Picture Perfect – How Mental Imagery Can Help You

Mental imagery is an often overlooked aspect of improvement and learning. When looking to improve, most seek to better their mechanical skills, snap judgment and knowledge pool. While these are all areas that should be worked on, imagining what you can do to better yourself and picturing it is just as important as any of these. If you can’t picture in your mind, without assistance, how something should look and yourself doing it – how will you be able to actually do it? In this article I’m going to go over mental imagination and how it can improve your game and more.

Mental Imagery?

I threw that term around a bit, and it can be a bit vague. Are you supposed to have pictures in your head? Imagine scenarios that could happen? Project and see into the future like a demon time travel wizard, David Blaine? Unless you can actually see into the future, I mean I want you to play a movie in your head. Close your eyes and imagine what it is you want to do. At first, the images you come up with will be brief glimpses, but I am at the point where I play a full-fledged scenario out in my head entirely. This can be applied to anything you want to do whether it’s perfecting your form lifting weights to envisioning your penalty kick soaring in a wicked arc over the defender’s heads or how perfect the filing system that you spent all month organizing will look.

Monkey See

Obviously, the most critical part of this process is watching replays, videos, gameplay, tournaments or anything relevent to what you want to be better at. You cannot picture perfect serving form in tennis if you’ve never seen a match being played. Similarly, you can’t picture vaulting over Baron wall with a Malphite ultimate and stealing it and picking up kills if you didn’t know Malphite’s ultimate went through walls. Fortunately, League is a very open game with a huge community that shares their accomplishments.  This makes amazing plays more accessible to the casual user, enabling them to envision a stronger play. The Malphite example is a facepalm to most people because we’ve all seen examples of epic Baron steals on youtube ad infinitum. But, imagine someone who doesn’t ever watch videos and replays – they may not think the ult goes through walls.

Monkey Do

So, how do you get this mental reel going? More importantly, what do you picture and why? Let’s take a look at the first question – how to get this going. The best way to get the imagery going is to first find out what you want to accomplish. Then, once you have a goal in mind, find out how it’s done, what it looks like or think about how you’d go about it. This two-part approach will get you the results you’re looking for quickly. Let’s take a look at an example to solidify this imagery:

You’re playing Ahri in mid. The enemy has an Nautilus jungle and you’re laning against a Zyra. You’ve done harassment and whatnot to Zyra and now Nautilus is coming for you.  But you’ve seen this before a hundred times. Activating your ultimate you dodge off to the side of the anchor, tossing a charm to bring Zyra closer and an orb hitting at the same time. The snare flies out and you dodge back, away from Nautilus. Zyra is now retreating and you zip forward with your final burst, catching another orb for the kill and flashing out of Nautilus’ second anchor flying at your face, a clean kill.

She seems a bit on the angry side.

While I might have a taste for the dramatic there, that scenario will arise and if you can picture it, you’re more prepared than not. If you don’t imagine using your character in unique and effective ways, it will be hard to implement it on the fly. This example is a lot more detail than you may originally expect, but when you’re at the loading screen let your mind come up with scenarios. What happens if their Ashe fires an arrow up or if you are going for a kill and the jungler pops out? How about when top roams down or when you go to steal their blue. Picture not only the actions there, but also the reactions and throw scenarios together.  You may mess up, they may react differently, but either way you’re already more prepared for the situation.

This can be applied to whatever you’d like in League. Picture using a Flash/Shurelyia’s into Skarner grab and dragging them to their death. You’re Alistar and no carry dies on your watch! I will obliterate their jungler as Shyvana, I can picture them now doing their red and crapping themselves when a dragon flies over the wall. I can see the gold flying after every minion kill – didn’t even miss one on bottom lane. That Rumble ult dropped on top of their team, slowing their escape as I maniacally laugh chasing them with a flamethrower.  Get creative and put a video to your goals.

Feel It

That’s right, feel it. You watch the hail mary with a minute on the clock in slow motion flying to the wide receiver – touchdown and the crowd goes wild. Doublelift pops his ultimate, Tumbles around sniping off their support and FLASHES OVER THE ULT FOR THE DOUBLE, OH MY GOURDDDDD. The surge of adrenaline, the rush of excitement and the knowledge that you did something truly spectacular – that’s what I want you to feel.  It will keep your thirst for the amazing going and you have to feel it whether you’re in front of 100,000 people or alone in your basement at 3 AM in your underwear. Feeling the emotional and physical rush of doing something awesome is unmatched, so get your taste.

Conclusion

Running a movie through your head about what you can and will accomplish will absolutely vault your game to the next level. It’s important to see what you can accomplish and then do it. You shouldn’t be picturing the whole 45 minute game in your head, but pick out that five seconds or so of actions and reactions and you will be a lot stronger for it. Most importantly, remember the glory and the feeling of power from living out your mental image. It will keep you coming back for more.

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