Vietnam Prisoner of War

Captain Sands was a pilot that was shot down during the Vietnam War, and subsequently was captured and became a Prisoner of War (POW). He spent seven years in Hanoi, the prison camp sarcastically and famously known as the Hanoi Hilton.

Captain Sands, like other POW’s, was confined to absolute isolation. There was no physical activity permitted, and any human contact was very limited. He “lived” in a five foot by five foot cage for seven years in isolation.

Though he was confined physically, he realized that he didn’t have to be confined mentally. And so he started the process in his mind of constructing a beautifully perfect golf course. He created this image in every detail, including all of the sights, smells and feelings. He imagined the grass, the trees, even the clothes on his back, and created a mental image of each of the 18 holes. Then he set out to play the course.

Every day for seven years, Captain Sands stepped foot onto that golf course and played a full 18 holes, stroke by stroke. He experienced, in his mind, the wind, sounds, smells, and how it felt to make each of those swings at the ball. And since this was his course, and his game, he hit every stroke perfectly. Each swing was perfect, each approach shot was perfect, and each putt was perfect. Captain Sands had the luxury in that five by five box of enjoying a perfect round of golf every day.

After seven years of perfect mental golf, however, things changed. After he was released and made it back home, Captain Sands scored a 74 on the first round he had played in over 8 years. He had not only not played a round of golf, he had had no physical activity under the harshest of treatment and conditions, yet he shaved over twenty strokes off of his game.

The lesson learned is that reality is largely formed in your mind. Superstars in any activity expect to win, regardless of the conditions or the situation. It is that expectation that sets their course, and results in superior performance. And it’s something that you can use in your life — in whatever you do. Take time each day to create the perfect performance picture in some area of your life — your job, your marriage, your health — and in exacting detail, experience it fully in your mind. Experience how it feels, how it looks, and how it smells. Imagine the likely obstacles in your way and picture how you will overcome them and come out victorious.

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