What is the difference between mental rehearsal of an event and creating expectations for the event?
There has been quite a bit of research and discourse in the last few years about the nature and benefits of mental rehearsal for athletes and others in positions that require a demanding and skilled physical performance. They are trained to visualized their body working efficiently, picture themselves executing each move perfectly, and feel their mind and body in perfect harmony.
These visualization techniques have since been applied to other areas, demonstrating that mental rehearsal can be a powerful tool for success. Cancer patients picture their T-cells squashing the invading cancer. Surgeons mentally rehearse each step of a complicated procedure countless times before even touching the scalpel. Public speakers view themselves giving their presentation, calm and confident.
For those undergoing a major life transition, visualization can help to calm anxiety and provide hope for the future. You can mentally rehearse for your time in court, visualize yourself becoming whole and happy, see yourself in a new relationship. All of this mental energy can help you on your path to healing.
In all cases, the most important aspect of visualization as a technique to improve performance or outcomes, is that is effectiveness depends upon one’s ability to be self-aware and monitor one’s responses to stimuli.
It is important to note, that in all of these examples, the strategy of mental rehearsal focuses on the individual’s performance, not the behaviors of those around him or her. That is the primary distinction between mental rehearsal and expectations; the former depends upon actions that are largely under your control, whereas the latter is subject to the behaviors of others not under your jurisdiction.
It is all too easy to spend our mental energies building expectations. This strategy will only lead to disappointment; however, as others can never live up to their fantasy counterparts. Many times, our happiest moments are those that caught us unaware, before any expectations had a chance to take root.
Choose where you want to spend your mental energy: building expectations that can be dashed by others or rehearsing you being the best you possible. I know where I try to focus my energies; in fact, I am seeing myself running an effortless ten miler this morning even though it’s frigid outside. Now, let’s see if that image holds once I get that first blast of wind!