"Mentally rehearsing a new way that you might behave in the face of adversity activates the prefrontal cortex, and your imagined activities begin firing neurons and wiring them into brain patterns that can be activated whenever they're needed. Without attentive rehearsal, your brain will not mobilize in advance, and despite your best intentions you will act out old, counterproductive routines instead-or new counterproductive ones, fired not by calm effectiveness but by frustration, anger, and other emotions that can distract you from giving your best. When you prepare the prefrontal cortex to activate ahead of time, you will be better at calmly, effectively performing the right action." - Robert K. Cooper
Mental rehearsal, and visualization in general have a long history of use. During the pre-scientific period most visualization was tied to metaphysical, spiritual, and magical phenomenon. As far back as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, which date back thousands of years before Christ various forms of visualization where practiced to enhance the development of consciousness.
Most recently visualization or mental rehearsal has made a leap into the realm of neuroscience. Modern technology allows us to observe neuronal function under varying circumstances. Although visualization and mental rehearsal have been in the daily regimens of people such as Einstein, Wolfgang Pauli, Carl G. Jung, and even Larry Bird, only recently has rigorous scientific study yielded detailed insight into the powerful effects of visualization.
The mere process of rehearsing movements such as exercises and performances has been shown do improve efficacy at near the levels of actual physical practice. Neuroscience shows that the very same neurons that partake in the actual physical movements are activated upon the mental rehearsal of the same movement. The question now becomes how can we use this information for self-development. Well, consider that any action that seems difficult, challenging, or warrants improvement can be dramatically improved through mental rehearsal. Here are some areas that can be improved by mentally rehearsing effective execution:
- public speaking
- sales pitches
- interpersonal communication
- emotional management
- technical skills (engineering, programming, etc.)
This is simply a short list. Almost anything imaginable can improve dramatically by a consistent rehearsal. The key word here is consistent; like anything else consistency of purpose is the most essential ingredient for the utmost efficacy of any function.