Archery has Gone Mental: Part 2: Imagery
I hope your training is going well so far and that you made your STRONG/WEAK column this past week. If you still have not made the column list, then go back to Part 1 and be sure you do it. This process is in steps and in the end the parts will all come together. So do yourself a favor and don’t cheat, just give it a try and do it!
Bow Arm * Anchor
Anchor * Release
Grip * Crowds
Equipment/Gear * 3-spot target
Exploring the Imagination
Everything you do starts with an image in your head. That image you have of yourself doing anything is called imagery. Imagery is a picture or moving picture you have of something you want to act upon. The difference between imagery and dreams is that in dreams you are not always in control of what you see. Imagery is a conscious effort to see yourself doing something and is on purpose.
The concept of imagery is very simple. However it is the beginning of everything you actually do and if not taken seriously it can hinder what you are trying to accomplish. If you try to imagine yourself jumping off a cliff and then picture yourself with wings and flying, then you are just day dreaming and not using imagery correctly. It is important to understand that when using imagery you must picture everything you do as being completely real and not be unrealistic with it.
Every person is unique in the way they imagine the world around them. Some people have active imaginations and can picture themselves as Superman flying around and looking down at their house. Others struggle with an imagination like that and can’t even see themselves in their mind doing anything but what they already know they can do, like walking down stairs.
The difference between the two types is night and day, but by learning how to use imagery correctly it doesn’t matter what type you fall under. If you have an active imagination you actually struggle with imagery because you tend to lose focus and see yourself doing something unrealistic. While others dream and picture themselves in reality as seen through their eyes.
Active imaginations are great with imagery because you have the ability to see not only yourself but your surroundings as well as one image. You can easily change the background of where you are just by thinking it. This is a good thing, but needs to be controlled.
Have someone else read this part to you right now. Close your eyes while they read this to you.
Picture yourself flying through the air like superman. There are clouds all around with blue sky above you. Your arms are out to your side and your legs straight. Your head is up looking straight ahead. You lean to turn, right then left. Then you do a barrel role! Now try to picture yourself and what you look like. What color shoes are you wearing? (If you are the one reading this to them, did their body move to fly while in front of you? Did their head move down to look at their feet?)
Now put your feet back on the ground, we have stuff to learn.
When you were asked what color shoes are you wearing, did you stop flying and look down at your actual feet? Or did you keep flying and look at your feet in the air? If you looked at your feet while flying, how did you look at them? If you saw your shoes by looking at them then you are viewing in the first person. If you looked at your shoes from outside your body then you saw them as third person. Following so far?
Now ask the person who read that to you whether or not you just sat there or if you moved your head while looking at your feet.
If you just sat there and did not move it means that you are able to picture yourself doing something including a task without moving at all. Congratulations! You are able to perform imagery in public and not embarrass yourself!
For everyone else all it means is that you use your body to complete what you picture in your head. There is no right or wrong, just whether or not you don’t mind on lookers when doing it at the airport.
How to Visualize, You
Imagining yourself is not easy for everyone to do. Everyone can close their eyes and visualize seeing something from their own perspective. The hard part is being able to close your eyes and picture yourself from someone else’s perspective and not lose focus.
As an exercise to learn how to visualize yourself I have found that the easiest way is to have someone take a picture of you while shooting. Now take that picture and look at it. Look at every single inch of everything in it. Hold that picture in front of you and stare at it without blinking. Do this for about 5-10 seconds. Without blinking or looking away, close your eyes and visualize the picture. Don’t move, keep holding the picture, or at least don’t move the picture. After about 3-5 seconds open your eyes and look at the picture again. Do this over and over until when you close your eyes you can see the picture without your eyes open.
This is a way to train your mind to see what you want it to see. By memorizing the picture your mind is able to see it as if you were actually looking at the picture with your eyes open. This may take some of you a while to learn how to do it, but this is crucial for learning imagery.
Once you learn this, assuming it does not come naturally to you, you will be able to close your eyes and see yourself like a picture. If you struggle with being able to see yourself from different angles in your head, then have more pictures taken of you while shooting from different angles. I have found that making a video of yourself is the fastest way to see yourself in all angles.
What you want to be able to do is close your eyes and see yourself shooting. You want to be able to see yourself as if you were a camera from all angles. Being able to visualize yourself in your mind and moving around yourself is the goal. If you get frustrated trying to do it, just watch the video of yourself again and see what the camera sees. Once you can see yourself in that way, elaborate on it. Try to move your view to above yourself in your mind, looking down on yourself.
Being able to visualize every part of you is not always easy and takes practice. Once you are able to do this however, you will be able to see yourself in a different way and it will begin to help you understand your form and your surroundings better.
Once you grasp being able to see yourself and your surroundings with your eyes closed, you can begin to use imagery. Imagery is an ability to see anything you want from first person to third person point of views and change the picture you see to how you want it to be.
Assuming you can do this now, close your eyes and take a look at the field you are shooting on. Picture everything around you as you wish. The sky, the grass or dirt, the target, the trees, the wind, everything you would see when you shoot. You can use imagery in your mind to change the field and things like weather or time of day. You can picture yourself shooting on a rainy day and visualize the water running down the riser. Imagery can go even further with your senses and you can learn to smell the rain or feel it on your skin.
Imagery is a key ingredient to a stronger mental game because it allows you to create a perfect picture of what you should be doing and to find ways to fix problems before ever shooting a single real shot. If you feel comfortable in an environment before ever showing up to that place you will already feel more confident.
Never been to a specific tournament or location and feel anxious about it? Use imagery to calm yourself down. Find pictures on the web of previous tournaments at that location. Study the pictures or video. Look at how it is laid out, the grass or carpet if indoor, look at the targets and lighting, and find everything you can to picture yourself standing there. Imagine being the one who took the pictures or video. Close your eyes and look around the venue. Get a feel of the place. Walk around a bit in your head. Go stand on the shooting line and fire a shot real fast. Don’t worry, no one will mind.
You can even go online to see average weather of the venue or find the weather for that day you will be there. You will know if it is 70deg with sun or 90deg with rain. Visualize yourself on the shooting line knowing what it looks like and what the weather is like. Visualize and imagine the perfect shot. Picture how perfect you release the string and how strong your bow arm is. Visualize everything as if you were actually there right now.
Take a WEAK column item and work on it in your head. Visualize yourself doing it the right way, perfect. Picture yourself shooting with perfection. Work on it in your mind until you just want to pick up the bow and just do it right away. Build confidence before you even stand on the shooting line. Use imagery to curb your fears. Shoot strong shots in your head.
The mind has a wonderful way of helping us correct physical struggles. If we imagine it enough the mind will start to help our physical bodies perform exactly the way we picture ourselves. You can cut WEAK issues time in half by using imagery to correct the problems.
By using imagery, which you can do anywhere at any time, you can learn to shoot an entire tournament before you even get there. Imagery is nothing more than picturing the perfect you. Anyone can do it with some practice and advanced practice will let you close your eyes anywhere and shoot all your shots perfectly while feeling the rain on your skin and the push of the wind on your back. Remember not to day dream and keep it realistic. Feel confident when visualizing yourself, and always visualize hitting the X!
You want to use imagery before shooting every real shot. Picture your shot process and how you want to execute the shot before nocking the arrow. Then shoot it exactly how you imagined.
What are you imagining right now? For me I am using imagery to see myself preparing my gear with my Archery Backpack before heading to the field.
Weekly Challenge: Use imagery to help move a WEAK column item over. Remember that moving a WEAK item over is about confidence and confidence is all in your head.
See you next week when I take you on a journey with your subconscious mind.