High-performance athletes know the power of mental training. In fact, the United States brought nine sports psychologists to the Winter Olympics.
My teen-aged son competes in powerlifting events. He came very close to deadlifting 500 pounds. When the lift was almost complete, the bar slipped through his hands.
He spent six months preparing himself for the next competition. His goal was to lift 490.5 pounds and break the world deadlift record in his age and weight class. He pushed himself in the gym and followed the advice of his coach. He would come home and set a broom handle on two stacks of encyclopedias to simulate the bar. He would lift the broom stick and visualize a successful record-breaking deadlift performance.
The day of the competition came. In his second of three deadlift attempts, he easily lifted 490.5 pounds. If you were watching, you would have predicted he could handle another 10 pounds.
Guess what happened in his third attempt? The 501 pound bar slipped through his hands.
How do you explain success with 490 pounds and failure when the weight increased by 2%? This does not make biologic or mechanical sense.
Maybe he achieved precisely the results he visualized. My son tells me that he KNEW he could lift 490 pounds; he said he could see it in his mind as if it were already done.
I wonder if he inadvertently spent the past six months visualizing himself dropping 501 pounds. When he tells himself, “Don’t drop 501,” his brain gets a picture of a dropped bar. That’s a different picture than, “I did it!”
You have your on version of the 500-pound threshold. Do you really believe you can do it? As you rehearse a professional encounter in your mind, are you thinking about an unwanted outcome, or celebrating success?
World champion golfer Jack Nicklaus has said: “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head."
Choose your thoughts carefully. Before you pick up the phone or go to a meeting, mentally rehearse success. See your colleague saying yes to your idea. See the buyer saying yes to the proposal. See your patients' return to health.
Your thoughts are powerful tools. Use them carefully.
© 2015. Vicki Rackner MD. All rights reserved. Please feel welcome to reproduce the blog post with this by-line:
Vicki Rackner MD is an author, speaker and consultant who offers a bridge between the world of medicine and the world of business. She helps businesses acquire physician clients, and she helps physicians run more successful practices. Contact her at (425) 451-3777.