Major James Nesmeth was a golfer. Not a very good one, mind you. He shot in the high 90s, which would categorize him as “a hacker” in clubhouse terms. He stopped playing for seven years, but even without picking up a club, his game somehow improved. In fact, it didn’t improve just a little. It improved by an incredible 20 strokes! During his first game after the seven-year break, he shot a 74!
What makes the story even more remarkable is that Major Nesmeth spent that seven-year break as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Shot down over the China Sea on February 3, 1966, he was captured and imprisoned in a 6 ft x 9 ft cement cell. To prevent himself from losing his mind, he imagined each day that he was playing golf at his favorite course. In intricate detail, he mentally replayed the familiar scenes hundreds of times – going to the closet to get out his golf bag and shoes, cleaning his shoes in preparation for the day, paying the greens fees, smelling the clean-cut grass, choosing his club, setting his stance, checking his grip, swinging his club, watching the ball as if sailed through the air, walking the course, making the putt…over and over again.
In his mind, Major Nesmeth played every hole perfectly. He never shot worse than par for seven years. He imagined every detail, every smell, every sound, every sight. When he was finally released seven years later, his body responded to the memorized routine. His body achieved what his mind had rehearsed.
The technique Major Nesmeth used is called visualization, and it’s a powerful tool for reaching your goals. Visualizing yourself being successful helps to rewrite the scripts in your brain that dictate your self-image. Your self-image is a powerful force that creates a self-fulfilling prophecy in many areas of your life. When people who have a low self-image experience success, they find it hard to believe. It doesn’t match their mental scripts. As a result, they often sabotage their success to retreat back to the comfort of what they believe to be true.
Even if you have a positive self-image overall, there are areas in your life where your confidence is low. By visualizing yourself doing well in these areas, you can start to redefine your self-limiting beliefs. The more detailed your visualization, the more powerful it is to your subconscious mind. It takes practice, but it pays big dividends.
Give it a try in any area where you are experiencing performance that’s, let’s say…..sub par.
(Story Sources – Unknown author, “18 Holes in His Mind.” Published by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen in A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Also – Excellence in Leadership by Richard Tosti)