Jason, Nicki and her husband Michael and I went to Disneyland yesterday, and had a gas. And you know what? That wonderful family experience all began with seeing their smiling faces, and the gates of the Magic Kingdom itself…
Visualization is a key component of most self-improvement systems, most goal setting systems. Heck, part of everyday life without which we flounder.
What do you want from the store? How do you make a list? You have to visualize what you’re going to make for dinner, don’t you?
Well…almost. Not quite. It would be better to say “representation.” And not all representations are visual. They are also kinesthetic (“feel” it), auditory (“hear” it), olfactory (“smell” it.)
Of these, the visual is probably the most powerful, but some people definitely have more auditory or kinesthetic. However YOU represent reality will work. But it is also true that visual representation can be strengthened with practice. Many forms of meditation address this: stare at a geometrical shape or candle flame or object, then close your eyes and see how long you can hold the image.
I recently used an approach learned from my Sufi friend Mushtaq. At a recent gathering, I met a lady who claimed to have no goals, and didn’t believe in them. A little inquiry showed that this simply wasn’t true: it was a story she told herself to prevent herself from pursuing certain KINDS of goals, things that could make her happy. Hope, she finally said, was a killer.
With her permission, I began to take her position apart.
She had an advanced degree. Oh really? She never had a goal of graduating? Finishing projects? Getting good grades? Of course she did.
When I walked her through the M.A.G.I.C. formula (Magic = Action x Gratitude x Intention x Conviction) we zeroed in on “Intention” which is the goal component. You have to visualize what you want to achieve, I said. Preferably the end point (say, wearing your cap and gown, receiving a diploma) Where is that on your time line? Four years out? What is one year out? Six months? Three months? One month? One week? What need you do TODAY to create this future?
Visualizations at each point are like knowing you want to go to Disneyland (visualize Mickey standing in front of the Matterhorn) then seeing the freeway offramp, then the freeway, then the onramp, then the gas station, then packing the car.
Working backward from the final step gives you the other steps. Then you have only to execute them in order, and you end up taking the picture with the mouse. Can things go wrong? Of course! Are there people who do everything right and still crash, or break down, or even change their minds mid-way? Of course. But this is the process we go through, and it works.
She swore that she had no ability to visualize. So using that technique I learned from Mushtaq, I asked her what color her car was. Blue, she said. How do you know? I asked.
She broke out in a sheepish smile. She saw it. But…but…it wasn’t a hard, sharp, clear “like a photograph” visualization. So that didn’t count, right? Wrong.
And…it might have been digital, not analogue. In other words, she might have seen the word “blue” appear, rather than the color. That’s o.k. It might have been auditory, might have been a voice saying “blue” without any visualization at all. Could she have “smelled” or “felt” blue? Perhaps.
But the point is that she represented it to herself, one way or another. Digging deeper, I saw the problem. It was that “hope kills” thing. She was literally afraid to believe. She came from a social context where there had been great travail and pain, and she had been discouraged from aspiring too highly, from wanting too much from life. Even “happiness” was something she considered beyond her reach. She defined “happy” as “never unhappy”—in other words set a standard so high that no human being could attain it, and then mistook her warped perspective for reality.
We do this to ourselves. If the Dalai Lama is correct, the purpose of life is to be happy. While those who wish to can warp and twist and question this, I do believe we can can start with this, and it takes us all the way to a life of meaning, joy and contribution.
All we need do is find goals in alignment with our deepest values, where both the accomplishment and the struggle bring us satisfaction. And the best way to achieve them is to be able to see, or hear, or “feel” the intermediate steps, breaking those down into daily actions. Then every day evaluate those daily actions to see what we accomplished and if we need course correction (far easier to course correct a day’s error than a decade’s!)
Then we remember that we want short-term joy and happiness as well, and START our days with joy, infusing our actions with that emotion so that we do not accomplish to feel joy, but rather we joyfully accomplish.
See it, feel it, hear it, smell it…whatever it takes, REPRESENT the steps and the goals. Then set out to accomplish them, with joy, to fill your own heart and the hearts of those you love, with harm to none.
Knowing what you want, and seeing the steps you have to take…that’s how you max out your chance to get where you’re going. By the way…people who do this enough get so good at it that it can seem they have no goals at all. They just want something, and automatically move in that direction without stress. They just “chop wood, carry water” and somehow are happy, healthy, and successful.
In other words, they have these other steps at “unconscious competence.” They are on the road to life mastery, and very, very nicely prepared to Awaken.
P.s.–the Ancient Child and other tools to help with this process can be acquired for just one dollar if you give the Lifewriting Premium site a chance. Do yourself a real favor–the dreams you save may be your own. www.lifewrite.com.