Self-help books, especially those with a bit of an NLP slant, tell us that mental rehearsal is a Good Thing to do. I’ve often found their exercises in visualisation quite difficult, however – possibly because the type of thinking you’re doing while reading the instructions is quite different from the kind of full-sensory fantasy the instructions tell you to engage in. So for quite some time I thought of mental rehearsal as being some strange and special thing that I didn’t quite get.
Then one day, I was preparing a lecture, and thinking through how I was going to deliver the material – where I could probably raise a laugh, where I would need to pause to let the students catch up, where the focal points to crystallise the key ideas would come. And I suddenly realised – what I was doing was mental rehearsal, and it’s not something special at all, it’s something I do all the time. Anything that takes a spot of planning or anticipation, you can live through in prospect, whether it’s working out what you’re going to say to someone in a non-routine conversation (asking someone out, quitting a job) or planning a rehearsal.
Maybe this is obvious, but it was a revelation to me at the time.