Insights: Designing Your Life with Mental Rehearsal

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photo_mental_rehearsal_concentrationWhat do Mark Twain, Tony Robbins, Jack Nicklaus, and Steve Jobs have in common?

They’d all tell you that the first 30 minutes of your day is critical to living a successful life.

Mark Twain believed that tackling the hardest problem on your plate is key.

Tony Robbins believes in “visualizing how you will make your day.”

Steve Jobs would ask, “if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?”

All of these are good ways to start your day.

I would like to add my own touches to these words of wisdom. Personally I like to take time to think about what I am grateful for. It just starts my day off well and actually makes me focus more on the positive.

From there I decide (the key word is “decide”) what is important for that day. I make sure that is my focus so I do not get distracted by the shiny things in life.

This could be spending time with someone, exercising, having some downtime, getting a project completed, etc.

Then I check in with how I am feeling and how much energy I have. Next I ask myself what I might need to bring my energy up.

Last but not least, I visualize my day as I want it to be but also being open to what the day may bring. This takes a whole five minutes (not to say you can’t spend longer doing this exercise). I am sure we can all find five minutes to have a better day.

Visualization, or what psychologists call mental rehearsal, has been used extensively in professional sports, while business people use it to enhance their motivation with their goals.

Jack Nicklaus, a professional golfer, said “I never hit a shot, not even in practice, without having a very sharp in-focus picture of it in my head”.

Why is mental rehearsal so powerful? It is amazing how it has a powerful influence on the brain including perception, memory, dopamine flow, attention, and details. Physical rehabilitation centers use it to assist patients in recovery.

One of the most profound stories I read on mental rehearsal was by a chiropractor called Joe Dispenza. He was a cyclist who got hit by a car doing 65 miles an hour. Told by doctors he would need to have back surgery or he would never walk again, he chose to go home and through the use of diet, physical therapy and mental rehearsal he was able to heal without the back surgery. He then wrote an incredible book called “Evolve Your Brain” to explain how the brain works and why visualization is so powerful.

If you want to make mental rehearsal even more powerful, write down affirmations such as “I am capable, I am exercising three times a week, I am eating healthy.”

To take this to the next level, start adding your senses to the visualization. See a picture in your head, imagine what you would smell, see and hear. Say your affirmations, feel them in your heart and head. Do not allow any self-doubt or disbelief or what others might think. Hold what you want in your head and your heart and feel it.

Alfred Montapert wrote, “To accomplish great things we must first dream, then visualize, then plan…believe… act!”

After you visualize, make a commitment to act on it that day, just one thing. One thing a day is 52 things in a year. You will also be amazed at how your life can be directed by your thoughts, both positive and negative. The choice is yours.

So even if you spend five minutes rather than 30 visualizing your day, you will be creating your day by design.

Either that, or…if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

Again, your choice.

Dr. Shelly Zavala can be contacted at [email protected] or

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