The best athletes do it daily, before every practice, before every game, and even after; average players don’t. George Mumford, who was the “meditation coach” for Phil Jackson’s NBA teams, and wrote the book, The Mindful Athlete, calls it “being in flow.” Writers, actors, and artists do it too. The “it” in question is visualization, or your ability to see success in your mind, before you do an important activity. When athletes are “in the zone,” they say that the ball they use is bigger and moving slower. Baseball players who use visualization techniques swear they can see the stitches spinning toward them at the plate. Football and basketball players hear the crowd go quiet in their minds and the ball is perfectly frozen for a split-second, before it leaves or enters their hands.
For them, the process of visualization starts in a quiet room, alone or with their teammates, where they internally map out what the steps to success in their sport looks like to them. With their eyes closed and their focus on full attention, they walk through the process of being skilled and successful: “Here’s me at the free throw line. I bounce the ball three times. My hands are in perfect position. My shooting hand bends perfectly and the ball moves in a perfect arc to the rim and through the net.” Repeating this process, over and over in their minds, becomes a part of their off-the-field routine, so when they get on the field or court, it seems like “déjà vu all over again.”
The key to visualization success is exactly that: seeing success, never failure. Top PGA golfer Dustin Johnson would never start a visualization exercise by saying, “Here’s me shanking one off into the woods. Here’s me missing a three-foot putt. Here’s me heaving my clubs into the lake.” Visualization is always about doing it perfectly, so that your mind and body memorize the visual and “haptic” (kinesthetic, hands-on) movements when you need to be your best.
When it comes to success in concealed carry, we’re talking life-and-death decisions, often made in less than five seconds. You don’t have all the time in the world to stop and think about where your gun is on your body, what it takes to draw it safely, quickly, and on target, and be ready to fire or not fire. Those actions better be part of your muscle memory and they need to be done in your mind and cemented through hundreds of physical repetitions, until you don’t “think,” you just “do.”
Here’s how the process can work: once per day, when it’s quiet and you’re alone, sit and close your eyes and spend five to ten minutes walking your mind through your process from concealed carry to full draw on target. You’ll have your own drawing method; here’s mine: “Clear my clothing; grip my handgun securely; make a smooth, safe, and fast draw from my holster, finger out of the trigger until I’m on target and ready to fire; move my off hand to my gun hand and bring them together in my usual perfect grip; get both eyes on my target, and then quickly align my sight picture, with my focus on my front sight clear and the target now slightly blurred; my finger is on the trigger as I make the decision if I need to fire. Repeat.”
You can also create a similar visualization process for success at the range, involving your sight portrait, breath control, hand positioning, grip strength, stance, trigger finger positioning and pressure, resetting your trigger each time, and making adjustments as you see what you’re hitting on the target.
And while visualization works, you’ll need another tool to make it fully operational: an anchor. Anchors are small physical points that help you activate your mind and body after you’ve already thought about your process and practiced it. We already have a lot of anchors in our lives, based on things we touch, taste, see, smell, or hear. If you smell an apple pie and it makes you think of your grandma’s house, that’s an anchor. Grabbing a baseball could be an anchor to your childhood. Some anchors are positive (seeing a happy puppy run over for petting) and others are negative (re-seeing a bad car accident you witnessed every time you go through that same intersection).
So for concealed carry or at the range, your touch anchor might kick in when you first grip your gun, or when both of your hands come together on your pistol to create that feeling of strength and solidarity, or by quickly blinking your eyes to create that moment when your sight picture becomes clear and focused. You’ve moved yourself into the Shooting Zone.
But to stay in the Shooting Zone, you must manage your breathing, especially during any potential armed confrontation. You can visualize stress-managed breathing as well. All stress-related breathing is short, shallow, and rapid. Stress-managed breathing is long, deep, and slow. Skilled shooters learn to control their breathing at the range and especially in the uncontrolled environment out in the streets. You cannot function effectively if your breathing is out of control. Shallow breathing creates a vicious circle; the shorter your breaths, the more of them you need to take.
Without good oxygen control, your body shifts into fight-or-flight mode faster than you want. You get tunnel vision and tunnel hearing, as the blood leaves your brain and moves to your extremities. None of this is good for your judgment, reactions, or safety. When your life is on the line, breathe in a cycle: inhale, hold briefly, exhale, hold briefly, inhale, hold, etc. Practice this type of slow and deep “combat breathing” when things are safe around you, concentrating on the length of each breath, and spending a moment on those transitions between the end of each inhalation and the start of the next exhalation.
Start your visualization and stress breathing practice sessions with five minutes at a time, work up to ten, on all the days of the week that end in the letter y.
What do you think of this post on Visualization Techniques ? Let us know in the comment section below.