Everybody remembers the 2006 bestselling book, The Secret. The not-so-secret secret revolved around envisioning success, then manifesting it through the power of positive thought and repetition. While success may be a little more nuanced than just believing it, there is something to be said about reinforcing your skills with the power of a positive attitude.
When it comes to baseball, I am strong believer that it is a 30 percent physical game and 70 percent mental game, and while we can monitor and gauge a player’s physical game, it is harder to accurately measure mental toughness.
We all fall victim to that negative inner dialogue, when things don’t go the way we had planned or we fail at a task we especially wanted to excel at. For young baseball players, this negative self-talk is particularly detrimental because it slowly erodes their self-confidence.
The power of perception when it comes to baseball was evidenced in a 2005 study that found that softball players who had big hits envisioned the ball as being larger than it was.
“Perspective and perception play a big role in what we do and how well we do it,” wrote Jessica Witt, a cognitive psychologist and author of the report. “If you visualize yourself hitting better, maybe you’ll see the ball as bigger.”
As Witt’s study concluded, in order to achieve the results they wanted, softball players literally see the ball as larger. You’re probably asking yourself, well how do I trick my brain into seeing the ball as bigger?
The trick is, there is no trick. When it comes down to it, it is all about training and nurturing your mental game.
“Baseball is impossible without psychology: impossible to play, and impossible to appreciate fully as a fan,” writes psychologist Mike Stadler, who authored The Psychology of Baseball. “The physical nature of the game, and especially the speed of some of the things that have to happen means that you just have to have a lot of mental preparation or it would be impossible.”
This means that in order to build your mental game, you must diligently and routinely practice and repeat your physical game. That is what’s called muscle memory.
You have seen those plays that are so lightning fast you wonder how on earth athletes can possibly think that quickly. They aren’t, in the traditional sense. In fact their body is so trained and refined that they automatically perform the play with little thought. What needs to be done is so ingrained in the athlete’s mind and body that they perform the action at the simple prompting of the ball’s movement.
When the Kansas City Royals won the World Series in 2014, the team credited their ability to envision group success as one of the main factors that led to their 4-game sweep.
“When we sign our players long-term, they all want to win,” said David Glass, the team’s owner. “These guys are the most competitive people on the planet and they want to be a part of a winning team, a winning culture.”
To achieve success in baseball or any endeavor, you must first envision yourself as able and worthy to reach your goal.