Mental Rehearsal vs. Expectations

What is the difference between mental rehearsal of an event and creating expectations for the event?

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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!

Thank you for sharing!

8 thoughts on “Mental Rehearsal vs. Expectations

  1. Great post. 🙂 My therapist talks about how hopeful thinking has been proven to change our brain pattern. It actually works to help us improve our mood and state of mind. So I try to envision a hopeful future for myself. And some days that pass, I feel I’m a little closer to that image.

  2. Maggie Currie – 37 Golden Ridge, Freshwater, Isle of Wight, PO40 9LF – Maggie Currie is an internationally renowned, professional Transformational Coach and Consultant, published author and radio presenter who has spent more than a decade learning her skills and working with clients throughout the UK and worldwide from her base on the Isle of Wight. She is one of the best coaches in the world, and is one of the top 10% of coaches in the UK.
    maggiecurrie52 says:

    Great article. I found when working with people that creating a picture in their mind of what they want to achieve, say a new job. Picture in their mind what their new job looks like to them, add sounds and smells, make the picture as bright and colourful as possible. Really experience what it feels like to achieve the new job. And, of course, when creating the picture, make sure to add yourself to it.

    Once the picture is there, with all the colour, sounds and smells, make it brighter and really see, feel and hear what it is like. Then turn around and look back at the journey, notice the obstacles, mistakes if any that were made. And this helps to make sure those are not made again.

    Having this vision in your head works so well and has helped many a person to gain a new job or whatever they were aiming for,

  3. gemmautting – A licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I specialize in pre-marital preparation and relationship repair. A committed, long-term relationship is going to call you into places of deep personal awareness and growth like nothing else can. Learning how to allow this, how to respond without defensiveness and how to gracefully expand into the best possible version of yourself - whether before you say "I do" - is my joy and life's work.
    gemmautting says:

    Dear Lisa,
    Wonderful! Great ideas, interesting juxtapositions (sport science and relationships), and succinct.
    I’m particularly interested in how to help boost this ability in folks:
    ” effectiveness depends upon one’s ability to be self-aware and monitor one’s responses to stimuli.” So true.
    While I have many many clients who are able to understand and love themselves, and then insert that “pause” between stimulus and response, I tend to also have one or two who stall-out here. They understand the only person they have any hope of controlling is themselves, but even this proves elusive. That ability to “be the one who watches” is tough to teach and tougher to grasp. I’m keen to use this sports-related visualization technique with them. It can be hard for someone who has been deeply hurt to let go of the thought / image “But I’m right!” and instead allow “So what? Now what? Can I envision myself staying in integrity and still reaching out effectively? What might that look like?”
    Insights from you and your readers most welcomed! Thanks for this forum, Warmly, Gemma

    1. Ah, yes, this is always one where it is easier to be the outside party giving advice rather than the one caught up in emotion and trying to see the bigger picture:)


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