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It Helped the Eagles Coach Get to the Super Bowl. What Can Visualization Do for You?

Mindset Made Simple Tip #134 – I Watch or listen HERE and subscribe while you are there!

Did you see it last night?

I don’t mean Rihanna’s half-time show or even Patrick Mahomes' incredibly gutsy performance.

I’m talking about the National Anthem and Eagles’ Head Coach, Nick Sirianni’s response to it! If you missed it, HERE it is.

Why am I focused on this…a grown man crying?

First let me say that from where I sit, there is no shame in crying during the National Anthem. I am a habitual Anthem crier. I know there is a lot of emotion surrounding the playing of the National Anthem and for me, it has always been a tear-jerker.

My focus on Coach Sirianni’s emotion is not a judgment of his response, it is a celebration of his habit of visualization. Before Chris Stapleton's rendition (despite my general aversion to country music) the commentators told the story of Sirianni’s habit of listening to or imagining Whitney Houston’s iconic rendition and picturing himself at the Super Bowl!

As my dad said as we listened and watched the Anthem unfold, “dreams do come true!”

For a guy from a little DIII school in Ohio called Mount Union (winning three National Championships, of course) to the highest honor in the game, that’s a pretty cool dream to realize!

How much did this visualization matter to his success? Steve Magness, author of Do Hard Things talked recently about his experience in running the mile on The Mark Divine Show podcast (episode 390). Steve said he was a 4:17 mile runner in high school until he began to “see and feel” his race.

He pictured every aspect of it, the prerace feelings and emotions than on to every aspect of the race in vivid detail. He mentioned that he paid special attention to the struggle he knew he will feel as he pushed his body past what his mind thought possible. He embraced the discomfort and imagined himself fighting through it. He attributes his 4:01 mile time, which put him at 6th fastest in the country, to this practice.

Study after study shows the benefits of visualization. Whether we are imagining our future successes, or upcoming races, preparing to present to a client or practicing to perform on stage with a full orchestra and choir with whom we have practiced only once, mounds of research show that “living” our performance in our mind’s eye performs the same function and provides the same or improved utility as the actual physical practice of the skill.

Connolly & Williamson in their book, Musical Excellence: Strategies and Techniques to Enhance Performance simply define visualization as “cognitive or imaginary rehearsal of a physical skill without overt muscular movement”. They go on to say that this practice is used to create or recreate an experience that is similar in as many ways as possible to the physical skill, event or performance.

I mention visualizing a performance with a full orchestra and choir a few lines ago because I got to experience this on Saturday as we listened to a national recording artist sing with the Akron Symphony and the Gospel Meets Symphony choir. I am confident the soloist was not in on many if any rehearsals. This means she, the orchestra and the choir all spent time imagining what it would feel like, sound like and perform like when she joined live, most likely for the first time.

Music doesn’t change. The score doesn’t change. But the emotion, the tempo and the environment does. Being there before they were there made for an electric performance…and another tear-jerker!

To me, the operative word in Connolly & Williamson’s instructions is “experience”. And that “experience” allows for full emersion in the performance. It isn’t about just “seeing” what we want. It is about feeling or pre-experiencing our performance. It’s about living it before we live it.

It isn’t just about imagining standing on the sidelines as some superstar sings the National Anthem. It’s about feeling the emotion of getting there. It’s about reverse engineering the steps to get there and watching ourselves do what “that person”, that future person did to stand there and be overcome with joy and humility.

We are, in effect, practicing success. We are practicing what we want to do. We are focusing on what we MUST DO to get the results we dream about. It’s about taking each step before we get to take each step. It’s a preview that primes our mind and body to take those steps with more comfort and confidence…because we already took them…many times!

Remember the fMRI picture I have shared many times that shows how the brain activates when we see something with our eyes and when we see something with our mind’s eye? It’s the same! More of the same is found when looking at activity in the auditory and motor systems involved in performance. CRAZY!

But just like anything, for this tool to work, we must practice it. You see things all the time. Your brain is wired to use this. Now it’s time to make it an intentional practice.

You don’t need 20 minutes in solitude. You need a few minutes…and sometimes just a few seconds…and a simple plan (and I’m always available to teach you and your team the nitty gritty!)

  1. Decide exactly what you want. You are the director of your mind movie. Make sure it looks exactly the way you want it to look…down to every detail.

  2. Be sure you see yourself performing at your best…confident, capable and succeeding.

  3. LIVE the experience. We don’t do anything that matters without emotion. Feel it, smell it, taste it, hear it and, of course, see it with VIVID detail.

  4. Mix it up. Watch yourself overcome and be the hero. And watch yourself dominate from start to finish. Experience the flow and the fight through. Sometimes things go perfectly. Most of the time they don’t and we must deal with the reality of pressure, adjusting, etc. This isn’t about pretending you will be without nerves or doubt or that everything will be perfect all the time. It is about responding to those with action and trust in your preparation and skill.

  5. Even though we must acknowledge pressure, stress, etc., be sure you ultimately see yourself performing at your best…confident, capable and succeeding.

  6. Keep it simple. Replay highlights. Rescript things you can improve.

Visualization isn’t hard. Making it a habit is hard. Focusing with intention on what we want to see is hard.

This is a tool we have access to 24/7. The benefits are endless. How will you start your practice and help those you lead to do the same?

Where do you see yourself? Are you in front of a symphony, in front of the board room, at the NCAA tournament, at the line in a crucial situation or at the Super Bowl standing on the sidelines?

Wherever you want to go, go there before you get there. Then get there with more confidence and preparation by using your mind’s eye to prime your brain and your body to be your best!

Manage and “live” the moments, the ones that are about to come and the ones you have!


P.S. I’d love to help your team learn the vital tool of visualization. I have a three-series session that can help take your team to the next level. Contact me today at or call/text 234-206-0946 and let’s add this tool to your arsenal!

Julie Jones

Mental Performance Coach

SSB Performance • 234-206-0946


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