Visualization How To Guide
When I first became interested in life-changing habits, psychology, and maximizing human potential many years ago, one of the things that fascinated me most was the power of visualization. It had never occurred me until then just how effective and vital a component it was when it came to eradicating bad habits and developing good ones. Wanting to get rid of a bad habit and cultivating healthy ones are things that almost everyone has had some experience with.
All human beings operate at the conscious and subconscious levels. The conscious mind is operating when you are fully aware of your present moment. For example, you are fully conscious of the fact that you are sitting at your desk, reading this article, on a comfortable chair. On the other hand, your subconscious mind is operating when you do things automatically without giving it much thought. For example, when you slip on your shoes one foot at a time, or take a shower and soap your body.
When you make decisions and choices throughout the day, you either use your conscious mind or your subconscious one. The crazy thing is that we use our subconscious minds to make 90% of our decisions. We make these choices subconsciously without being fully present and giving it much thought, if any at all. And we are doing this 90% of the time!
These subconscious decisions that we make are the result of past experiences and environmental factors, which, in turn, shaped our beliefs and expectations. They are ingrained in our brain and greatly influence the choices we make, sometimes years after the initial experiences occurred. For example, you were once told by a parent that you are not that smart. Because of the influence that parent had over you, you took it to heart and, from that day onwards, you have always believed that you are not that smart.
That belief then manifests itself over the years in a number of ways: you do not pay attention in chemistry class because you do not believe you have the intelligence to master the subject. You do not apply for admission into good universities because you believe that you are not good enough for those schools. The subconscious choices and decisions you make only reinforce the belief, whether that belief is based on reality or not. So it becomes a loop, a vicious cycle.
The subconscious mind does not care if something is true or not. It merely files it away in your mind’s data bank for future reference. The next time you are in a similar situation or find a reason to associate any circumstance with that belief, you will act based on that belief. It is almost as if we are on autopilot.
So it makes sense that, in order to change our habits and behaviors, we need to change our beliefs. Think for a moment how many negative and limiting beliefs the average person has: I am not good enough, I am too old, I am so average, I am too young, I am not attractive, I am a failure, I am not intelligent, I do not have what it takes to run a successful business, I will never find a partner who loves me, etc. We then make choices and act based on these limiting beliefs. All of us can relate to this in some form or another.
Fortunately, through repetition, it is possible to change these beliefs. One of the methods of accomplishing this is through visualization. I practice this often in my life and it has made a huge impact. It helped me to ‘rewire’ many of my limiting beliefs and replace them with empowering and liberating ones. For example, I used to be terrified of the dentist because of a horrible experience when I was younger. I associated all dentists with pain and suffering and, as a result, for many years, I did not see the dentist as often as I should (my belief influenced this decision). I finally decided to visualize a more positive experience with a new dentist, one which, while I might feel slight discomfort, would be nothing like the traumatic experience when I was younger. I visualized being treated by a dentist that was gentle, understanding, and kind. I visualized sitting in the dentist chair and being comfortable. I imagined having healthy teeth in years to come. I then found a dentist that I liked and my fear has been diminished. While I cannot say that going to the dentist is one of my favorite things to do, I can say that visualization has made a big difference in my outlook and actions. I simply changed my belief.
Similarly, I have used visualization to help me change choices and habits pertaining to the gym, my business, my family life, and even my overall happiness. It has greatly enhanced my chances of success each time I attempt make a change in my life for the better. It also helps to keep the old, bad habits at bay. All this because I changed my beliefs and expectations. Of course, this does not mean that I do not have bad habits or limiting beliefs which I need to work on. I am far from perfect and am always striving to better myself. However, my experience is that visualization works. In fact, some of the best athletes, business executives, musicians, and other top achievers use it consistently.
So how exactly do I visualize? The good news is that it is extremely simple to do. The bad news is that it needs to be done repetitively and consistently in order to be effective. Our old beliefs and habits have been ingrained in our brain through constant repetition. Each time you recall your limiting belief, identify with it, and then act on it, it becomes more of a habit. In order to replace it, visualization must become everyday practice.
After doing research, I decided to visualize my goals and desired outcomes as often as I could. I did it in bed at night, I did it in the morning before I meditated, and I often did it in short spurts while waiting in line at the grocery store or while waiting at a stop light, etc. That’s it. Slowly, but surely, I noticed my beliefs, outlooks and actions started to change. Of course, this happened because of the choices I ultimately made. But they somehow felt a lot easier, more automatic, much of it on the subconscious level (remember, where at least 90% of our decisions and actions originate). Like brushing your teeth or tying your shoelaces, it becomes natural.
How to Visualize
Visualization can be done anywhere and at anytime. However, it is best done when there are no distractions around you. You simply close your eyes (this is not a requirement) and visualize your desired outcome or goal. For example, if you are on a quest to lose weight, imagine yourself being thin and in shape. Or if you would like to improve a relationship, visualize yourself with the other person having fun, laughing, discussing things calmly, loving him or her. It really is that simple. The longer you do it, the more effective it is. You are harnessing the power of your mind to change your beliefs and your subconscious mind. Remember that the subconscious mind does not care if the input you feed it is based on reality or not. It does not differentiate.
In order for visualization to work, you must do 5 things:
- You must do it consistently. You must practice it every day in order to get good at it (like anything else). The more you do it, the more profound the effect.
- Invoke all your senses. It is important that you make your visualization as realistic as possible. Whenever possible, use smell, touch, sight, hearing and taste to add realism. Visualize as if it is already happening in real time. Be as descriptive and specific as possible when you do this.
- Visualize yourself as the main character, not as a spectator. It is important that you imagine yourself in the thick of things rather than watching a video of yourself. Be in the moment and feel it; witness it as if it is really happening.
- Write it down. While this step is not essential like the other 3 factors, it greatly increases the effect of your visualization. Keep a journal and write down your new reality. Be as descriptive as possible.
- Give it time. You cannot visualize once and then expect your whole life to change instantly. Like exercise or most other endeavors, it takes a little time before you start seeing huge changes. Be patient.
Of course, visualization needs to be followed up by action. Keep in mind that most bad habits require action, too. Through visualization, you will change your subconscious mind, develop new beliefs and expectations, develop good habits, replace old ones, and choose an action that is good for you. Try it and you will be amazed!