The book on which this post is based, Creative Visualization, features on this list of 35 Life Changing Self-Development Books to Read ASAP.
It’s the loathed interview question. ‘Where do you see yourself in five years?’
Unoriginal as it is when heard at interviews, this is actually a great question. Because what we can envisage for ourselves (tomorrow, next week, next month, next year) is instrumental in what actually transpires.
How you use your imagination, or direct your daydreams, holds the potential to create the conditions for goal-realization. Winning athletes know this well.
The proper name for it is creative visualization. And chances are, you are already doing it in a half-assed sort of way.
This post is a primer on how to creatively visualize to effect. Because the better you become at it, the faster you’ll start creating the life you want.
What to use it for
Here are some specific things you can use creative visualization for:
- To help you to achieve a desired outcome or result.
- Times when you need clarity about something.
- To alter your mental experience of past events, to release yourself emotionally.
- To get more benefit from workouts.
- To help you to manage perceived difficult situations – known as ‘mental rehearsal’.
- To help you to perform feats of athletic prowess.
- To test your feelings about something.
- To help you to get through a tired/sleep-deprived day.
- Anything you want to change.
Why does it work?
No one really knows, but there are theories based on research.
We know, for example, that the same neuro-pathways in the brain are activated when you vividly imagine experiencing something as when you actually do it.
Remember how you salivate when you are imagining your favorite food? There is a clear, tangible physical reaction there. That situation created by the brain means you are 100% more likely to take the ‘inspired action’ of going to get that food – correct?
Another theory is that the more you visualize, the more your subconscious mind believes that this is ‘really happening’. That causes changes at the level of self-image and belief.
Before you get cracking, know this:
Without belief/self-esteem, it probably isn’t going to be effective
If creative visualization isn’t ‘working’ for you, then you are missing one of these elements:
- Desire – a real want for a goal to be realized.
- Belief – you have got to see the possibility for the goal to be realized.
- Acceptance – the most commonly missing ingredient; feeling worthy enough to actually get the result!
Work on your self-esteem. It will pay dividends when it comes to this tool and in life in general.
When using creative visualization for long term goals and wants, the focus of your visualizations must be on the outcome, not the process.
This means holding onto your goals lightly and being willing to change them if something more appropriate and satisfying comes along.
This just means being a little flexible! Sometimes you are clear on what you want, but you lack all of the information about the specific manner it is going to come about.
Although the creative visualization process is one based on relaxation, physical action is required to successfully make good on your mental intentions. In other words, this process is active, not passive!
The key to taking action is to take only inspired action. So it’s neither hanging around waiting for the penny to drop or rushing around like a mad person doing everything you can possibly think of doing in the hope that something works.
We need to be calm and deliberate in the action we take. Calm and deliberate!
Detachment and gratitude
It is important to detach yourself from the outcome you intend to see. That’s because when we are attached, we remove our authentic power to create the life we choose.
Also, when things do start to line up, acknowledge the process! We all know now the significance of practicing gratitude.
But…how do I know WHAT to visualize
That’s the million dollar question.
Imagine you are James Cameron for a second. Do you think that Avatar would have been quite so inspired and awesome if he had been anything less than crystal clear about his vision?
Creative visualization only works when you have written the script. These exercises help you to know how you want the script to look, and are effective with or without actually visualizing.
This is a dynamic technique. When we write things down, it’s like giving your consciousness a double hit of energy.
- Take an affirmation you want to work with and write it out ten or twenty times in succession. Write it in the first, second and third person (e.g. I, Rezzan, am a successful writer. Rezzan, you are a successful writer. Rezzan is a successful writer).
- Think about the meaning of the words as you are writing them. Notice any doubts and resistance and when they happen, turn the paper over and write the negative thought – why the affirmation can’t be true.
- Then counter the negative fears and beliefs with affirmations. Write those out. Keep writing them out once or twice per day over the course of a few days, until you have undone negative programming.
Two words that used to send shivers through me, these days I can’t get enough. What I am saying is, there is fun on the other side of the dread.
Remember the last time you set clear unequivocal goals? How did that work out?
Goal-setting is a powerful practice. In doing it, we acknowledge that our fantasies can become realty and we get in touch with what’s important for us. Here’s an exercise you can do:
- Write down the categories of your life – personal growth, work/career, friends, beauty/physical self, relationships, money, creativity, travel, lifestyle, health, fitness, etc.
- Keeping in mind your present life situation, define how progress would look in each category.
- Now list the same categories and after each one, write a paragraph or two describing the ideal situation.
- Based on what you have written out, create a list of 10 or 12 most important goals for your life right now.
- Write down five year goals.
- Write them in the form of present tense affirmations (as if it is already happening).
Getting down to it – how to actually creatively visualize
The optimal time to perform creative visualization is just after waking and just before bedtime (it’s to do with your brain being on alpha wave).
You also need to be relaxed.
Imagine your ideal reality in the present moment. Bring your pictures to life as if watching a movie, concentrate your thoughts with laser-like precision and indulge all your senses. Really feel what it would feel like if you already had that which you have mentally chosen in the present physical moment.
Basically the more you can give yourself goosebumps, the more effective this process will be.
That’s it! You can get up and get on with your day.
Reconnect with your vision at short but regular intervals (for e.g. 17 seconds is enough).
There are many specific visualization techniques you can try. Here are a few:
- ‘Pink bubble’ technique – surround your fantasy in a pink bubble.
- Connecting with your higher wisdom – you create an inner sanctuary and a spirit guide. You ask the guide if there is anything she or he would like to tell you.
- Visualization exercise around money.
- Making right decisions visualization.
- Altered memory visualization. This technique is focused on changing past memories to have a more positive outcome. This is especially useful for resolving memories that involved anger or resentment.
Other visualization tips:
- Keep a notebook in which you regularly work on your goals, affirmations, ideal scenes, etc. That’s about broadening those parameters and honing down on what it is you want to create in life.
- When visualizing, experience yourself having achieved your goal through your own eyes, rather than watching yourself from the outside.
- The more sensory that you can make your visualization experience, the more potent the impression on the brain. Adding kinesthetic (what you feel with your goal accomplished) and auditory (what you hear with your goal accomplished) dimensions will enhance the process.
- You might want to focus on one specific result at a time.
- There are no time rules. According to authors Esther and Jerry Hicks, you only need to visualize for 17 seconds.
- Make use of vision boards to connect you with your goals.
- Regularly read inspiring books that help to keep you in touch with your highest ideals and aspirations.
- Have a friend or (ideally) a community of friends who are also tuned into learning to live more consciously.
Creative visualization checklist
So to reacap:
- Do it in a relaxed state. Do it before bed or when you wake to guarantee you are in alpha waves.
- Visualize yourself experiencing your outcome.
- Add in as much detail as possible, including emotions.
- Reconnect with your vision a couple of times a day or just whenever you can (can be short).
- Know what you want, and have belief and willingness to receive it.
- Remember not to be too attached to specific outcomes.
- Acknowledge results when they happen! Gratitude is a giant energy loop. Keep it flowing to keep receiving.
Creative visualization isn’t really just a technique – it’s a permanent approach we can take to life!
It’s about deeply realizing we are the continuous creators of our reality – and taking responsibility for that, in every moment.
And that’s an awesome way to live.
Recommended reading and courses
Creative Visualization: Use the Power of Your Imagination to Create What You Want in Your Life, by Shakti Gawain. This is compulsory reading if you want to master creative visualization. Much of the information in this post was taken directly from here.
Mindvalley’s creative visualization course is a collection of 12 guided meditation audios delivered by Lisa Nichols, based on elements from Shakti Gawain’s book and Silva Method. Again, a must if you want to master this process.
So where do you see yourself in five years? Get in touch!