Many people make the common mistake of building a fantasy in their mind of what they think they want. Uncommon people know what they want. For example, fantasy is fueled by unexamined desire stirred up by your ego. Visualization, on the other hand, is fueled by examined desire flowing from your witness, which is your highest self. You may fantasize about something you think you wish for, but it is not something you need, and it’s not aligned with your purpose. Oftentimes, it’s not possible or it’s plain outlandish. People fantasize about winning the lottery, going back in time and buying bitcoin at twenty cents, or reconnecting with an old boyfriend or girlfriend in the future. I’ve had those fantasies myself—they’re a waste of time. Now that you’re becoming more aware of your thoughts, you’ll be able to stop those when they start, and redirect. You don’t have time for that!
Visualization is the practice of imagining a newly defined “ideal future” that you deeply desire. It’s also a reimagining of your past in a way that is productive and beneficial to your present and future. It’s even a way to practice an emergent skill you’re developing or refining to a higher level – visualization will help you master that skill faster.
Imagine my ideal future? But I have no understanding of what I desire that to look like….
That was the case with me before the SEALs and with most audacious things I have leaned into. No worries, I understand!
You just need some imagery to seed your visualization. Back in the early days, my imagination was well trained through fantasizing of being anywhere else besides where I was. So, when I began to envision myself as a SEAL, imagery itself was not hard for me. But to imagine something radically new and different to achieve a specific future result was new to me. It is important to have some context and reference imagery to anchor your practice. This is much easier now with all the TV and other imagery about almost anything you want. Back in the 80’s, practically nothing public was available about the SEALs except for a simple recruiting video. It had imagery of real trainees doing cool things. I played it over twenty times to download the imagery into my brain. Then I inserted myself into that imagery to turn it into a practice visualization. I visualized myself going through this training every morning after my run. After several months of this practice, I felt myself gaining confidence. At around nine months of the practice, I had a shift in my consciousness and had a sudden “knowingness” that I would be a Navy SEAL, that it was my destiny. It did not, however, turn me into a sharpshooter or magically give me leadership skills. Those skills came from on-the-job training.
Some other self-help authors have recommended creating a vision board to represent your dream. That’s a good first step to help get clear on the imagery for your future goals. But it is not enough. You must relentlessly practice the future vision in your mind every day. Another helpful approach is to look at successful people doing what you want to do and imagine being just like them. This is why the right mentors can be so powerful, as this can happen through transference. I imagined myself being like Nakamura, and now I am. First you will want to write out your vision and read it before sitting down to visualize it. That helped me immensely. Eventually, the new memory of the desired future will solidify in your mind and draw you toward it like a magnet. That’s when I started adding finer details, using all the senses.
Daily visualization practice not only builds confidence, but it also strengthens other aspects of your mind. You’ll be able to hold your concentration longer. You’ll see your thoughts in action more clearly. You’ll become a better listener without even trying. Your ability to communicate honestly and compassionately will reach new heights. These skills provide even more courage to go after things you once thought unreasonable.
Visualization practice evolves as you evolve.
To achieve my current dream, I have had to step up my game once again and visualize the person I need to be for it to happen. I’m not just going to rest on my laurels as a former Navy SEAL, author, or whatever. Just like you’re doing now, I am reinventing myself once again, and that will happen over and over. We have to develop the muscle to reinvent ourselves constantly, and it is done with new self-talk, imagery, and feelings of the desired future to make it happen.
It’s exciting, knowing we can reinvent ourselves at will. What are you envisioning today, to reinvent your tomorrow?