Practicing Your Future
How you can use visualization to see the future.
Visualizing can be stronger than words.
Visualization creates a compelling, holistic image, and taps into deeper parts of the brain — the parts that deal with deeply meaningful gut-level stuff. Visualization can make change easier.
It’s the tool of the pros.
Athletes and other performers use visualization to imagine — in detail — the point at which they’ll inevitably get stuck or have trouble.
Then, they imagine how they’ll work through those challenges. They practice problem solving in the brain before they even move a muscle.
Their brain makes it “real” first. In turn, those thoughts have real biological effects in the body and future behavior.
On game day, visualization has prepared the pro on how to best deal with all predictable outcomes.
Practicing visualization: Dinner with relatives.
The Griswolds in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Start by imagining a vivid “film” of dinner with your extended family.
It’s a holiday. Everyone’s there. Mom, Dad, Grandpappy, Nonna or Bubbie, Great-Aunt Mabel, little Jim-Bob, Bubbles the dog…
Whoever it is for you, put them around the table. You can smell the food and feel the lace doilies and plastic slipcovers on the furniture.
Now, while these folks mean well, they do get on your case about your eating habits, or pressure you to eat more.
Someone is going to bust your hump about why you aren’t married, why you have to dress like a dang hippie, or how you’re raising your kids all wrong.
And there’s bound to be a lot of temptations — perhaps “red-light foods” or foods that upset your stomach, or booze that ensures you make poor choices after a couple of drinks.
You’re anxious. It’s go time.
Before that scenario happens, use visualization to prepare.
- Create a rich picture first. Imagine the situation clearly.
- Imagine the challenges that will pop up. Make them as real as possible.
- Imagine yourself overcoming the challenges and handling them confidently and capably. Imagine using the skills of problem solving and resilience you already have.
- Imagine the calm, unfrazzled words you’ll use in response to unwanted offerings. You are unflappable.
- Imagine yourself finishing the evening feeling great — you made good choices and stayed true to your goals and values. You feel satisfied — not wasted, bloated, or resentful.
Next time you hit that holiday gathering, you’ll have fully rehearsed your problem solving several times, and be ready for the challenge.
The best part about visualization? You always carry it with you. It works anywhere.
Practice your game.
Today, think of a scenario that challenges you. Maybe that’s:
- working out when you’re tired
- doing a lift that’s tough or scary
- coming home hungry and late from work
Imagine your scenario clearly beforehand.
Then imagine working through it creatively and productively.
Imagine the whole thing in detail from beginning to successful end. “Practice” it as many times as you like. Tweak and adjust the “film” as you need to.
You can even associate “triggers” with the scenario, such as “stay on track”. When you say “stay on track” to yourself, it’ll immediately conjure up your successful imagery.
Visualization isn’t a guarantee.
No one can ever prepare for anything perfectly.
That’s why the goal isn’t to be perfect. The goal is to be better, and, like all skills, visualization improves with practice.
- Imagine yourself being resilient, capable, and creative,
- Imagine specific solutions to problems that predictably pop up in particular situations.
You’ll still need both skill and luck to get to your goals. With consistent practice in visualization, you may notice your chances of good luck dramatically improving.