When people in the personal growth movement talk about visualization, they often mean visualizing that you have effortlessly achieved your goal and are enjoying the end result, as inspired by the “law of attraction” concept. This is not what I mean by visualization.
For the sake of overcoming excuses, resistance, failures, and other challenges on your way, you need to visualize the process of overcoming them—not only the happy end result. Research shows that visualizing just the end result can actually be harmful, since it drains your motivation. Your brain cools down, thinking that it is all done, and therefore there is less energy available to make the effort needed.
Visualization as a tool of Mindful Self-Discipline is about rehearsing perseverance. You imagine yourself doing the action that you need to do, facing obstacles, then successfully overcoming them. You can use this visualization as a complement to Challenge Your Excuses, or as a technique on its own.
Here is the process:
- Preparation. Sit or lie down comfortably. Close your eyes. Get to a calm state of relaxation by using your favorite meditation technique.
- Obstacle. Visualize yourself working toward your goal or ideal, then facing obstacles on your path. Visualize them with as much detail as possible. Feel how it feels at that moment—the fear, excuses, or doubts that may come; the irritation or confusion; the distractions, failures, and discouragement.
- Willpower. See yourself pausing (P), becoming aware of the situation (A), and intentionally making an effort to shift your state (W). Visualize yourself remembering the tools that you have learned and using your willpower to apply them.
- Energy. Experience the heightened energy that comes as a result of tapping into your inner resources and overcoming the obstacle. Feel how empowering and enlivening this feels. Take it in.
- Result. Visualize yourself overcoming that obstacle and moving forward. Feel how good it feels.
For example, if success for you means a great relationship with your partner, you visualize the conflicts, the misunderstandings, or the fights that are likely to happen. You feel the frustration, the confusion. And then visualize yourself finding the tools, the clarity, and the energy to successfully work through them, coming out of the storm stronger and more united. This is very different from simply visualizing eternal honeymoon moments. This is practical and realistic.
Let the whole visualization be as vivid as you can, as if you were actually there. If you feel that are not good at visualizing, then just imagine it in whatever way works for you. The important thing is to make it feel real and to experience it first-hand, so that you are truly priming your brain to behave in a different way.