Can You Imagine Your Style To Success?
After Novak Djokovic won Wimbledon for the fifth time on Sunday, he credited the power of his imagination.
“I always try to imagine myself as a winner, ” said the champion , as he also stressed the importance of mental and emotional strength.
Of course, the intellect can only get you so far – otherwise more of us would be winning the lottery or playing sell-out concerts at Wembley.
But athletics psychologists say research shows the technique of “imagery” brings real results, and can “absolutely” help people in everyday life.
“It’s one of these untapped skills that almost every human being can use, ” says Dr Jennifer Cumming, an expert on the method used from the University of Birmingham.
She says there has been “tons of research” on the power of imagery in normal life. “Generally we can all capitalise on this and the more we use it, the more we can improve it.”
Essentially, the technique of “imagery” involves creating or recreating an experience in your intellect.
It is one of the core techniques used by athletes in athletics psychology.
“There’s a large body of evidence that indicates more successful athletes are more likely to use it and more likely to have used it when they are quite young, ” says Dr Cumming.
‘Smell the freshly-cut grass’
Sports psychologist Dr Josephine Perry, who employs imagery in her work with athletes from a range of disciplines, says it can sometimes “feel a bit silly” – but those who take it seriously will really benefit.
“The research shows the more realistic you are able to make it, the more it runs, ” she says. “It is about being able to incite the smells, the senses.”
She devotes the example of a tennis player who might often lose their temper on tribunal, throwing their tennis racket down.
“We would work on when you feel that trigger, the hot button. And we start to write an ‘ideal scenario’.
“For example: ‘Usually this would define me off doing XYZ, but in this scenario what I want to do is take a deep breath.'”
Dr Perry generates a “script” with the sports player – often in real hour – about how they want to behave in that situation, before record it on their telephone and listening back to it regularly.
“We want this to be as realistic as is practicable, ” says Dr Perry. “Write what you consider, hear, feel, savour, stench.
“If you’re on a golf course, you can smell the freshly-cut grass. You can see the flag at the end.”
Dr Perry says she has also used the technique with marathon runners, to prepare them for the 18 -2 2 mile point where they may be struggling and low on energy.
“We’d get the athlete to watch stuff on YouTube on that specific point. We’d go through a map and look at what was on the right, on either side.”