Half a Backflip and the Power of Visualization

By Ethan Maurice | May 11, 2016

Five years ago, I almost broke my neck at an indoor trampoline park. I'd always been pretty athletic, but anything that involved going upside down was completely foreign to me.

One of my friends is incredibly acrobatic and he decided to teach our other buddy how to do a backflip on a trampoline. They both encouraged me to join, but I just knew there was no way I was going to land a backflip.

“Yeah,” I jokingly replied, “I'll try once Casey lands one.”

Turns out, my acrobatic friend is also a great teacher. Ten minutes later, Casey landed a backflip.

Dammit... I had to try now. I couldn't even begin to imagine myself attempting to do a backflip, let alone landing one. Flipping was not my forte.

I strode out onto the trampoline feigning confidence and got my bearings as best I could. The plan was simple. On the count of three, I was going to attempt to backflip while my friend pushed my legs around to help complete the rotation.

I bounced. “One.”

I bounced again. “Two.”

I bounced a third time. “Three!”

As I left the trampoline my friend gave my legs a great heave. If I made any attempt to do a backflip, I would have easily made it around. The only problem was—I froze. I just jumped straight into the air again, making no attempt to backflip.

My friend's push managed to turn me a full 180 degrees before I came back down. Unfortunately, that meant I landed directly on my head.

My chin dug deep into my chest as the weight of my body flexed my neck inward well beyond its normally limited ability. It was a trampoline, so my head was fine, but my neck wasn't. I was able to stand back up—“Phew, not paralyzed.” I thought. But my neck was in excruciating pain. Over the next five minutes, I lost the ability to move my head.

After spending the evening in the emergency room, I returned home with a bottle of prescription strength painkillers and orders to do as little as possible for the next two weeks. I severely strained the muscles in my neck and had to let them heal before they would support my head again.

For the next two weeks, I lived on the couch in a painkiller induced daze. I was quite embarrassed about my epic headplant, and in between an endless stream of movie watching, I thought often about the mechanics of a backflip and why I didn't even attempt one that day.

A month went by and I was confident my neck had fully healed. I decided it was time to redeem myself. I went out to the pool in our backyard and toed the edge of the deck, my back facing the water. Then, I did a backflip into the pool.

First try. Boom. Backflip.

I couldn't believe it... Yet, I could.

You see, in that month between headplanting and my next attempt, I thought about every nuance of doing a backflip. For hours, I imagined the lean backward as my arms exploded upwards, my shoulders flying back, and the tuck of my knees as I flipped through the air. I thought about the sequence, how it would feel, what it would look like as the world rotated before my eyes, and could envision myself walking out to my pool and doing a backflip at that very second.

Remarkably, reality followed suit.

Without the ability to even envision myself doing a backflip on the trampoline, I didn't even know what to try to do. The result: I landed directly on my head. However, after visualizing the process of doing a backflip for hours while stuck on the couch, without any physical practice, I nailed it on the next try.

The point is this: visualization can massively improve our chances of success. If we imagine ourselves doing something beforehand, it's much easier to do in reality.

This doesn't just apply to athletics. It applies to everything. Public speaking, art, having a difficult conversation with someone you love. Absolutely everything.

I am not suggesting that visualizing yourself swimming in a tub of money will make you a billionaire. However, envisioning yourself nailing a job interview, contract negotiation, or meeting can get you one step closer. Visualizations must be specific, and it's the sum of these well-handled specific actions that add up to significant change over time.

So, what's the most important thing you're going to do today? Think about it. Take a couple minutes to imagine down to the finest detail your experience as you perfectly execute the task.

Then, use that visualization as a blueprint to shape reality.


* Please don't get too bold and attempt to do a backflip because you read this article. Believe me, if you mess up it can really suck...


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