When I was with the cadre at the SEAL sniper school, we often went outside of the military for ways to enhance our instruction. One lesson we did not have to go far to find, and one learned by former Prisoners of War (POWs) is the power of flow with regards to visualization. Many POWs used visualization to escape the horrors of confinement and torture—even more so after Miss Fonda visited one day and mocked them for NVA propaganda. Not cool.
What did we learn from them?
My friend Sohaib Kureshi is a Neurosurgeon in San Diego and I’ve talked to him about visualization and its performance enhancements at length. I think (while I’m no brain surgeon) he would agree with me when I say that you can practice and get good at something without physically doing it. This helps if you have a certain degree of physical learning already complete ( e.g. you have some foundation to build off of—like you already know how to ski but you can practice getting better in your head).
I’ve experienced the success of visualization first hand. I started implementing “flow” and additional principles of Lanny Basham’s Mental Management Program into our advanced marksmanship sniper training and started seeing immediate results. Students were scoring perfect shooting scores for the first time. This is not an easy task. To read more about the SEAL program and its qualification parameters you check it out at Becoming an US Navy SEAL Sniper.
When I wrestled as a kid, we would rehearse moves over and over in our heads. I wasn’t aware that we were programming ourselves and building confidence in our heads to win and experiencing winning builds self-image.
Where do POWs come in?
One POW in particular practiced playing all his favorite golf courses in his head while in captivity. He would close his eyes and shoot perfect rounds of golf. For five years he did this and when he was finally liberated from camp and back at North Island San Diego, CA, he shot 18 holes par without picking up a club in five years (not to mention he was physically a mess).
Flow is very real. I’m not a scientist, but I know the value of it first hand.
Tip 1: Students and children are like blank hard drives. Don’t tell them all the things you see them doing wrong (what’s the point?), when you can tell them positive corrections and the RIGHT things to do that will correct their form or technique. If you go the other route, then you are programming them to fail. Give positive instruction and commands (e.g. “don’t strike out” vs. “hit it out of the park, Johnny!”) and you’ll see instant results. Use it on yourself and experience the same.
Tip 2: There’s a great book called The Tree of Knowledge written by Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. Read it if you’re interested in flow, they have some great stuff on Autopoiesis and Cognition if you’re into that sort of thing—I am.
Here’s a great article below on flow that I encourage you to check out.
Brandon is SOFREP’s Executive Media Director and author of The Red Circle.
Whether you want to smash a forehand like Federer, or just be an Xbox hero, there is a shocking short cut to getting the brain of an expert.
I’m close to tears behind my thin cover of sandbags as 20 screaming, masked men run towards me at full speed, strapped into suicide bomb vests and clutching rifles. For every one I manage to shoot dead, three new assailants pop up from nowhere. I’m clearly not shooting fast enough, and panic and incompetence are making me continually jam my rifle.
My salvation lies in the fact that my attackers are only a video, projected on screens to the front and sides. It’s the very simulation that trains US troops to take their first steps with a rifle, and everything about it has been engineered to feel like an overpowering assault. But I am failing miserably. In fact, I’m so demoralised that I’m tempted to put down the rifle and leave.
Then they put the electrodes on me.
I am in a lab in Carlsbad, California, in pursuit of an elusive mental state known as “flow” – that feeling of effortless concentration that characterizes outstanding performance in all kinds of skills.
Read the rest here….
This article previously published on SOFREP 2.22.12
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