What is your chess dream? Which performance would you like to achieve one day? Which Elo would represent an accomplishment to you?
As explained in a previous article, all these objectives and hopes you have in mind can refrain you from attaining tangible results. It is more fruitful to develop your own weekly process of chess improvement and then act on it routinely instead of focusing on the end result.
To help you make your chess success more concrete, visualization is definitely a good starting point. When you visualize a scene, your brain tells your body to act in a way consistent to what you imagined.
As simple as it might sound, all you have to do is mentally create your chess accomplishment before it can manifest in a physical form.
It looks too good to be true
Deliberate creation of images in one’s mind looks simple, but does it really work?
Probably like most of you after reading this introduction, I actually had doubts when I first heard about visualization. But for 5 minutes a day, I said to myself it wouldn’t hurt to try. And this article was a good opportunity to check if experiments had been done on the subject.
So while searching, I found this 30-day visualization study which once and for all convinced me to keep going.
Three groups of random people were selected to highlight their skills at free throws. This first group (the control group) only shot free throws on Day 1 and Day 30 of the experiment. The second group shot free throws every day for 30 minutes. The third and last group didn’t practice from day 2 to 29, but was instead asked to visualize shooting free throws for half an hour.
After tracking their success on day 1 and then on final day 30, the control group showed logically no improvement. The second group marked improvement as a result of their practice. But what surprised the most is that group 3 improved almost exactly as much as group 2, suggesting that the brain doesn’t know the difference between physically doing something and imagining it.
Define your vision
As a chess player, visualizing your chess sessions for 30 minutes a day is not relevant. However, here are 4 ways you can use the power of your imagination to sustain your progress.
- Chess training: in my last article, I gave you a method to define your weekly chess training. If you haven’t created it yet, it is time to get to work. Once your program is established, you will be ready to visualize it more clearly.
- Playing and winning a game: it will boost your optimism and confidence by seeing yourself play calmly and precisely. Check the details of the game as well as the victorious ending.
- Non-chess habits: How and when you will do some sport, your new healthy lifestyle, sessions of meditation… Everything which helps you be more energetic and focused is good for chess. You can consequently include all these practices in your vision as well.
- Perfect match day: You can also figure out what the perfect match day looks like. How you will prepare or the morning routine you will use to get ready for the fight are both good examples.
What is crucial here is to be as specific as possible. I suggest you think about and write in advance the scenarios you will imagine to be sure you include all the details leading to your chess success.
How to practice visualization
Are you ready to go? Note that 5 minutes a day should do the trick.
Find some quiet place and sit comfortably. Start the timer, breathe deeply and close your eyes to start visualizing each scenario one by one.
Imagine and truly live them. See yourself engaged in the positive actions you’ll do constantly and use all your senses and feelings to make it as real as possible.
You can see but also feel, hear, touch, even taste and smell every detail of your vision. From the water you drink during the game to the victory hand shaking in the end. Everything counts.
I personally go over all these steps every day.
From what I read, many successful people such as Michael Phelps use their creative energy to engrave a vision of success in their minds.
Psychologically, taking a step in the right direction seems to also improve your motivation, coordination and concentration abilities, while reducing fear and anxiety.
If you are still not convinced, don’t forget 5 minutes won’t hurt.
I challenge you to see your own chess perspectives for a month before your next game or tournament. If you didn’t feel any change afterwards, you can still choose to stop.