was there went up to my mom (my mom was getting a lot of advice at this time) and she said, “You know your daughter is really good she has a lot of talent but she needs to improve her mental game.”
And so that was my intro to this idea that there was more than just skill at play here. That performance isn’t just about what you’re good at. There’s also a mental component that’s really strong.
Fast forward several years later, and I started playing more tournaments. The more tournament’s I played, the better I got at winning and doing well. But I still struggled with the mental game for several years.You see I would sometimes win easily and other times it was a struggle for me (even against a player I knew I could beat). Despite my challenges, I ended up being ranked number 7 in the mid-Atlantic.
And then when I was a senior in high school I was in the Maryland State Tennis Championships (that’s where I grew up, I was seeded number two which basically meant that I was supposed to come in second place. But I knew deep down inside that I could win this tournament. And so I started working with a Sports Psychologist to help me with the mental game. And one of the things that she taught me was visualization.
I would go meet with her at her house, and I would sit on her couch, and she would guide me through a visualization — I would see myself on the court playing in these matches for the Maryland State Tennis Championships. I would picture myself, I would feel like I was there, I would I had a certain mantra that I would tell myself and repeat to myself to help keep me focused. I also had this anchoring technique where anytime I got distracted, I would come back and just fix my strings a little bit.
I did this mental rehearsal so much that when I actually went to the tournament it was like my body already knew what to do and I won that entire tournament in a breeze! It was like my brain my body had been there so much in my mind that I didn’t even have to think I was in a total flow state. Just no real thinking required. I was just able to let go and just be present and focused. It was the easiest tournament I had ever played. It was amazing and that experience just was so powerful for me because I really got to taste that visualization works.
Then many years after that, I forgot about visualization. Once I entered the working world, I hit the pavement and hit the ground running. I wasn’t really doing any visualization. And then when I hit a point in my career where things just weren’t working out for me. I had ten jobs in six years s– from 22 to 28 I had literally had ten jobs. I came back to the basics and asked myself, “What do you want?” I started to visualize what success would look like for me my life and my business. And part of what that vision included was me working for myself.
I wasn’t in a relationship at the time but I wanted to be in a relationship and I knew that one day I wanted to have kids. I wanted to have the freedom and flexibility to be able to spend time with my kid while I still worked. I wanted to do something also that was helping people making a meaningful impact. I wanted to have my own coaching business. And before I went to bed at night I would picture it. I did vision boards. I wrote about it. And now I can honestly say that in many ways I’m living my vision.
It’s not hokey pokey. There have been studies on athletes. There’s a story about basketball players who there are two groups of basketball players. One group actually practice throwing free throws and the other group just visualized. Who do you think did better? The group that just visualized did better because they never saw themselves miss a shot. So they were able to have this level of confidence in themselves. To give you some more science behind it the central nervous system doesn’t distinguish between real and imagined events. I mean this is true about fear too right. Look sometimes we have fear in our mind and we think that it’s real but it’s really not.
That’s why it’s so important to direct your attention towards what it is that you want and create a mental picture and rehearse it because what will happen is the mental imagery impacts what you actually do. Right. So part of where we the brain that controls imagery its part of the cognitive functioning. And so the brain is actually getting trained for performance and it really enhances motivation confidence and it primes your brain for success.
You can use visualization for your career, interviews, a conversation, relationships, every area of your life. This is a very very powerful tool.
I’ve included a 10 minute guided success visualization. I would love for you to do it and I would love to hear from you.
Sit back relax and visualize success.