Mental rehearsal has been proven to enhance the effectiveness of actual practice and acquired skills. Whether you’re an athlete getting ready for that big game, an artist preparing for a concert, a businessman anticipating an important meeting, or a valedictorian about to give a commencement speech, having a successful experience in your mind beforehand greatly increases your chances of a positive outcome. And perhaps the best way to rehearse mentally – but the least explored – is the art of lucid dreaming.
The Ultimate Mental Rehearsal
Sports psychologists have been telling their clients about mental rehearsal for a long time now. How many times have golf commentators on television told us that the player going through his pre-shot routine on the 12th tee at Augusta National is visualizing a successful outcome – seeing himself executing a smooth swing, finishing in balance, striking the ball cleanly and sending it sailing over the water hazard to a safe spot on the green, leaving himself a makeable, uphill putt for birdie? Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way, does it? But anyone who has played golf, never mind golf under extreme pressure, knows how incredibly difficult it is. Top pros are looking for any edge they can get over their competition, and they are obviously willing to pay for their psychologists’ advice.
Mental practice can be “perfect practice,” boosting confidence and reducing stress better than a physical practice session containing many failures. But when combined with lucid dreaming, there is much more to it. Lucid dreaming describes the ability to become consciously aware in the dream state – aware that you are in fact dreaming and aware that you can actually influence the course of your dreams. Why is this so important to mental rehearsal? Because, as explained by Dr. Stephen LaBerge of Stanford University, the activity of the brain during a dreamed event is identical to its activity during the actual event. The neuronal pathways and connections that one needs for actual performance can therefore be developed during dreams. This adds an entirely new dimension to the process of skill acquisition.
So How Can You Mentally Rehearse in Your Dreams?
Ironically, lucid dreaming is itself a skill that you have to acquire through practice, and a key part of that learning process is repeatedly telling yourself that you can become consciously aware while still dreaming – a kind of mental practice to assist mental actions! For most people, this is not a simple process, and it is understandable that very few persist long enough to succeed.