One good way to counter-effect the negative self-talk that inhibits performance is to use mental imagery, also known as visualization. It’s a powerful mental tool you can use to help you reach optimal performance levels in many aspects of life.
It is also more important than my think it is. In fact, we all unconsciously use visualization without being aware of it. It is common for sports mental performance coaches to help athletes who would like to maximize their potential. Surfers prepare themselves for competition by seeing themselves performing well in competition. They create and use mental images that are detailed, specific, and realistic.
Apart from surfers in competition, I believe that without vision, nothing can be achieved. Take for example someone who is confused about the next steps he needs to take in his professional or personal life. It’s evident he wouldn’t be able to successfully attain most desired goals, no matter what it is. Now take someone who knows specifically what he wants to achieve and is taking specific steps towards it. He sees his future self doing something specific and being somewhere specific. That vivid vision directs all his actions towards his goal.
BUT HOW DOES VISUALISATION WORK?
Mental imagery is brain rehearsal. When you are visualizing something, it is like practicing it in virtual reality. You will be activating the same neural pathways that you will be using in the field, except you will be sitting on your couch. This is also known as Neuroplasticity. The term refers to your brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning.
In the last 30 years, studies showed the brain is not as fixed as medical experts initially thought. This discovery means that you can rewire your brain to establish better habits that contribute to your health, success, and well-being. So what does all this have to do with becoming an optimal performer? Well, you can use visualization to see yourself as an optimal performer. See, hear, and feel how it will be like to reach your goal. It will keep you motivated into wanting to have your specific results.
For visualization in surfing, be very specific by engaging all your senses into the experience. From warming up in the parking lot to walking on the sand to your first contact with water and eventually your first wave.
4 STEPS TO PRACTISING VISUALISATION
1. Focus on your objective
I recently outlined how we can create a specific goal in an effort to improve surfing performance. Use that goal as a visualization subject by mentally materializing it and imagining it already happening.
2. Hijack your negative self-talk
Our vision is often blurred by our “future” worries. Some of your goals can make you anxious and nervous which can lead you to let go in the middle of the process before you even reach your goals. The efforts associated with your intent make you think that it is too hard, too difficult to achieve, or even impossible. It’s important to recognize that this is only self-talk.
For instance, you might start visualizing your future self-being at an optimal performance level, surfing every day, strong and healthy, but then negative self-talk will come and tell you “it’s impossible to do and it’s too hard to achieve.”
3. Prepare for the visualization practice
To visualize correctly, you need to enter a meditative state. Start a regular meditation process by taking three deep breaths. Close your eyes and focus on the sounds near you. Shift your attention toward your physical senses. Turn your focus toward your breathing. Keep doing this for 2 minutes until you enter a meditative state, then direct your attention toward that specific time in the future when you want to achieve your goal. The key here is to engage your senses and connect them with your vision.
You can reinforce that vision by looking at your future self from both a helicopter (detached) view where you play a movie of yourself achieving that goal and from a first-person (seeing and experiencing things from inside your body) point of view where you are associated with that state.
4. Visualise daily
Practice this visualization exercise every day during your morning routine. This practice only takes five minutes including getting into the meditative state. Five minutes is literally only 0.34% of your day.
Editor’s Note: Dris Mi is a sports mental performance coach and contributor to The Inertia whose work we’re really stoked on. He’s dedicated himself to sharing insights and philosophies on the mindset that will help every surfer reach their highest potential and we really love that.
So if you’re one of those surfers looking to become a better all-around slider of waves, take some time to check out pieces from his optimal performance series covering things like steps to waking up earlier and more here.