A few years ago, a some Italian scientists got together and ran an experiment. They took a bunch of monkeys and connected wires to them to determine how their neurons would fire when they made particular motions.
Not only did they find that the same group of neurons fired each time, but that when the monkeys watched someone else make the same motion, those same neurons fired again.
In other words, by watching someone else perform a motion, we can envision ourselves performing the same motion. It’s a phenomenon called mirror neurons, because, well, we’re mirroring someone else’s movement in our brains.
Can this concept be useful to aspiring athletes? Absolutely. Allow me to infuse some anecdotal evidence into this for a second.
I play tennis on a regular basis, but I notice that my level starts to dip if I haven’t watched professionals play for awhile. It really doesn’t matter how often I play, as much as it matters that I’m watching really good players do it.
Before I go into a match, I try to set aside 5 minutes to watch a YouTube video of Roger Federer, or Novak Djokovic. Anybody for that matter. I just need that extra bit of inspiration.
When I take the court, I feel more confident. Plus, I have an idea in my head of how fast the ball should be hit; not saying I can reach the speeds of professionals, but it helps give me a reference point.
Mirror neurons are also a way to help you feel what others are feeling. Have you ever watched a really uplifting movie and felt similarly good about yourself afterwards? This is from mirroring our behaviors to that of the characters.
Men, listen up. Using your mirror neurons to cry when your girlfriend cries is vital to scoring you relationship brownie points. You’re welcome.
Beyond sports, mirror neurons can improve your business acumen. If you’ve ever watched an entrepreneur give a speech and thought, “hmm, I can probably do that,” it’s thanks to the same mechanism.
Does this mean you don’t have to put any extra work in, besides watching others? Uh, sure. Try that and you’ll be sitting in your parents’ basement watching YouTube videos for the rest of your life. There comes a point when you have to start “doing,” instead of just watching others. But if you can combine both watching AND doing, you’ll start to get places.