M is for Mental Rehearsal


Peak performers spend many hours mentally rehearsing ways to achieve success. This is in addition to the fabled 10,000 hours spent doing purposeful practice.

Rehearsing situations properly goes beyond making a person feel stronger. It enables them to be fully present and use their strengths when it matters.

Looking back on your own life, when have you have successfully used mental rehearsal?

You may have been clarifying how to behave in job interview, how to manage a difficult situation, how to deal with challenges on an expedition or whatever.

What did you do during the mental rehearsal? How did you clarify the end goal? How did you practice the strategies for achieving success?

How did you anticipate dealing with potential difficulties? How did you then relax and make sure you were fully present during the actual situation?

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to do the following things.

Describe a specific time when you used aspects of mental rehearsal to prepare properly for a situation.

Describe the specific things you did to use aspects of mental rehearsal for the situation.

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Some Background
About Mental Rehearsal

Charles Garfield wrote Peak Performers, a pioneering book published in 1987. The National Business Association produced a summary of his views on mental rehearsal in one of their newsletters.

Peak performers practice mental rehearsal. They rehearse, in their mind’s eye, any incident or event that is important to them. Mental rehearsal is a core capability of peak performers.

Business executives can benefit by rehearsing specific events in the mind’s eye, including all those possible outcomes and possible surprises that can materialize.

This mental practice can build familiarity and boost confidence and self-esteem.

There are many approaches to mental rehearsal. Below is one framework. This involves people relaxing and working through the following steps.

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Here is another description of mental rehearsal from Scott Williams. He is Professor of Management at Wright State University and Executive Director of the Center for Innovation Management.

Mental rehearsal involves imagined, mental practice of performing a task as opposed to actual practice.

That is, when engaging in mental rehearsal, one imagines performing without having to actually do anything.

Many studies have found mental rehearsal to be successful at improving task performance and reducing stress.

As the cliché goes, ‘Practice makes perfect.’ Yes, practice is helpful, but perfect practice is clearly superior to repeated poor performance during practice.

Because mental practice is perfect practice, it is also a confidence-booster. Experiencing success increases confidence, even if that experience is imagined.

A limitation, of course, is that one also has to have a certain degree of knowledge and skill for performing the activity in order to be successful.

Mental practice should supplement other forms of skill development, not replace them.

For instance, role-playing effective listening skills and getting feedback on performances helps to develop those skills in ways that mental rehearsal cannot.

Nonetheless, mental practice assists the skill learning process and provides the extra edge for those who have reached sufficient levels of skill development.

You will have your own approach to mental rehearsal. If you wish, try tackling the following exercise on this theme.

This invites you to look ahead to a specific situation you may face in your personal or professional life. It then invites you to do the following things.

Describe the specific things you can do to use aspects of mental rehearsal to prepare properly before going into the situation.

Describe the specific benefits of using aspects of mental rehearsal to prepare properly before going into the situation.

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