My Mind is My Most Powerful Muscle

There is an immense collection of data regarding visualization and other mental training techniques, including human experiments, technology designed to track and measure brain activity and firing of the muscles and zealous claims that it really works. Is this true? The data could be falsified because those tested have a special trait in their DNA, or those who claimed it worked could have fallen victim to the placebo effect or those who managed to successfully do it could have an inborn talent for brain training – like being born with exceptionally legs. I am a man who believes on things proven by science – things that are laid out and explained, but I also like to test theories. This is my experiment determining if visualization and mental toughness methods work for me. My plan: I will visualize about scoring goals every day for five minutes, exude a confident appearance whenever something unfortunate happens in a game/practice, overcome the urge to quit while lifting, imagine myself making a perfect pass every time i get the ball.

I hope that there is a noticeable, and positive, change in my performance after two weeks of following my plan. Mental training, like any valuable exercise, is not easy. I would think about each mechanic of my kick and feel it smashing against my foot; I would sit and visualize scoring a goal, but the ball kept hitting the post, going right to the keeper or flying far off target. The first few times that I attempted to visualize ended in disaster. Every time that I would try to exude confidence after a personal or team mistake, I felt unrealistic and ignorant of the situation.

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In addition, when my team would continually make the same or amateur mistake, I would begin to yell, which would only make the situation worse and hinder my mental expedition. Lifting became a chore and I was starting to burn out. My frustration with my team and myself, coupled with my exhaustion, caused me to want recognition – I only envisioned scoring and having the glory for myself, not making excellent passes to my team. I was unhappy with my play, annoyed by my team and failed to perform at my potential. My experiment was failing.

I added two components to my mental regime, breathing and positive affirmation. After each mistake I would take a deep breath, clap twice, reassure whomever made the mistake (a teammate or myself) that they are a solid player and will get it right next time. I became a confident and happy team player, not a goal-hungry defensive midfielder. I began to start plays for other players and score goals, which aided in my team playing to its potential. I began to see the ball hitting the back of the net each time I possessed the ball in a scoring position and saw myself hitting my mark on each pass I made.

My performance dramatically improved. My experience taught me that mental preparation was not enough; a key component of performance is confidence. Though I challenged myself physically and mentally, I was still performing poorly because I did not have belief in myself. I may have the genetic trait, may have fallen victim to the placebo effect, or even have an inborn talent that allows visualization to work for me, but I only started to see results when I allowed myself to have amnesia: to forget the mistakes and focus on future success.