May 4th, 2016
The practice of success visualization is one of the most useful tools we can employ to bring about success in any endeavor. While not commonly used effectively by the general public, visualization is a commonly used technique by champion athletes and top performers in music, business, acting, surgery and other high-stakes, high-performance fields.
The principle behind success visualization is simple: in order to be able to do something we must first be able to see ourselves doing it. Our subconscious and conscious minds must both believe that we have the ability to succeed. As Henry Ford put it, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” This is why “winners” usually win, “losers” usually lose, and “lucky” and “unlucky” people usually have lifetime trends of good and bad luck that seems to fall out of normal statistical variation.
The Unconscious Self-Image
Our lives result largely from our unconscious self-image. Living deep inside us, the unconscious self image is our conception of ourselves and everything we are, including the size and shape of our body, our supposed strengths and weaknesses, abilities, personality, our state of health, and everything else we are today. Like blueprints for our life, the unconscious self image provides the template for our unconscious mind to execute to creation and maintenance of the self- including the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. This self-image lives mostly out of sight in our subconscious minds but its effects can be seen at every level of our existence.
A key to execution of any activity, the subconscious mind is the part of us that grows and maintains our bodies, executes musical performances, golf swings, and many other complicated activities. It is a tremendously powerful massively parallel supercomputer and if programmed correctly it can execute amazing things.
However, most of us have not consciously programmed our subconscious effectively for success. As we develop through life very few of us consciously decide to program our subconscious supercomputers. Instead we are self-programmed by default, accident and by others (such as family, teachers, peers, advertisers and governments) who often have agendas unrelated or even opposed to our success and happiness.
Many people want to improve themselves and take on various self improvement projects such as exercise, career advancement, relationship improvement, etc. However if we attempt to change our life from the outside in and neglect reprogramming of the unconscious self image we will likely fail at significant self change.
This is why overweight people struggle so much to lose weight, for example. No matter how much they struggle with diet and exercise, they fail to change our body shape because their unconscious self image of their size remains the same. Their supercomputer subconscious minds, acting on ingrained unconscious self image will find a way to maintain their size.
To effectively make a significant change in body shape or other change in the self we must reprogram the unconscious self image with visualization.
Reprogramming the Unconscious Self Image
At the time of this writing I believe that visualization is the best technique for reprogramming the unconscious self image. One of the most effective ways to communicate between the conscious and unconscious minds is through images (imagination). The unconscious thinks much more in images than in language, so therefore a visualization practice is the most effective way to make big changes in life.
While not consciously decided upon, many adults do engage in visualization without realizing they are doing it. However, they probably not engaging in success visualization. Usually it’s the opposite. Many of us regularly engage in failure visualization, imagining all the things that might go wrong in a future situation, with a project, performance, relationship, heath, etc. This is also called worrying, and it is a major contributing cause of pain and failure in life.
Compare this to the wonderful practice that children regularly engage in which I will call “daydreaming”. When I was young, I, like many kids liked to imagine all the things I might do in life, such as being an astronaut, making the winning shot in the playoffs, and all sorts of other great successes. When I was a little older and decided to become a musician, I would imagine sitting in a great orchestra playing great music. I think a main reason I am a successful principal trumpet player today is due to all the time I spent as a teenager seeing myself doing it successfully.
This “daydreaming” habit of children is in my opinion one of the main reasons for the astronomical rate of children’s learning in the first few years. Before the development and over-reliance of language and exposure to the negative belief systems of most of the adult world, kids are left to their own powers of imagination, and if presented with good models for visualization, they progress at a rate which if maintained through life would result in an entirely new level of humanity. If we can learn to recapture that process for our current goals we can expect a similar increase in learning and effectiveness. This is the great power of visualization.
How to Effectively Use Visualization
To effectively visualize there are a few principles to keep in mind:
The process should be done in a very relaxed state. Physical, mental and emotional relaxation are key to the process. Find a nice relaxed quiet place where you will not be disturbed and lie or sit down, get very comfortable, and take some time to take some slow deep breaths. Relax the body, empty the mind, and when super relaxed, ideally in a quasi-dream like state, you can begin begin.
Next begin to see yourself succeeding. Try to imagine the act of succeeding, the accompanying feelings, and enjoy yourself. The process is not one of mental force or strength, willpower or forcing images. Instead it’s similar to the worrying process but instead of imagining what bad things might happen, imagine about what good things might happen and what they will look and feel like. For example, if we have an audition to play, we might start daydreaming about what it would feel like to walk on on stage and feel totally awesome and play great and win.
The images may not come easily at first, or they may be unclear or blurry. Relax, don’t try to force the image, and continue to easily wonder what great success might look like. Over time, as you continue to practice the image will get sharper and stronger as the idea of success is more strongly written in your unconscious self-image.
The more robust the visualization is the more effective and powerful it will be. To see ourselves win from one mental camera angle is good, but seeing ourselves from several 3rd person camera angles and from the 1st person camera is a great force multiplier. Even better is to also hear the roar of the crowd, feel the thrill of victory, taste the fruit of victory, and smell the sweet smell of success. The more detail and clarity and richness of the images the better.
Another force multiplier for visualization is emotion. Emotion can serve as a very powerful reinforcement of learning. Try to feel the joy of success while visualizing for best results.
Normally we tend to use emotion in its negative forms much more effectively in reinforcing ideas than positive emotions. Traumatic emotional experiences very effectively can cause us to reinforce negative belief structures of feelings of inadequacy and failure. When we worry, the possible negative scenarios we imagine trigger negative emotions which make the power of the negative images much stronger.
We can use the same process to reinforce our positive visualizations by bringing forth and experiencing fully the positive emotions that will result from our successes. As we visualize we can feel the happiness and other positive emotions that come from that success and lock in the image much more strongly than with dispassionate visualization alone.
This is a Practice
We must make a practice of visualization to make it work. Don’t expect one visualization session to change everything. There is much work to do. We spend many years haphazardly self-programming negative ideas into our subconscious, and the process of de-programming and re-programming takes time and repetition. Visualization must be a regular practice to be effective.
However, it does not take as long as one might think to make big changes in life. The power of focused, well planned self programming is much more efficient and powerful than the unplanned, haphazard default programming style that gets us into trouble in the first place. 30 days of 30 minutes of success visualization will have a huge impact upon your life.
Do you have 15 hours available in the next month to change your success level in life dramatically for the better?
The principle of the unconscious self image and the process of success visualization is perhaps best described in the seminal success manual, Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. I suggest anyone interested in the subject pick up a copy of this awesome book.
I have prepared a guided visualization to get you started. Please find a comfortable resting place, put on headphones (the visualization contains binaural beats to facilitate the proper brain state), empty your mind and enjoy this very enjoyable 25 minute of success visualization. Thanks as always to Meditative Mind for their licensing of the background music for this visualization, which is tuned to the 3rd eye chakra for those interested in yoga science.
Let us all recapture our powers of imagination. In order to overcome the challenges of our own lives in a world of exponentially increasing complexity, as well as the big problems facing us collectively, we must first be able to see ourselves overcoming those challenges. We first must learn how to imagine the solutions working and be able to see ourselves employing those solutions successfully together. Then and only then will we be ready to bring those solutions and successes into the world.