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February 27, 2004
Visualisation works

The other day I had one of those deeply satisfying conversations where someone says to you that (a) you said something very memorable to them several years ago which you had yourself completely forgotten about, and that (b) it had proved to be invaluably useful advice. So, hurrah for me.

Apparently I had said something about visualisation to this friend of mine, and it had worked, and helped her to do really well at university. So, I might as well pass it on to all you millions of people who read this. I say it to a lot of people because it is true true, and it is valuable, even if (as I will shortly explain) you have heard it several times before.

The basic point here is very simple: visualisation works.

Suppose you have acquired an ambition, but think of yourself as being someone who "lacks willpower". Suppose, that is, that you often "tell yourself" to do this or that, but then never seem to get around to doing it.

Assuming that you do sincerely want to do whatever it is, the way to get yourself to do something is to imagine yourself already doing it.

Apparently, what I told my friend the university student was: if you are worried about not getting stuck into your university work the way you now want to, the way to do that is to picture yourself doing this work in exactly the way you want to do it. Imagine yourself sitting at your desk in your room, deep into your books, scribbling pertinent notes. Imagine yourself getting tired, taking a breather from work, and then going right back to it half an hour later. In general, picture yourself living and working the way you want to.

And here's the really interesting bit. That's all you have to do. The actual result will then come automatically. If you have never done this, or never done it self-consciously, realising that you were doing it, so to speak, you might suppose that this is some kind of voodoo psychobabble. But it isn't. It works. Picutre yourself doing whatever it is, and then a few days, weeks, months or years later (depending on what kind of task it is) you will realise that, by God, you did exactly what you imagined!

It even works for things which you would think would require all sorts of impoossible-to-guarantee inputs from other people. This is because we all of us actually have lots of bits of good luck, every day of our lives. The trick for living successfully is to programme your mind to take advantage of these lucky breaks, saying and doing, immediately, without thinking about it, exactly what you need to say and do to make maximum use of all the luck that comes your way.

So, imagine yourself having that job interview. Imagine yourself saying all the things you want to say, in exactly the confident yet un-annoying way you want to say them. Imagine the people who are interviewing you saying the things you want them to say. Sooner or later, you that is to say your subconscious mind will manoevre yourself into circumstances where all of this happens for real.

Imagine the big things you want to do with your entire life. Picture them, as if you were starring in a movie. Imagine the tiny things you want to get done tomorrow morning. Imagine everything in between. Imagine it, and then forget about it and just do what comes naturally. Then sit down, relax, and imagine it again. What will come naturally is what you have imagined.

Well, not automatically. You could be hit by a car tomorrow morning and die in agony. (Don't picture that for any longer than you have to.) But visualisation will increase your chances of getting what you want.

(Talking of cars knocking you down ... if you picture what you fear, your mind will go after that too. So don't do this. Imaginative aversion therapy, so to speak, doesn't work.)

What does not work is to berate yourself with merely verbal instructions. Verbal instructions (items on on a verbal list for instance) are very useful, but not on their own. The words have to be the captions to pictures. They have to trigger the pictures. Then, they'll work. On their own ("willpower") they won't work.

I've tried this stuff on myself, and every time I try it, it gets results. I told my university friend some of this, and it worked. It does work. The value of this posting is not that you are likely to be hearing this for the first time in your life, although I suppose that this is just about possible. No, the value of this post is that you are hearing yet again from yet another person that visualisation works.

Make it work for you.

I was never told any of this when I was at school, which in retrospect I find rather surprising. I had to read about it in American psychobabble books, which are often not any sort of babble whatever, of course. Why wasn't I told about it sooner? Perhaps because until I was about twenty what I personally wanted to accomplish wasn't the central agenda of my life. (Maybe I was told about it, but I wasn't listening.) I was just doing what was expected of me, or rather what I supposed others to be expecting of me. And I've never been much good at that. But I digress.

Central point here: it works.

This is one of the reasons why I like the idea of putting pictures up on this blog from time to time, as on my other one. Picturing things is very powerful.

It's not that I'm against words. But words work best if they conjure up pictures. I haven't put up any picture with this posting, because the point is: what is the picture that you want? Add it for yourself, in your own mind.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:04 AM
Category: How the human mind works


Comment by: David Sucher on February 29, 2004 05:40 PM
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