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.