Don't mock LeBron James' Instagram self-congratulation—it's a great lesson in success

LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts during the game against the Chicago Bulls on October 24, 2017.
David Liam Kyle | Getty Images
LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts during the game against the Chicago Bulls on October 24, 2017.

NBA star LeBron James is known for exuding confidence on social media. On Tuesday, he celebrated a significant milestone on Instagram before even lacing up his sneakers. And while his post might have been considered premature, causing some people to poke fun, that kind of confidence could be a key component to his success.

Here's how.

Visualizing success helps you achieve it

The path to success starts in your head, experts say, and those who can picture victory, like James, might just have a competitive edge.

On Tuesday, James took to Instagram to congratulate his younger self ahead of what would soon be a monumental moment in his athletic career.

The basketball star is currently sitting on 29,993 career points, and he was expected to hit the 30,000 threshold — a milestone only a handful of other players have hit — later that night in a game against the San Antonio Spurs.

"Wanna be one of the first to Congratulate you on this accomplishment/achievement tonight that you'll reach! Only a handful has reach/seen it too and while I know it's never been a goal of yours from the beginning try (please try) to take a moment for yourself on how you've done it!" James wrote, with a picture of himself from years ago.

"The House you're about to be apart of has only 6 seats in it (as of now) but 1 more will be added and you should be very proud and honored to be invited inside. There's so many people to thank who has help this even become possible (so thank them all) and when u finally get your moment (alone) to yourself smile, look up to the higher skies and say THANK YOU! So with that said, Congrats again Young King!"

By imagining his future success, James is harnessing the power of visualization, a powerful mental tool often used by athletes, business-people and performers alike. Picturing victory has been touted by psychologists as a way to prepare for a slew of situations, and research has shown it helps improve focus and performance, even if it can also lead some Twitter users to get salty.

Athletes especially — from Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn to swimmer Missy Franklin — use similar mental techniques to prepare for competitions. At the Rio de Janeiro games in 2016, the U.S. Olympic Committee was expected to have eight sports psychologists on hand in order to maximize the team's potential, the Washington Post reported. At least one study has even linked mental training to muscle strength: It found that people who simply conducted mental exercises of weight training in their heads increased muscle strength by 13.5 percent.

"I think the mental side of the game is way over 50 percent, probably about 80 percent," James said in a YouTube video.

Success takes hard work, too

It takes more than a mental workout and posting a confident Instagram to break records, though. It takes hard work.

James' success on the basketball court wasn't necessarily a slam dunk. He's had to earn it. Since being drafted to the Cavaliers in 2003, James has gotten the respect of his peers, and he's now known within the sport for his work ethic.

"Most guys are either big talkers or big workers. He's both," Kyle Korver, James' teammate on the Cavaliers, previously told NBA.com "He's without a doubt the leader of this team. He's always telling everybody where to go — I mean, every possession. Offensive, defensive. I've never seen anyone communicate like he does out on the court.

"Then behind the scenes, just how hard he works. He's a machine. You don't see guys this late in their careers, guys who've had this much success, be the first guy in the gym. He's still there."

Basketball legend Magic Johnson has also touted James' talent and work ethic. "He's special because he makes his teammates better and yet still plays at a high level himself," Johnson told CNBC in June, adding that he's a, "special guy, special player, one of the greatest that has ever laced them up."

"The LeBron Jameses of the world come around every 20 years," Johnson said.

The 30,000-point threshold is noteworthy, according to Bleacher Report, because only six players in NBA history have gotten there: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain and Dirk Nowitzki. James, 33, would reportedly become the youngest to reach 30,000 points.