By Dr. Paula Fellingham
My friends, I believe that living your best life starts with a picture held in your imagination of what you would like to do or be.
If you have a poor self image in any area of your life because of past negative experiences, there’s good news! You can improve your self image by creating new, positive experiences to replace the old ones. That’s right!
Positive Experiences Can Be Simulated;
They Can be Created “Artificially” in Our Minds!
You see, the very nature of the human brain and nervous system allows you to literally create experiences in your mind. Experimental and clinical psychologists have proven:
- The nervous system cannot tell the difference between an ACTUAL experience and an experience IMAGINED IN GREAT DETAIL.
- Your nervous system reacts obediently to what you think or imagine to be true – whether it’s actually true or not. In other words, people always feel, act and behave according to what they imagine to be true about themselves and their circumstances.
Experiments done years ago proved these statements to be true. In one experiment there were 3 groups of free-throw-shooting basketball players.
The first group never practiced (they were scored, like each group, on the first and last days). The second group practiced throwing free throws every day for 20 days – 20 minutes a day
The third group never touched a ball. Instead, they spent 20 minutes each day for 20 days just IMAGINING they were sinking free throws. They imagined it in great detail. The result? The first group didn’t improve at all. The second group improved 24%. The third group – the boys who just imagined the ball going through the hoop – improved 23%!
Every Accomplishment is First Created in our Imagination
- Gymnastics champion Mary Lou Retton has described how she rehearsed every routine in her mind, visualizing every step, every leap and turn, every hand placement before putting her body through actual performance.
- Juliet McComas, concert pianist, said, “If I visualize the keyboard, I can practice in an airport or at my kitchen table. It’s just as useful as actual practice.”
- Arnold Schwarzenegger said, “As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can. I visualized myself being there already – having achieved the goal already.”
Form a Picture and “See Yourself” Succeed
Four ways to do this:
- Each day take 5 minutes and relax – close your eyes. Create a mental motion picture of yourself as you would like to be. Imagine, in great detail, your “best self:” Imagine your face radiant and smiling; your body at its optimum shape and fitness level; your clothes well-fitting and nice. Imagine (in great detail) doing something extremely well that you enjoy doing…
Dr. Maxwell Maltz wrote, “Imagine how you would feel if you were already the sort of personality you want to be.
- As you go through your day, when life becomes overwhelming and you need a mental break – take a “mini vacation in your mind.” This is easily done with practice. You simply create in your mind a wonderful place where you’re very happy. For some this is an exquisitely-decorated palace – for others it’s a walk along a warm, clean, sandy beach with someone they love. For still others it’s a beautiful room with a large, comfortable bed…and a big window looking out onto a pond and flower garden.
Wherever you go in your mind, that place needs to be seen in great detail. Touch the palace walls, smell the ocean, feel the soft pillow on the bed. Are you with me here? Can you visualize?
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale: “Fill your mind with all peaceful experiences possible, then make planned and deliberate excursions to them in memory.”
- A third way you can use this marvelous tool of visualization is to release yourself from damaging beliefs from the past or to heal yourself from past pain.
Everyone who has experienced emotional pain and heartache knows that it is very real and extraordinarily difficult to forget. Although you can’t erase the past, you can help yourself heal with visualization. Here’s how: When a painful memory forces itself into your mind, label it with “That hurt” (because it did) and then replace it with a thought about how the person SHOULD HAVE ACTED. Instead of letting your mind re-play the experience as it was, imagine what how it should have been.
- A fourth way you can use visualization is to imagine yourself into the future, performing successfully: giving a presentation; achieving a goal; being patient kind/forgiving, etc.
Again, you create mental pictures in your mind – in great detail. You imagine every part of the experience. Like this: I think to myself,
“I’m going to give this presentation to my department in 24 hours. I’ve prepared well; I know the material. I will imagine what it will be like. I’m going to get up tomorrow morning with a positive, upbeat attitude and look forward to the presentation. I’ll put on my navy blue suit, my hair will look great and I’ll feel really good about my appearance. I can see myself right now…yeah, I look good! After a healthful breakfast, I’ll go through the presentation highlights out loud, so it will be on the tip of my tongue. Then I’ll take my briefcase and drive to work calmly because I’ve left plenty of time to get there. As soon as I get to work I’ll email the department and remind them of the meeting. I’ll answer my mail and pick up my presentation hand-outs. On the way to the meeting I’ll get a drink of water, and then confidently open the door of the board room. Inside I see my colleagues looking at me with admiration and respect. I go to the front of the room and lay out my materials. I stand in front of the group confidently – with my shoulders back and smiling…anxious to begin. As I present I am articulate and witty. I remember to speak slowly enough to be understood, and I patiently answer every question. My co-workers are interested in my information and enjoy the meeting. Afterwards I thank them for their interest and participation and I graciously accept their compliments.”
Do you see how it works?
Now what if the unexpected happens – a flat tire, the computers are down, or a co-worker is sarcastic during your presentation? You’ll be gracious and calm no matter what happens because you understand that neither other people nor your circumstances can determine your reactions.
Dr. Harry Fosdick said, “Hold a picture of yourself long and steadily enough in your mind’s eye and you will be drawn toward it. Picture yourself vividly as defeated and that alone will make victory impossible. Picture yourself vividly as winning and that alone will contribute immeasurably to success.”
If you imagine positive scenes, over and over in your mind, your confidence level will increase, your performance will improve, and you will be able to act AS IF you already are the person you want to become.
My friends, please know ~ in the deepest recesses of your soul ~ that you can overcome every obstacle in your life ~ hurdle every barrier ~ and become your ideal self. I believe in you.