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You Can Reach Your Personal Best

Olympic athletes use self-hypnosis to help them achieve top  performance. United States teams and those of other nations recognize  that the power of mental rehearsal is equally as important as physical  practice. Russian teams are taught mental conditioning from the outset  of training.

For the average person, hypnotherapy cannot turn a golfing duffer  into an international champion. Factors, skills and abilities other  than mental are involved. But hypnosis can be used to enable a player  to achieve his or her personal best!

Time magazine reported, in a cover story on the 1984  Olympics, that on the night before the finals in women's gymnastics Mary Lou Retton, then age 16, lay in bed at Olympic Village mentally  rehearsing her performance ritual. She had done the same on hundreds of previous nights, visualizing herself performing all her routines  perfectly - imaging in her mind all the moves and rehearsing them again  and again. The result, of course, was a performance of perfection,  presented with charm, poise and confidence, culminating in a gold metal.

"What the mind can conceive, the body can achieve!" Proof of that  statement has been provided countless times. Mary Lou pictured a  perfect performance in her mind. Her body produced it. The same  capability is available to any sports enthusiast. If the skills and  coordination abilities do not equal Olympic levels, they can carry the  player to the heights of personal best, providing new levels of  achievement and satisfaction.

To train the body to the limits of its capabilities without  simultaneously training the mind is to invite, at best, mediocrity.  Sports psychologists have claimed that for Olympic teams 80 percent of  an athlete's performance is in the mind. This belief has been echoed by championship players in virtually every form of competition.

What the Mind Can Do

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Mental rehearsal, also termed visualization, can create and  reaffirm the confidence necessary to achieve top performance. The  picture visualized in the mind can convince the subconscious that  achievement is possible. The automatic nervous system performs in  exactly the same manner followed during a physical rehearsal.  Neuromuscular coordination improves. What your mind can conceive, you  can achieve. If you can think it and see it in your mind, you can do  it!

What can be accomplished through the powers of the mind? Perhaps  most important is the development of positive attitudes. Negative  thoughts pertaining to performance skills can be changed or eliminated.  Enjoyment of the sport will be enhanced to a major degree as skills  improve to the point where intermittent incidents of poor performance no longer arouse irritation, anger, discouragement or detrimental  emotional reaction. Concentration, coordination, technique all can  improve as well as awareness of proper form and posture.

Sports enthusiasts face the same stumbling blocks that people have  to deal with in other areas of life - business, personal relationships,  achievement of goals and ambitions. The biggest of all is fear, and  fear comes in many forms. Fear of failure is always restrictive and is  very common in sports, as is its hidden partner, fear of success - an  apprehension that success can create the expectation (among others) of  further improvement. Fear of humiliation can be strong. Many golfers  experience near terror on the first tee where people may be watching the first drives. Competition can produce sensations of intimidation  resulting in deterioration of skills.

Hypnotherapy, or properly learned and applied self-hypnosis, can  work to reduce or eliminate the mental obstacles to peak performance in  sport activities. This is an area in which the truth of the phrase  "what the mind can conceive, the body can achieve" becomes highly  evident.

The Steps to Achievement

The goal of hypnosis in its applications is not the learning or  acquisition of the basic skills involved, though these could be helped  through hypnosis as used in enhancing learning skills. The goal is to  enable the athlete to achieve the best personal level, performing at  peak. As with virtually all hypnosis, the first step must be  relaxation. Relaxation to a level appropriate for the implanting of  hypnotic suggestion is not really resting. It is deep, and can be  brought about through a hypnotherapist or even through study and  practice using any of several excellent books on the subject.

Goal setting is essential. Without having an objective, it is  pointless to begin a task, project or trip. Goals may be set by  athletes, coaches or therapists or a combination thereof. It is  important for goals to be specific, focused on the area in which  improvement is desired. Playing better tennis is not a valid goal.  Improving a serve or backhand is a goal. Goals must be short-term  achievable and step by step, so that both success and completion are  experienced.

Concentration is vitally important, and sometimes difficult to  develop. Hypnotherapy has long been an effective means of improving  concentration capabilities. Distractions must be eliminated.  Post-hypnotic cues may prove useful in stimulating both concentration  and specific skills. Visualization, not just in mental rehearsing, but  at the moment of performance can produce dramatic results.

Finally, mental rehearsal is the ultimate key to superlative  performance. It can prove more productive than physical practice.  Imagery is not merely visual in nature; it can include all the senses.  In a diving competition, the form of the dive is visual; the smell of  the chlorine water is olfactory; the wetness of the entry is sensory,  the cheers of the crowd are auditory. Perfection requires the use of  all senses.

Content on this page ©1999 National Guild of  Hypnotists, Merrimack, NH 03054

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