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The Power Of Mental Imagery

Among the most powerful exercises to improve performance is Mental Imagery. There is a fantastic and inspiring story about a soldier who used this practice to save his life and improve his golf game. He was a prisoner of war, subjected to the most unthinkable mental and physical torture imaginable. The majority of his time he was confined to a small wooden box, only large enough to hold the shape of his body. A tiny hole was cut into the box where his captors would supply him with only enough food and water to survive. Twenty hours a day he lay in the box, shivering from the elements, on the brink of starvation. His only solace was the imaginary world he would create in his mind.

As he lay in the box, he would spend hours imagining what it would be like to be back home, playing golf, and saved from this prison.

An average golfer at best, his favorite thing at home was his Saturday round of golf. As he lay in the box, he would spend hours imagining what it would be like to be back home, playing golf, and saved from this prison. He would begin each day to the fantastic breakfast his wife would so kindly prepare.  He could smell the bacon and hear the sound of the strips sizzling in the pan. The images were so vivid; the mere thought of the meal would cause his mouth to water. He would then hop into his car and drive to the course.  He loved his Saturday morning drive. The winding tree-lined route through the countryside was perfect for the Aston Martin convertible he and his father had restored. He could feel the wind in his hair and the rumble of the car’s engine.  He would sing his favorite songs as sparkles of sunlight would break through the leafy canopy. Upon arriving at the course, he would be greeted by his foursome.  He could hear the playfulness in their voices and smell their fine cigars. At the first tee they would pick teams and set all bets for the day. He would play his normal game, which consisted partly of slicing his tee shot into the woods. He would relive each moment of the round in such detail; it was as if it were real. It was exactly as he had remembered, even down to the final score of what he had shot. Each morning he would repeat his ritual. He decided if he were going to play golf every day in his mind then he might as well imagine playing better. His game didn’t change tremendously right away. He allowed himself to make a putt here or there or not miss so many fairways. As the ritual continued, he found joy in tightening up his effort.  He imagined hitting more spectacular shots and eventually shooting lower scores.

One glorious morning he woke to the sound of his rescue. He was brought home, where he spent months regaining his strength. Ready to resume his life, the first thing he wanted to do was play with his Saturday foursome. He woke to his wife’s beautiful smile and the smell of bacon sizzling. He lifted the dusty cover from his vintage car and drove the winding road through the sunlit trees. As he pulled into the lot, his friends were there to greet him, only this time, with hugs of thankfulness and encouragement. As one lit a cigar, he became overcome with emotion. It was exactly as he imagined.  Bets were set. No one wanted to play for money because it was his first round back, but he insisted. He wanted the day to be the same as before. Upon his first swing, his foursome noticed one thing drastically different from what they had remembered. His normal slice had miraculously turned into a soft draw down the middle of the fairway. By day’s end, his first time playing after his horrific ordeal was ten shots lower than his best score ever.

William James, the “Father of Modern Psychology” once said. “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.” In the story, the soldier’s powerful exercises in imagery trained his muscles, strengthened his mind and lifted his spirit. Take time out of every day to practice the art of imagery both in your golf game and your life. Begin imagining exactly what you want on the course. Have fun with the exercise and hone your imaginative skills. Let each attempt reveal more details about the player you wish to be and the world you want to live in. You may be surprised at what dreams may come.

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