Visualisation is a technique commonly used by sportspeople and musicians to accustom their brains to performing a particular action. It is simply the process of imagining something happening – a kind of mental rehearsal just like you would rehearse for a play. You can use visualisation to help you become a smoother, more confident driver.
There is some very simple and effective psychology happening when you visualise. Physiologist Edmund Jacobson found that when you imagine yourself doing something, small messages are sent to the muscles that you would use to perform the action in real life and it conditions them to perform that action.
Visualisation takes a bit of practice to get used to. You will find your mind wandering off in all directions when you start. You can use visualisation in conjunction with affirmations (check our article here).
How to visualise improving your driving
Let’s take an example where you want to improve your parallel parking – this is something that a lot of people find difficult when they start driving. The basic process is this:
Sit down and relax. For extra effectiveness you can do this in the car while it’s parked. It’s better if it’s quiet, though, so you could do it in your bedroom on a chair, in the garage in the car, or wherever there’s no noise
Imagine the environment: you’re in the car, so imagine the steering wheel, imagine the gear stick, imagine the dashboard, imagine that there’s a parking space between two cars that you are going to back into
Imagine yourself interacting with the environment: imagine yourself holding the steering wheel, then changing gear into reverse, looking over your shoulder, feeding the clutch out slightly to let the car start moving backwards, then turning the wheel at the perfect time at the perfect angle, judging the rear of the car and then turning back to straighten the car in the space, then stopping the car before you touch the vehicle behind. Now you’re going to put the car in first gear or drive and move forwards to make an equal distance between each vehicle.
Repeat this process several times. It will get your brain used to achieving it in reality and you will subconsciously perform the actions that will make parallel parking easier.
Why does visualisation work?
Some of the same areas of your brain that would be developed by actually doing an activity are activated by just thinking of doing the activity. While you can’t become an expert racing driver just by visualising your self as a racing driver (you’ll still need to practice), visualisation has been shown to be much better than doing nothing at all and, in some cases, almost as good as practicing.
The results of this practice will be that your confidence in your abilities will increase, too. You will no longer be apprehensive about parallel parking because your subconscious mind knows how to do it.
This technique is something that takes a bit of practice, but once you have mastered it for helping you with your driving test you can use it to improve other aspects of your life.