What You Really, Really Want Out of Life-- And How Science Can Help You Get There.
What do Oprah Winfrey and Retired Pro Golfer Jack Nickolaus—who is widely regarded as the greatest golfer of all time—have in common?
They both practice mental rehearsal, active visualization, and self-affirmation.
Jack Nickolaus said he never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in his mind.
And Oprah says—you become what you believe.
And there is a reason why this works. It’s not just fluff. There is a lot of research in the field of neuroscience that explains why.
And if you are anything like me, you like a little dose of science to accompany all your intuitive wisdom, don’t you?
So, let’s dig in—shall we?
There is something in our brain called the Reticular Activation System, and this is how it works:
When you decide you want to focus on something, your brain naturally begins to self-select and draw your attention to that thing, and you begin to see more of that thing (or things closely related to that thing) all around you. One of the easiest and best examples of the reticular activator in action is shopping (or “pretend shopping”) for a new car. We all know what happens—all of a sudden—out of the woodwork, you start to see that kind of car all over the road. Funny how that happens, right?
Let’s be clear here—it’s not the case that out of the blue, people are all of a sudden driving that kind of car—noooo—it’s that now you are focused to see it, and so you do.
Another powerful nugget from the world of neuroscience research is that the brain cannot distinguish between something real and something imagined.
A recent study out of Harvard Medical School studied two groups of people—one group played a series of notes on a piano over the course of five days. The other group simply imagined playing the very same notes (not moving their hands in any way). At the end of the five days, they took brain scans and found that their brains fired exactly the same way.
What this research confirms is that mental rehearsal results in similar brain functioning as actually doing that activity. And in fact, many argue that practicing something “correctly” in one’s mind first is perhaps an even better way to master a new skill—requiring less time of physical practice. Perhaps even more profound, however, is the idea that mental training has the same power to change the physical structure of our brains too.
What all this boils down to…
You are ridiculously powerful.