Category: Blog

The Power of Visualization (and why it’s hard at first)

Picture yourself in your mind’s eye as having already achieved your goal. See yourself doing the things you will be doing when you’ve reached your goal. – Earl Nightingale

Funny thing about the mind: turns out it can’t really tell the difference between something that has actually happened and something vividly imagined.

Studies have shown that people who visualize something have similar brain activity to the someone actually doing the activity.

And, many of the neurotransmitters and hormones that are produced during actual activity get released as/after someone visualizes doing something.

The reason this matters is that you can use this to your advantage.

Anything we do repeatedly we do better, and then well (even if it’s “virtual” activity . . . ).

Have a challenging activity? Imagine yourself doing it – and doing it well. You can condition the fundamentals of success of the given activity.

Have a goal that scares you a bit? Imagine already having achieved it, and the benefits and growth you will have created.  The knowing that is created within will sustain you through the hard work of actually achieving your goal.

Is it sometimes hard to visualize? At first certainly. It can feel unnatural and contrived.

But like anything else, once you practice it it becomes easier – and you get better.

Act With Vision

Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare. – Japanese Proverb

You have a wonderful dream. A magnificent vision of the future. A future filled with joy, service and fulfillment.

We all do.

Without action however it is meaningless.

You must act. You must take steps, both small and large – all the time.

The converse is just as tragic.

Confusing activity with action is a mistake many make.

Action is a form of motion that matters.

Action in service of a worthy vision is the highest form of motion.

Being busy just wastes energy and time.

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What’s your dream? Take action on it.

What are you doing that doesn’t really matter? Stop. (Do something else. Something that does matter.)

What If The Worst Meant Something Else?

Storms make trees take deeper roots. – Dolly Parton

This quote got me to thinking about something I read in Martin Seligman’s book Flourish about post-traumatic growth.

Yes, that’s right growth, not “stress.”

Turns out that a sub-set of soldiers returning from combat actually grow from the terrible experience of combat.

Another interesting finding is that most of those who do experience post-traumatic stress were predisposed to depression and psychological problems before experiencing combat.

According to Seligman, there is a spectrum of experience with a percentage of soldiers experiencing post-traumatic stress, many in the middle who experience no long-term negative effects of combat and another percentage who actually grow from the experience (he describes it as a bell-curve shape distribution).

What’s my point?

That if a terrible experience such as combat: 1) doesn’t lead to post-traumatic stress as much as we are led to believe and 2) can actually be a catalyst for growth, maybe there’s a lesson for us in his research.

Sometimes all we need is to be aware of a different possibility to create different results.

But we’re not going to be sent off to war any time soon, so how is this relevant to civilians?

Whatever stress or adversity we experience, we can choose to define it in any number of ways. Just as the weights in a gym are seen by the exerciser as tools of strength and fitness (and by the non-exerciser as heavy, yucky things), our challenges can be seen as growth opportunities.

One note though: none of this is to say that challenges don’t initially knock us on our butts. They do. But both the great middle of soldiers and the post-traumatic-growers – after a period of upset and adjustment – got back to the business of life. (And the “Growers” went beyond just getting back to their base-lines.)

What is Happiness, or Success for that Matter?

Happiness is not achieved by the conscious pursuit of happiness; it is generally the by-product of other activities. – Aldous Huxley

Success, like happiness, is not something to achieved or arrived at. It’s not a destination, it’s more of a by-product.

To use the example of a tree, Success isn’t the leaves of the tree, or the branches or the trunk, and certainly not the roots – although all those things are part of a “successful” tree.

Success in this example is shade. The shade a healthy tree creates is success.

And it all starts with a seed. A tiny, relatively fragile, seed. Many of which never germinate, and even less become actual trees.

There are all sorts of ways I could go with relating this to people, their lives, goals and success, but suffice it to say that if you want shade, you need to plant many seeds, tend to their growth and be prepared for the greatest “trees” to take some time to grow.

Also, as you are growing your trees, a few of which of which you may never sit under, enjoy the shade of the trees others have planted before you. As a tree-planter and tender it is your privilege.

Gratitude is the Foundation

Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but also the parent of all the others. – Cicero

When we are grateful we create constructive, useful and, yes, positive, emotions.

It is with these constructive emotions that we can move forward and take action.

When we are grateful we focus on what we have already created in our lives and it reminds us of our creative power and ability.

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Please note: when I speak of “creativity” I am not speaking narrowly, confined to world of visual and physical arts and dance. I am speaking of the ability to take what does not exist in form or reality and making it available and real.

We can create money, or love, or good-will, or peace, or any number of emotions, conditions, or objects. It just takes the willingness to work hard for that which does not yet exist (in the form we would prefer)

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Whenever you feel stuck or down, take some time to notice what you have.

(I’ll admit that sometimes we just need to wallow for an hour or two, or maybe the rest of the day. But the next morning, after you’ve had that restful, restorative sleep that you needed, nourish yourself well and move forward.)

If you need a formal exercise, write down five goals that you are proud to have helped accomplish, five things you have in your life that remind you of joy and abundance and five people that care for you (even if they are people you don’t know yet… ).

This exercise will transform your mood and sense of possibility.

And then you can get to creating.