The Game of Tennis as a “Future Memory”

By Dr Jill Ammon-Wexler

International Success Mentor

You’re out on the court with a friend. She’s been burning up the court with blistering serves. But you’ve hung in there, and won the set by returning some great shots.

But now it’s your turn to serve. You try to brush away the memory of the last time you played — when your serve suddenly went “bad” on you. For some unknown reason, you just couldn’t keep the ball above the net.

You bounce the ball a couple of times, then wind up and toss it up for a serve. But even before the strings touch the ball, you already KNOW what’s going to happen. You set your teeth as the ball slams into the net just like it did last week. You shake your head. “Not again.” You moan. “What has gone wrong?” And of course, your second serve is almost identical to the first. This is what tennis players, golfers, and other athletes call being “off their game.”

Being “off your game” in any aspect of life is caused by what I call a “future memory.” The term “future memory” may seem odd, but it’s a natural mental process. A “future memory” is basically a picture of yourself in the future. And the truth is, you’re creating such memories virtually every day. There’s an old saying: “In life — we get what we focus on.” And now neuroscientists have discovered the scientific truth behind that axiom.

Here’s what’s happening: Your subconscious mind will automatically work to manifest your mental “pictures” of what seems appropriate in your life. If you feel you’re “off your game,” you reinforce a mental expectation that you will continue to be “off your game!” Your subconscious mind doesn’t “think” in the same sense your conscious, rational mind does. The subconscious mind actually takes “directions” from your conscious mind, and orders your body to carry out those directions.

Your feeling of being “off your game” is seen as a direction from your conscious mind. Your subconscious mind instantly “gets the picture” from stored memories that support that “direction.” In effect, it creates a “future memory” of how you are about to respond – then sends actual neural messages to your brain’s “motor centers” to reproduce a tennis serve that will slam into the net. It’s important to appreciate the fact that “future memories” are a physical brain reality. This is not just a psychological construct! Years of research by behavioral scientists has clearly proven that mental rehearsal *alone* creates actual improvements in both sports and intellectual activities.

How can this be so?

Recent scientific PET (positron-emission tomography) scans have provided fascinating scientific proof of the power of mental rehearsal. PET images of the brain activity associated with simply *thinking* about moving an arm — do truly activate areas of the brain associated with *actual* arm movements.

What does this mean?

In practical terms, you can use mental imagery to “pre-program” your mind by “practicing” the positive effects you want in your life.

The other thing you’ll want to remember is this: Your subconscious mind is the product of your physical brain! It’s not some concept that floats around somewhere out in space! And what neuroscientists have discovered about the physical brain is this: It is not the “rigid structure” it was once thought to be. We now know that the brain is “plastic.” It constantly changes to fit your current (and currently expected) environment. Plus the evidence is that like muscles, the brain too follows the rule of “use it or lose it.”

If you consciously focus on “future memories” of success, they will be seen by your subconscious mind as actual instructions. Your brain then responds by building actual neural networks to hold those instructions. And the more often you send those “future memory” instructions — the stronger those positive neural networks will grow. So…there’s now irrefutable scientific evidence that we actually ARE what we think. That’s why it’s so important to focus on positive future memories of what you want in your life – and starve any old neural networks holding memories of personal limitations.

Your daily “reality” is a direct reflection of these future memories. Whatever you consciously or unconsciously focus on, whether positive or negative, will gain strength. Any life improvement must begin with an improvement in your ability to use “future memories.”

Those who are successful are those who continually focus on the life they want to lead. Those who are unsuccessful continually focus on what they do *not* want. And what you focus on gains power from stronger, more stable physical neural networks.

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© Dr Jill Ammon-Wexler, author and AVS Journal, Michael Landgraf, publisher. 2003 All Rights Reserved.