In the last article we looked at how mindset and your intent can influence your performance and results. Intent and belief are crucial.
But intent and belief may seem abstract. Esoteric concepts that are hard to implement. So how do we harness our mind’s potential to improve our performance?
The short answer is visualization. A focused combination of intent and belief targeted at a specific skill or movement. The brain walking through each part of a play in a football game, the swinging of a baseball bat or golf club, or you moving with the strength, mobility, and confidence in everyday activities.
A Harvard study wanted to explore the potential changes in the brain for people visualizing a task. The study used subjects that had no previous experience playing the piano and performed brain scans on all participants. They then broke the participants into two groups.1
The control group was taught to play a simple five finger piano exercise, and then instructed to practice two hours per day for five days. The test group was shown the same five finger exercise but not allowed to play the piano at all. Instead they were instructed to visualize practicing the exercise for two hours per day for five days.
The researchers then scanned the participants brains after the 5 days of practice and visualization. The results were incredible: both groups developed the same new neural pathways.
A study at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio found similar results of physical change from visualization. Researchers had participants imagine flexing one of their biceps as hard as they could five times per week. The researchers measured the subjects’ brain activity during the sessions and measured their muscle strength every two weeks.2
The result was a 13.5% increase in bicep muscle strength for the participants that visualized 5 times per week. And the strength was maintained for three months after the training stopped.
In the piano study the brain didn’t know that the control group was visualizing the movements of playing the chords, it believed they were physically playing the chords. Both experiences, real and perceived, created the same neural pathways. The mind is that powerful.
In the bicep study there was a 13.5% increase in strength from just visualizing. Incredibly powerful stuff.
That leads to the question: what if you put that same purposeful, focused intent into the physical practices of your daily routines? If you focused on every single exercise, from warm-up reps to intense intervals to mobility work, as if it was the most important thing you were going to do all day?
I’m suggesting that you can combine the effects of physically stimulating the body (ie training in the gym, eating a healthy meal, practicing free throws, etc) with the mind’s powerful ability to perceive intent to amplify your results. You can fast track your progress and your health instead of treading water.
You can stop chasing from one workout or diet fad to the next. You can stick with something that you believe in and enjoy, with a coach that has proven sustainable results. The only change you need to make in your routine is to ramp up your intent. To focus every day like the thing you’re doing is the most important thing you could possibly be doing.
You’ll create new neural pathways and expand the pathways that are already in place. You’ll get better at whatever you’re doing and the results you’re looking for will follow. Because you are putting in the work. The time, the effort, and the intent.
Your mindset matters and you can influence your brain, your genes, and your health. You just need to practice like you mean it. And believe.
Stay tuned for the next article that will dive into the mechanics behind how the brain learns new patterns and builds “muscle memory” so you can perform better, faster, and stronger than ever before.
If you’re interested in applying these learnings to your fitness, career, and life in general but aren’t sure where to start, check out our 8-Week Building Better Humans Mindset Course. You’ll get access to over 60 videos, exercises, 1-on-1 coaching, and interviews with experts in a variety of industries from a Navy Seal to an executive from Proctor and Gamble, CEO’s, mothers, and entrepreneurs as we walk you through a step-by-step process to achieve your full potential.
- Written by The Nate Chambers, co-founder, coach, and positivity guru at Project 13 Gyms