A favorite inspirational Olympic story I love to share with clients is that of Laura Wilkinson’s 2000 Olympic diving gold medal. Laura had been injured and unable to dive for three months earlier in 2000. I remember watching the competition with my daughters and telling them she didn’t have a chance when she was in eighth place at the start of the finals. Little did I know! Wilkinson was able to come from eighth position in the standings to blow past the competition and win the gold medal. How did she do it?
After her injury and knowing she had to face the Olympic games in just a few months, Laura used the mind technique of mental rehearsal to conduct her training every day, just as if she was actually going into the pool. During the hours she would have spent in the pool, she would “practice” the dives in her mind, seeing herself walk to the ladder, climb up, walk to the edge, look into the water, and take her dive. She imagined every detail and saw herself completing each dive perfectly, over and over again – for three months. When she got back into the pool just two weeks before the games, she didn’t miss a beat. At the games, she was prepared to repeat what she had done hundreds times before in her mind.
There are so many ways we can use mental rehearsal in nurturing ourselves professionally and personally. As a Leader for Weight Watchers ten years ago, I used to promote the technique to my members, and I used it myself before parties, vacations, and other occasions where overeating was quite possible. Mental rehearsal is also effective before interviews, exams, presentations, and dates.
Whether it’s getting out of bed early to exercise or having that difficult but necessary conversation with a boss or peer at work, the process is the same. Imagine exactly how you would like the scene to go, be as detailed as possible, and see yourself performing perfectly. After all the times we’ve imagined the worst, it’s fun to visualize success for ourselves.
Be sure to feel good about the experience as you see it in your mind. This will fuel you even more, as certain parts of the brain do not distinguish what’s real from what’s imagined. Those good feelings repeated over and over will actually help you get out of bed or face your boss.
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