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How elite athletes prime their brains for success

Lindsey Vonn first turned me on to the concept of visualizing. She's spoken extensively about her process of visualizing her races. Not only does she visualize the actual race including every turn and every line of the course, she visualizes her entire routine. She imagines everything from getting to the top of the run, the music she’ll listen to while she waits, how many times she’ll rock back and forth before the gates open, down to how and where she’ll stop and wait for her time. She visualizes every step in the entire process, not just the race itself, making a clear map of everything in her mind, priming herself for success.

We’re more likely to execute well when we bring the process of success into our minds through visualization. The process then becomes a replay of something we’ve practiced over and over again in our minds.

The brain often can’t tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t. Simply visualizing ourselves reaching to grab an apple activates the same neural networks in our brains as if we are physically reaching to grab an apple. Visualization creates new neural pathways in our brains that primes us to act in a way that is consistent with our imagination.

I’m returning home from company off site meetings that consisted of me presenting to all the partners for half a day. I was well prepared for the actual content and what I wanted to say, but I also visualized the little things that can give me nerves along the way.

I visualized where I was going to sit and what my set up would look like. I visualized walking into the meeting space and seeing and greeting everyone. I visualized sitting down with all the partners and the small talk that would happen before the meeting. I visualized taking a few breaths and feeling my feet on the ground before I started. I visualized me dropping into the mental space of “presenter” and disconnecting from any other mental noise I was having. I visualized gathering everyone’s attention to start the meeting. And finally, I visualized finishing my presentation and wrapping everything up.

I went through the entire process in my mind, from the moment I walked into the room to the moment I walked out, and I felt prepped for everything in between. I primed myself to be successful because I had already played it out in my mind many times. I presented from the “muscle memory” I created simply by visualizing the process.

If you have something that you want to be successful, visualize every step of the process. Whether it’s stressful conversation or a pitch, visualize what you’ll be wearing, your posture and how you’ll be sitting, dialing into the call and taking a few breaths, making small talk at the beginning, all the way through to the end.

The more detailed the visualization, the more ingrained it becomes in the body. The process becomes the outcome.

The body leads the mind.

Cheers to better living -


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