Dan Coyle, author of The Talent Code and upcoming book, The Little Book of Talent (on sale August 21), lives by the philosophy that greatness isn’t born, it’s grown. Most of the athletes who’ve logged thousands of hours of practice time to make it to the 2012 Olympics would likely agree. Whether you’re aiming to compete at an elite level or just trying to perfect your golf swing, Coyle’s instructional books provide straightforward skill-building techniques that can be applied to everything from sports to painting.
One particularly helpful piece of advice from his new book is the notion of thinking in images. Coyle explains that by creating a vivid image of an action, it’s easier to remember and repeat that action accurately every time.
As someone who enjoys writing creatively, I’ve been told my entire life to “show not tell.” When describing a character in a story, my teachers explained again and again, it’s better to show through a character’s actions how they feel or think or are, instead of just telling readers that “Bob is angry.” This has always been a difficult thing for me to do, and it’s natural for me to fall into the trap of telling quite often. But if I imagine, vividly, the image of someone who is angry, I find so many more creative ways to show that emotion. Maybe Bob’s ears turn red, or his palms get sweaty, or his nostrils flare. Showing Bob’s anger in a more visual way not only makes my writing more interesting, it makes my entire story better.
“Vivid images,” Coyle says, “are the language of skill,” and by trying it, I learned that this tip works for writing just as well as it does for a tennis player working on his backhand. So, go to it! Practice creating vivid, even ridiculous, images in your mind the next time you’re working to develop a new skill. It will help you to see the action or task very clearly in your mind before (and as) you attempt it.
Coyle offers examples of how to think in images in the video below:
Get more advice from Dan Coyle at thetalentcode.com.