Recently I watched an interview with Cristiano Ronaldo, and whether you love him or hate him, he's hands down one of the greatest players to have ever stepped on a football pitch.
In the interview (which happened before his performance against Spain in the 2018 World Cup group stages) he spoke about his thought process when stepping up to take a free kick or penalty, which ironically he scored both of during his clash with the Spaniards. He mentioned how before he strikes the ball, he already perfectly describes to himself in his mind the feel of the ball leaving his foot, the movement of the ball traveling through the air and exactly what point it enters the goal. This is called visualization.
Visualization is the ability to imagine something in such detail, that it actually feels like it's happening. A technique used by the best athletes in the world, allowing them to execute in high pressure moments.
The science behind it, is that if you can master the art of recreating a scenario in your mind with enough precision, your brain can't tell the difference between what is reality, and what is imaginary and things will often play out the way you envision them.
Here's where it gets tricky. Although visualization can have an incredibly positive effect, it can also have an extremely negative effect if you aren't being deliberate with your thoughts. As humans, we are often fairly pessimistic before big opportunities, thinking of all the things that could go wrong, or highlighting the potential obstacles that stand in our way. For example, think of the last tryout you had, where you were playing in front of coaches that you needed to impress; or had an important match that you needed to win. Now think about what your thoughts were like prior to the event, were they positive or negative? How did you perform? If you performed badly, chances are you predetermined that bad performance with how you visualized the opportunity leading up to it. You probably focused more on the fact that you might not get selected for the team, might make mistakes or you might not win the game, rather than focusing on the positive things that could happen.
On the other hand, I'm sure you've also experienced opportunities going really well, exactly how you had hoped they would. It was like you watched a movie in your mind and you were the star of the show, then suddenly the exact script gets played out in reality. That's not a happy coincidence, that's visualization.
So now we understand more about visualization and how impactful it is on our performance; how can we take control of our minds to have more positive experiences and less negative ones.
The fact same as our footwork, fitness, shooting and all of our physical attributes needing regular training to sharpen them and make them more effective, so do our minds. It's proven that if you do something consistently for at least 30 days, you develop a habit and the thing you are practicing becomes more natural; so I want you to try this out:
Find 5-10 minutes in every day (I would recommend doing it as soon as you wake up to start the day positively) and complete the following steps:
1. Close your eyes, and really focus. Concentrate on your breathing, taking deep breaths to relax your body and mind. 2. Start to think about the day that you are just beginning. What do you have to do today? Do you have something in particular happening that day that you would like to go well? It could be something as simple as your individual training session for that day. 3. Now, almost like you're watching a movie, and you're the main character in the story. Start to play out that opportunity. If it's your training session that you have chosen to focus on, start to imagine what the pitch looks like that you're training on, what does the air smell like, how does the surface feel underneath your feet. Now begin to start going through the drills you are going to do. Imagine yourself taking on each rep with full intensity, and perfect technique. If your session involves shooting or dribbling, imagine the ball crisply leaving your foot and flying into the top corner of the goal, imagine the ball superglued to your foot, turning around the obstacles at speed manipulating the ball exactly how you want. 4. Really start to pay attention to how it feels to train so well, how satisfying it is to have full control over the ball and training with such intensity to get closer to your goals. 5. When you get to the point when you can really clearly see yourself performing that way, open your eyes and say to yourself out loud "That was a great training session, I gave everything today".
You can swap out the event for whatever you have going on that day, and it doesn't have to be football related. Visualization is a powerful tool in any circumstance, so whether you have a job interview, an exam, or even a date with a girl, visualizing it going positively can have an incredible affect on the outcome.
I encourage you guys to give this a go for 30 days, and see how you feel. We all have 5-10 minutes to spare, and it can literally be life changing if you're willing to commit to it.
Remember, if you can dream it, and believe it, you can achieve it.