“To achieve great things in life you need to be motivated, not by others but by yourself” ~ William Kuek
My internship at Singapore was coming to an end, and I had planned to roller skate along the boundary of the entire country (approximately 110 kilometers) in a day before I left for India. This was going to be the first endurance activity of my life, and I did not know of anything that could prepare me for it in two days.
However, what I did had was an idea about the wonders of this powerful skill, called “visualization,” a technique about which I had read a couple of months ago. I finally decided to put it to the test.
For two consecutive mornings before the D-day, I imagined myself skating through the pavements of Singapore. I pictured what I would do after I had completed my journey, who all I would call to share this achievement with and how would my Facebook post would look like; but most importantly, how I would feel upon returning to my Clementi flat at 5 a.m.
As I began to skate, I pictured myself satisfied and proud, writing the Facebook post about my skating session, and responding to messages of amusement and doubt.
My thoughts powered me. They allowed me to look at the positives, including all the motivating messages on my local skate group, and further helped me ignore the negatives, like the difficulty in skating due to the wet streets from the morning rain which made my roller-skates slippery, and much harder to use.
They equipped me with a wider perspective for all the coincidences that were happening, like my friend accompanying me for a 25 kilometer stretch, whose route I was not sure about, and aided me to strive through the hardships, including being unable to eat because of the bad headache I was having from being awake all night.
Every time I felt like giving up, a surreal image of a satisfied me would glare in front of my eyes, averting my desire to book a cab and go home. After a while, the process became almost automated. Any moment that I was not spending looking at the maps or planning my next water-break, I was daydreaming about myself: satisfied and proud.
Ultimately, my fictional reality became my objective reality.
Visualization unlocked a superpower which I did not even know existed. It acted as my secret tool, allowing me to achieve something in reality, which I had already achieved in my mind—aiding me in going the extra mile (literally during my skating night) and forcing me not to give up.
“What” and “How” of Visualization.
Put simply, visualization is the process in which you picture yourself taking steps toward the completion of a task, or even accomplishing a certain task.
I like to include the things that I will be doing after completing my task, the food I will be eating, the people I will be calling, the emails I will be writing, and even small things like as ticking off my to-do list.
In addition to actions, feelings can be a game-changer. Emotions have the ability to drive human behavior. They can release hormones and potentially set our butts on fire. Moreover, if you picture your future with the emotions that, you are going to feel at that time, there is a higher chance of making that image stick in your sub-conscious for a much much longer period of time. Thus, visualizing the feeling of reaching the summit has been, and is essential for motivating me to keep on moving forward.
Faith is one of the simplest yet most powerful of emotions. Just plain simple affirmations or visualization without any emotion has no effect on your mind if you do not believe that it is possible. You first need to trust yourself before you can actually trust the technique.
Still, don’t believe me?
Napoleon Hill puts this concept brilliantly in his book Think and Grow Rich. According to him, “Thoughts which have been emotionalized (given feelings) and mixed with faith, begin immediately to translate themselves into their physical equivalent.”
Picture it, feel it and believe it like you have actually accomplished it. Believe in the impossible, before you create the impossible.
Even Robin Sharma believes that everything is created twice. First in mind, and then in reality.
Most of us indulge in visualization daily, many times, unknowingly. The examophobia we have is nothing but us visualizing the inability to answer a question. The fear of not being able to complete a Ph.D. is only because of visualizing that you are not capable enough. A greater portion of the fear of getting rejected is attributed to us picturing our possible public embarrassment.
Visualization can thus lead you to your doom or to your success depending on whether you feed your brain with anxiety, doubt, and envy, or with faith, love, and courage.
The Science Behind the Power of the Universe.
Reticular activating system (R.A.S.) is a set of nerves in our brain stem that dictates what information to pass to the brain and what to filter out. The good news (and the bad, as well) is that you have the ability to program this filter.
Mel Robbins explains this better than I ever can. According to her, if we think positively and feel good about ourselves, then we are training our brain to have a different filter. Now, this filter is a positive one and will allow you to take in all the positive signs around you.
She goes on to explain that our brain does not know the difference between the real things that actually happened to you, and the things that you imagine are happening to you: real stories and imagined stories. So, if you imagine yourself acing a job interview, or successfully proposing to the girl of your dreams, your chances of actually accomplishing it increase manifold.
Because now you feel more confident. You feel more secure. You feel more capable. You now are able to see all the opportunities, and all the coincidences, that were earlier hiding behind your insecurities. This ultimately puts you in a much better position to handle any challenges.
Does it actually work?
A major portion of my high school years was spent believing that I was not capable enough. Though I was above average in academics, and sometimes even the topper of the class, the thought of not being smart enough never left my mind.
Even though momentary episodes of happiness and felicitations, including praise from my class teacher/parents/relatives, awards during the annual day, a compliment from a girl I liked, numbed out these feelings, deep down I felt dumb and vacuous, feeling there were much better and deserving people than me. And that it had been only luck that had been favoring me for so long.
Only now I wonder whether these self-critical beliefs were holding me back from uncovering my actual potential. Had the thought of my inefficiency actually made me more inefficient in my work? Was thinking about how I would never be able to clear that entrance exam, actually pushed me farther away from clearing it? And was thinking that I was not good enough for the girl I liked, actually made me more unappealing to her?
Perhaps I will never truly know.
But what I do know now is that if you have the power to visualize negative outcomes which cause nervousness, anxiety, low confidence, shyness, and nausea, you must also be having the power to visualize positive outcomes and consequently build your confidence, awareness, optimism, compassion, and courage.
Coming back to the question, visualization works for me. But like any other self-improvement advice, this may or may not work for you.
A good hack would be to try making some tweaks as per your experience and preferences. Adjusting the practice until you find your perfect “spot.”
Try it for at least one minute each day for a month before giving up.
“If you want something with true desire, then the universe will make sure you get that” is a line from a famous Bollywood film, whose powerful message eluded me for a long time. This may sound a bit like pseudo-science to some, but if your mind vibrates with the same frequency as your desires, the universe, which is basically made up of energy will have no option but to bring the two together.
Like your body, your mind starts to behave depending on how you treat it. If you are always in doubt or fear, like I was before every important event, it is unlikely that you are going to live in the moment or even perform to your true potential. But if you have already lived the moment in your mind, have felt how it feels to be there, have already smelled success, have heard the audience cheering, and you truly believe in it (similar to how Sam believes in Frodo) it is almost certain that it is going to come true.
Picturing yourself completing the task, fools your brain into believing that you have already done it. This, in turn, makes you more confident, optimistic, and much more stable to actually accomplish the task at hand.
I have been a student of visualization, and now it has become a part of my morning routine. In fact, visualizing for the past two weeks about writing this post, and feeling satisfied and confident on sharing my story is what drove me to finish it.
Let me know how your journey with visualization goes.
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