What is mental rehearsal? Going through the steps of a specific task/goal in your mind. Visualize each step; by visualize, I mean see the full movie in your head–not as an observer, but as a participant (first-person perspective for the gamers!). And no shortcuts–go through the entire task as much as you can anticipate it!
The best example of mental rehearsal I can think of involves athletes–think of golfers, basketball players shooting free throws, gymnasts, divers. If you watch them prior to competition, you can often tell they are visualizing their performances–they block out stimuli and run through routines in their heads. Even more interesting, they often do this after they compete, particularly if there was an error in their performance. This is a retrospective version of mental rehearsal–they are cognitively “fixing” the error in their minds, which means they focus on the correct way to perform the task, not the mistake. This also helps them avoid associating that task/their performance with failure.
Studies show that a combination of physical practice and mental rehearsal yields the best results. How can you use mental rehearsal? Here are some ideas:
Job interview, date, business meeting, presentation, or performance of any sort–visualize yourself going through the process and feeling calm and confident. If you can anticipate specifics (an anecdote to share in a job interview, your speech in a presentation) practice these out loud in addition to visualizing yourself performing at your best.
If something goes poorly during the actual performance/task, visualize how you would have liked the performance to go, then move on. We all know what happens to athletes when they can’t move past a mistake, so don’t dwell on what went wrong.
Here’s a link to a more in-depth article on mental rehearsal: “Head Games” on wright.edu.