Surrealism had a great effect on me because then I realized that the imagery in my mind wasn't insanity. Surrealism is my reality." - John Lennon
There are four factors that impact the quality of mental imagery: perspective, control, multiple sense, and speed. I will describe these four factors to help you tap into a powerful tool to take you to another level.
Imagery Perspective. This refers to where the "imagery lens" is when you perform imagery. When I first started preparing for competitions I would buy all sorts of bodybuilding movies. I would watch them to prepare my mind on what I needed to go through to achieve my goal. Sort of like a football player watching film before the next game to prepare for his opponent. This is an external perspective that involves seeing yourself from outside your body. The internal perspective involves seeing yourself from inside your body looking out, as if you were actually performing the sport. I achieved a new level of mind-set when I began to sit quietly and imagine myself going through my workout before I even got to the gym. Sweat falling from my face, every repetition done with perfect form and each exercise done to its maximum capacity. Research indicates that one perspective is not better than the other. But each individual should find what works best for them.
Control. Silence in the room, my mental imagery is full tilt. I'm about to attempt my best lift of 315 lbs on bench press for 6 repetitions but at my 4th repetition I put the weight up and did not finish the last two repetitions. Why is this? This is imagery control, which is how well you're able to imagine what you want to imagine. It's common for athletes to perform poorly in their imagery and it often reflects a fundamental lack of confidence in their ability to perform successfully. If you make a mistake during imagery, do not let it go by. Press your "imagery playback" and edit the imagery video until you do it correctly.
Multiple Senses. This is not called visualization because it is more than just visual. Good imagery involves the multi-sensory reproduction of the actual sport experience. When I utilize mental imagery I picture the way I feel before the training session, the smell of the gym, the noises around me as other people are achieving their goals and it makes the experience real. The most powerful part of mental imagery is feeling it in your body. It really ingrained new technical, mental skills and habits. You see world-class athletes do this all the time before competitions.
Speed. The ability to adjust the speed of your imagery will enable you to use imagery to improve different aspects of your sports performance. When I would use imagery to think about the 315 lbs bench press I would always perform the movement as slow as possible to make sure that I would be using the correct form and every muscle fiber was involved to move the weight up and down. When you first start to work on technique in your imagery, slow the imagery video, frame by frame if necessary, to see yourself executing the skill correctly. As you see yourself performing well in slow motion, increase the speed of your imagery until you can perform well at "real-time" speed.
I hope that the four factors that go into mental imagery have helped you in some form or fashion. They really resonate with me and I love to share information that helps me in hopes that it will help someone else.