where visualization falls short

Visualization is a form of motor imagery that allows a person to practice within their own mind.

When done correctly, this form of mental practice can be just as valuable as physical practice.

The idea behind mental practice is that your nervous system cannot differentiate between an experience that is actually taking place and one that is vividly imagined.

The problem that most people face when trying to use mental practice, is that we fail to incorporate all five of our senses.

To get the full benefit of mental practice, we have to do more than just visualize, we have to give each of our senses as much detail as we can.

The five senses Image result for five senses

  1. Sight
  2. Hearing
  3. Smell
  4. Taste
  5. Touch

By using all five of our senses, we can create a much more realistic experience for our nervous system, one that mimics actually physical experience.

Try this, during your next mental practice session, focus on one part of your performance and take a few minutes to experience each one of these features in as much detail as you can. Most importantly, give the experience emotion! Don’t just see it happening, but vividly feel it taking place.



stop hitting blind

I am no golfer, but I have been around the sport enough to know that anyone who is decent at the sport never just swings carelessly at the ball.

Instead, they have an exact location where they are aiming the ball to land. If they are good enough, they can see, in detail, where they want the ball to land before ever taking the shot.

Does it always land where they intend? No, absolutely not. And that is a part of sport that is also true for life.

We cannot always get our ball to land perfectly on the fairway. Sometimes we end up buried in the rough.

This doesn’t have to mean that the game is over. We just need a few extra strokes to get back to where we intended.

Just as a good golfer can see where the ball is going before swinging the club, we have to see where we are going before ever leaving. To many of us just swing carelessly blind at life.

Start focusing on where you intend to land before you start swinging. You won’t always land directly where you intend, but you have to know where the pin is before you set off swinging.

See it in as much detail as possible.

Then line up and take the shot.


Do These 3 Things Daily

It never fails that I get a ton of questions on these subjects as well as my daily routine in general, this post will take a slightly deeper look at three things I do daily.

  • Meditate
  • Affirmations
  • Visualize


For some reason there is a stigma around this term. People tend to associate meditation with some form of religious experience, while this can apply, it does not always, and I use the term meditation in a slightly looser form.

To me, to meditate means to practice stillness. Meditation is not something I force, rather it is a time when I try to sit (or stand) quietly and focus on my breath.  During this time I also focus on my goals while using positive affirmations, and visualizations methods.


If you are like me, most of your self talk is negative. I am harder on myself, than most people are on me. I beat myself up mentally on a daily basis. Using affirmations has the opposite effect. When using affirmations I try to focus on my good qualities rather than my shortcomings. So instead of focusing on what I can’t do, I focus on the things I can do.

Affirmations can be as elaborate as you’d like, but for me, I try to keep it simple by, at minimum reminding myself of my positive qualities. I have found this practice to be extremely helpful during times of stress, or preferably while meditating before a stressful event or situation. Affirmations, such as I am strong, I am balanced, I am smart, etc, have been infinitely helpful while practicing my jiu-jitsu, and training CrossFit.

Instead of limiting the use of affirmations to just fitness, try using them in any areas in which you have goals.


I use visualization to help calm my nerves and reinforce positive behavior. This goes back to the affirmations above. If I am affirmation something, I will then visualize that affirmation taking place. Generating as much detail as possible is key when practicing visualization methods.

Use affirmations to generate visualizations of previous successes (small and large). Add in details such as sights, sounds, smells, feels. Always focus on past wins or successes and remember how these moments made you feel.  Add the emotion to the vision.

In practice 

Start with just 5 or 10 minutes.

Sit, and relax.

Focus on your breathing for a few deep cycles, then start to think about your goals.

Visualize your goals having already been reached

Focus on how you have felt when you have achieved previous goals.

Use positive affirmations during this time, such as “I am so happy and grateful now that ____________(fill in blank with a current goal).

When your mind wanders, just come back to your breath and reset.


Visualization hack CrossFitters

Article in a tweet: Focus your visualization efforts on things that have gone right for you in the past. They can be big wins or small victories. Remember and hold onto that winning feeling.

Visualization hack CrossFitters

For those of you who do not know, I am a CrossFit level one trainer, and a (soon to be) graduate psychology student. That being said, I have a unique approach to my training philosophy.

The mind a muscle and needs to be trained as such. A lot of people fail to realize this and they put all of their efforts into training their bodies. For the naturally gifted and supernaturally athletic this might work out, for some time at least.

But for the rest of us, we need to focus on building our mental strength just as much as building our physical strength.

One way we can build this strength is through the use of visualization.  But how can we use visualization for unknown events? This is a question I get asked a lot, especially in the midst of the open.

Luckily, visualization methods can work regardless of the event being known or unknown beforehand.

In the military we all to often used the phrase, “you never rise to the occasion, you sink to your level of training. To me, what that means is how you prepare for any given circumstance is also how you react to any given circumstance.

So how do we visualization for the unknown? 

  • Focus on past wins

Just as with regular visualization, start with focusing on past wins. Remember, in detail the feeling you had after that event. Better yet, it does not even have to be a complete win, maybe you hit a personal best, or won a specific event, or wave. Maybe you inched out someone well ahead of your skill level.

In my first few years of racing BMX, I was pretty good when stacked up to others with a similar age and skill level. However, there was this one time when I remember beating a pro rider out of the start gate and into the first turn.

This to me was a huge win. Of course, I did not maintain my position and was quickly overtaken by the second turn, but to beat a pro at getting the holeshot. That felt damn good and that feeling was something I never have forgotten. Maybe he wasn’t trying for the holeshot, maybe his attention was on a section later on in the race. I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. I felt good about it and even though I did not win the (in fact, I don’t even remember the rest of the race), my confidence in my ability grew immensely.

Similarly, when I first started practicing Jiu-Jitsu my goal was often to just make it through a rolling session without getting submitted. Did it always happen? Hell no. I have tapped a lot more than I haven’t, but the few times I was able to maintain and make it from bell to bell left me feeling as if I won.