Visualizing Your Perfect Life? You Might Be Doing it Wrong
The power of visualization gained worldwide attention in 2006 when the book “The Secret” sold 30 million copies and the accompanying DVD flew off the shelves. Featuring interviews with teachers and speakers alongside gauzy, mystical imagery, “The Secret” touted focused, intense use of the imagination as a way to manifest the life of your dreams including more money, big houses and fast cars.
“The Secret” wasn’t the first time these ideas went mainstream. Thirty years before, Shakti Gawain wrote the manual for using your mind to realize your dreams, entitled “Creative Visualization,” and since the 1960s, sports therapists have coached athletes toward peak performance by harnessing the power of imagination.
I am a firm believer in Gawain’s concepts — they changed my life and helped me find the marriage, house, and career of my dreams. But when my priorities began to change, I encountered nothing but obstacles and frustration as I tried to move forward. Sadly, I became disillusioned with visualization entirely and for years I felt lost and confused and I longed for the energy, momentum, and clarity I enjoyed before.
Today, I am back on track and astonished at how effective visualization can be, but those “lost” years still haunt me. What happened? What was I doing wrong? How did I get so far off course?
Through successes and failures, here’s what I’ve learned:
The WHY is the most important part. You can visualize all day, but if you don’t know WHY you want something, you probably won’t see results. Athletes have a crystal clear WHY: to win. When I first started visualizing, my WHY was commitment. I came from a family full of broken promises, self-delusion, and giving up. I knew I could break that cycle, so my WHY was to prove to myself that I was a committed person able to work toward goals and achieve them; to honor my promises to myself and others. Years later, when my focus changed to more superficial pursuits like sex, money, and status (for their own sake), I hit a brick wall with visualization and my personal progress stopped. I had my WHAT but I lost my WHY.
Visualize the PROCESS rather than the end product. “The Secret” emphasizes seeing yourself already owning the fantasy car, living in your dream house, or having your perfect body. But when you visualize, you are working on two levels: on the conscious level, you are making mental movies of your desired life AND you are giving instructions to the unconscious mind to get busy finding pathways and strategies to get there. If you see yourself already on the top of the heap, your unconscious has no job. Create mental movies that show how you want to be NOW while you work toward your future dreams. Your unconscious will start pushing you out of bed in the morning, anxious to get busy.
Make this a regular practice. As the saying goes, “What you focus on, expands.” That’s why we put sticky notes on our computer screen to remind us of an urgent task or appointment. It’s why companies create Mission Statements. Spend time each day playing your movie to remind yourself where you are headed. Vision Boards often end up in the closet, collecting dust, so try putting a compelling image on your computer or cell phone wallpaper. Imagine what it will feel like when you reach your goals. How will it look, smell, taste, sound?
Don’t fear resistance. Most people avoid conflict so when we feel push-back, we run. When you are visualizing and you feel resistance, stop, take a breath, and ask it what it needs. Believe it or not, your resistance has a positive intention (like protecting you from failure or disappointment). Welcome that resistance, understand it, and ask it for support in reaching your goals. You need its cooperation, so make it an ally and use its wisdom to move forward.
It shouldn’t be hard. Be patient with yourself. We often see change as an internal struggle, but there is no battle. We are one whole person trying to move all our parts forward together. If your WHY feels wrong, find something that works better. If your internal voice is keeping you up at night, don’t shove it away, ask questions. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t judge. Use visualization as an opportunity to discover the authentic power you have inside.
Today, my life feels like it is rolling forward again at about 100 miles per hour. I have rediscovered my WHY and I am swiftly moving toward being a whole authentic person. Every day brings more opportunities for success and growth and I am grateful to be reclaiming my confidence, joy and enthusiasm.
Although I speak from experience, most of these ideas are not my own. I am tremendously grateful for Shakti Gawain’s book “Creative Visualization” and Damon Cart’s LifeMastery Gym. Damon has produced hundreds of YouTube videos and he offers excellent training (free and paid) using NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) methods. He uses another great book, “Transforming Yourself,” by Steve Andreas. I can give you my experience but they can offer you expertise.
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