Through the years I’ve written extensively on the mental aspects of craps and precision shooting. Of all the preparation routines precision shooters employ, none, in my opinion, is more powerful than visualization, or guided imagery.
Visualization is the process of creating a scene in the shooter’s mind of what he wants to happen. The shooter creates mental images, like pictures or movies, which recreate his best performance and/or define his desired performance.
While imagining these scenarios, the shooter touches on much more than the visual elements. His imagery may include kinesthetic (feelings) and auditory (sound) elements as well. With practice, skilled shooters can call up these images again and again – enhancing his achievements through practice that is very much like physical practice. With mental rehearsal, the mind and body become trained to physically perform the imagined skill.
You would not expect to be physically ready to compete in an athletic event without physical practice. The same goes for developing a mental skill such as guided imagery. For most of us, ten to fifteen minutes practice a day will suffice. Here’s a simple guided imagery exercise to get you started on the right foot.
Start out by sitting upright in a comfortable chair. Close your eyes. Breathe slowly and deeply. Visualize your breath being drawn in the nose, up to the top of the head, around and down the spine, and deep into your belly. Then exhale, visualizing the air rising up the front of your chest and out.
Take another deep breath, again visualizing the air moving up into the nose, to the top of the head, around and down the spine, and deep into your belly. Hold your breath for a four count. Then slowly let it out, mentally counting backward. Four, three, two, one. As the rest of the air leaves your body, say “ahhhh” and relax.
Repeat this breathing exercise four times. As you do so, tighten the muscles in your feet, then relax them. Concentrate on feeling the muscles relax. Repeat it again. Tighten the muscles in your calves, relax, feel the relaxation and repeat it again. Progressively relax the muscles of your thighs, your buttocks, your stomach and lower back. Then relax your chest, your upper back, your shoulders and your arms. Last of all, relax your hands, your neck, your face.
Take a deep breath. Hold it for a four count. Let it out counting backward. Four, three, two, one, ahhhh.
Imagine yourself in a favorite peaceful setting. It can be a beach, a forest, or anything. The important thing is to make it a place you’ve been before where you felt relaxed and happy and experienced a great sense of well-being. For this exercise, imagine you’re at the beach. You’re floating on an air mattress in the surf. Overhead, the sky is a giant blue bowl. The sun is warm on your skin and it’s heat penetrates deep within you, adding to your sense of wellness and relaxation. You feel the gentle rise and fall of the ocean. Hear the surf rushing across the sand. Smell the tang the sea and taste the salt on your lips. And as you take another deep breath, hold it, then let it out, your sense of relaxation becomes all encompassing. Four. Three. Two. One. Ahhhh.
Stay in this place for five to ten minutes, adding more sights, sounds, tastes, and feelings as you progressively relax. Experience your day at the beach as vividly as you can, with all of your senses. Then, when you are ready, slowly open your eyes. Lift your arms over your head and stretch. Stand, and if you are physically able, bend over and stretch your back and legs. Then straighten up and shake out your arms, shaking off any remaining negative energy. Then think about what just happened.
Of course, this was just a simple relaxation exercise. But it is also a simple self-hypnosis induction routine. Visualizing a day at the beach was really a tool to aid in getting you to a fully relaxed state. But getting into a relaxed state is only the first step. Once you are adept at getting into a relaxed state, the next step is positive visualization. This is the most important step in developing your mental craps skills. This is where you create vivid positive images. If you want to become a point shooter, visualize yourself hitting point after point after point. See the dealer pushing piles of chips across the table to you. Feel the player next to you clapping you on the back and exchanging high fives. Hear the cheers of the crowd as your point comes back and it’s another hardway. Make the images so vivid and detailed that it is like watching a movie.
Last of all, utilize positive affirmations to reinforce your guided imagery. Tell yourself that you are the best shooter at the table – because you are. Affirm that you are going to double your bankroll this session – because you are. Know that you will have the discipline to quit while you are ahead and walk away a winner – because you will.
Visualization and guided imagery can be a powerful weapon in your precision shooting arsenal. Virtually every athletic training program uses some form of positive visualization as part of their practice routine. Daily use of positive visualization will help rid you of the doubts and fears that plague you when you approach the tables. Remember – each of us has unlimited potential. Visualization and guided imagery is just another way to tap into that potential and use it in a powerful way.
Just remember the magic word. “Ahhhhh.”