Athletes use this technique to overcome nerves and perform at their peak. Actors use it as the heart of their craft. And, corporate leaders use it to envision bold new products and services for their companies. But, did you know you can use it to overcome anxiety and addictions, create new habits, test decisions, and welcome the experiences your soul desires?
You can apply this technique to any goal you have, such as creating a successful business, finding your life partner, growing a deeper relationship with your current life partner, cultivating health, engaging in self-care practices such as eating well, meditating, or exercising, or any creative project you wish to accomplish.
The technique is "Mental Rehearsal." In this post, you'll learn the steps of this powerful tool for personal change.
The Science Behind the Technique
The premise is simple: imagining a desired experience creates the same neural networks in your body and brain that having an experience in "real life" does. By mentally rehearsing an experience you groove the neural pathways to more easily welcome an experience into your life. What you can imagine in full sensory detail you more easily become.
You use your imagination all the time to imagine experiences you want and dread experiences you don't want. The purpose of Mental Rehearsal is to consciously pave the way for experiences you desire by imagining yourself immersed in the felt experience "As If" you are living it right now.
In a nutshell, Mental Rehearsal familiarizes you with the felt experiences you want to have, so you can recognize them, choose them, and grow them in your life. It also helps you make decisions by imagining what different options feel like and weighing your felt responses. For example, does this option feel light and energized or does it feel heavy and burdensome?
Now, you may not feel worthy of the experiences you desire or may not feel they are possible for you. By mentally rehearsing these experiences, you learn to become comfortable imagining yourself having them. In the process, what you thought was out of reach seems more possible.
To make this practice even more effective, you can imagine not only the experience you desire, but also significant steps you take to get there. This makes taking these steps feel easier and more doable.
It's important to note that imagining a specific experience does not mean this exact experience will happen exactly as you imagine it to be. Life may have even better plans for you-ones you may not have imagined. What's important is to imagine the experience you desire, given what you know right now, and meditatively engage in immersing yourself in this experience "As If" you are living it. This generates the same state of being as if the experience was happening in real life. And, it creates the same neural pathways in your body and brain.
Once you are immersed in your desired state of being, it becomes a filter through which you can recognize and choose similar experiences in real life. Cultivating this state of being becomes a magnet that draws similar experiences to you. For example, if you long for the feeling of being loved, you mentally rehearse what it feels like to be loved, you carry this feeling with you, and you engage in loving others. Then, you notice how loving relationships blossom in your life.
How to Practice Mental Rehearsal
1. Begin by asking your heart for an experience you'd like to have.
2. Close your eyes, take a few slow deep breaths, and imagine the specific details of this experience, including where you are, who you are with, what you are saying, and what you are doing.
3. Step into this picture "As If" you are taking these actions. Feel the experience with all your senses.
4. Notice any resistance. Is there any way you would like to change the experience to release this resistance? Imagine these changes.
5. Once you have the experience fully present with you in a way that feels good, imagine three steps you take to this experience from where you are now in your life.
Do this in reverse time order, beginning with a step you take just before arriving in your desired experience. Imagine another step you take just before this one. And, finally, imagine a step you take to initiate this whole process from where you are now to where you want to be.
For a simple example, say I want to make a putt in golf. My desired experience is seeing the ball fall into the hole. I imagine that before this moment I followed through on the correct line to the hole, before this I drew my putter back on this line, and before this I visualized the line of the putt. (Note: These three steps can become a routine for the actual putting of a ball in a real golf game, as well as a tool for Mental Rehearsal.)
Notice any challenges to taking these steps and imagine how you might address these challenges.
6. Run the three steps forward, from where you are now to your desired experience. Then, rest in the feeling of your desired experience again, so you really absorb it.
7. Set your intention to live from this state of being and welcome experiences that grow this for yourself and others.
Keep in mind you don't have to imagine this perfectly. You don't have to get all the steps right. And, it doesn't have to feel incredible at first (though it can). You might even find you imagine failing. For example, when I first imagined myself making a putt in golf, the putt lipped out and I didn't make it. That's O.K. You can pick yourself up and try again. See if you can relax more and try less. Welcoming new experiences takes practice.
If you feel resistance, unworthiness, or any other uncomfortable feeling about this whole process, I encourage you to simply observe and accept these feelings as they arise. Breathe through them and notice any ways they shift as you pay attention to them with calm, curious, acceptance. You might ask yourself what is underneath these feelings that is important to acknowledge.
See if it's possible to view Mental Rehearsal as an exploration, a game in your imagination, and a fun way to step outside your normal view of yourself and life, so you can imagine something new, exciting, and emotionally compelling. Have fun with this! You are using untapped creative resources to step into the life your soul desires.
Enjoy your practice!