A picture is worth a thousand words

Sports imagery is one of the most powerful tools that I use while working with clients. Many people try and think their way through things, rather than creating a picture of what they want. Imagery is able to help clarify within your own mind what you want and how you want it to look.

Imagery is not only about creating pictures in your mind. Many people believe that in order to do imagery or have success with it you have to be able to create these very detailed images. However, imagery is more than just pictures, it is about involving all of your senses, taste, touch, smell, feeling, sight and noises. Each person will have senses, much like attention skills, that are more developed, and these are the senses we want to incorporate more strongly.

When I guide some people through imagery they do not pick up much in terms of what they see. However, they can feel themselves going through the motions, or can hear the sounds, or the smells of the location they are in. It is important when working with imagery to make it work for you and cater to your strengths. No two people will imagine things the same way, so just because you don’t see pictures doesn’t mean you are not capable of using imagery and benefiting from it.

 Why should I use imagery?

To understand why you should use imagery I want to first talk to you about how we all learn new things, especially physical things. When we are young and first learning to walk, we learn by observing others. From there we give it a try and figure out from falling how to balance ourselves and move forward. We are not instructed to put 70% of our weight on the front leg, and bend 30 degrees. If that was the case it would take us all a lot longer to learn the simple skill of walking. We learn by doing – holistically.

This way of learning is not exclusive to just walking. Kids learn everything “by doing”, from throwing a ball to swinging a bat. Somewhere along the way though we begin to try and learn through verbal instruction. This makes everything harder, as our bodies do not understand words. Our bodies understand images in any form. So when we try and verbally communicate with ourselves there is a disconnect that makes things all the more challenging.

Imagery is important and beneficial to use because it opens up the channels for telling yourself what you want. There is also a biochemical change that occurs within the body during imagery, that creates the same neural connections formed by actually doing something. So by spending time doing some imagery your body not only thinks it is actually doing it, but you can imagine it exactly as you want, making it that much more powerful.

There have been numerous studies done, where one group does imagery and the other group physically performs the activity, such as free throws in basketball. Those that do the imagery turn out to do better in games with their free throw percentage than those who simply practiced them.