"A man is but a product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes." - Mahatma Gandhi
When you get up in the morning, what's the first thing you think about? What about the last thing before you fall asleep? Are you focusing on what needs to be done, worrying about the future, or dwelling on something in the past?
Your thoughts are directly connected to what happens to you in life, whether you are conscious of it or not. When you're thinking positively, you act in the same way - you smile more, you let little annoyances go, you're excited to get things done, and people respond to your attitude with positivity and a willingness to help or create with you. When you're thinking negatively, you act in the same way - you engage in arguments, feel sluggish, let annoyances ruin your day, and push people away.
The human mind is capable of amazing things, and much like the body, it needs to be conditioned to function at its highest level or it can fall victim to a sedentary and unproductive routine of thoughts. You've probably noticed it in the people around you - The person who continually dwells on their ailments and illnesses seems to always be sick, and the person who always complains about being broke keeps having financial setbacks. Likewise, the determined and plan-oriented person seems to keep achieving milestones, and the positive and grateful person is always in a good mood. What if you could train your mind to approach every situation from a positive place and to focus on achieving your highest ambitions and dreams? There is good news - you can.
Creative visualization has been defined as "a type of mindfulness exercise that can be used to promote success in every area of life." It's the mental exercise of imagining any scenario in life going exactly the way you want it to, including the physical and emotional sensations. This practice has been performed for centuries, and research backs up its success. Your subconscious mind accepts these pointed thoughts as truth, and this shapes your long-term mindset. Once honed you are equipped with a new mental capacity to focus, solve problems, find workarounds, prioritize tasks, and deliberately disregard negativity. Here are some steps to get you started:
- Begin With a Positive Goal - Have a specific thought to focus on. This can be anything you desire in life - a promotion at work, improving a relationship with a loved one, being given a clean bill of health, finding your soulmate, a new home, a trip, etc.
- Time of Practice - It's best to practice in the morning before your day begins, or at night before you go to sleep. Morning practice helps to get you in a productive mindset, and bedtime routines help to put your subconscious to work while you sleep.
- Relax - Sit in the most comfortable chair you own, and make sure you're not too hot or cold. Close your eyes and take three or four slow, deep breaths, holding the breath for a few seconds each time before exhaling. Focus on relaxing every muscle in your body, starting with the top of your head, followed by your eyes, cheeks, jaw, and neck. Now relax your shoulders, chest, stomach, and bottom, moving down through your thighs, calves, feet, and toes.
- Visualize the Goal - Begin to focus on your goal. Begin crafting a detailed image of the thing you want. Specificity is key; visualize every element of the completed goal to create a tangible scenario in your mind that seems so real, it could be mistaken for a memory of an actual event.
Let's say you want to take a trip to Hawaii. Imagine laying on the beach, feeling the sand, the warm sun, hearing the waves crash. Imagine hiking through the jungles, smelling vegetation, the spray of the waterfalls, or experiencing the awe of soaring over the jagged cliffs in a helicopter. Make it feel as real as you can.
When you dedicate time to thoughts about your life goals, two things happen:
First, your goals become your focus, and you find yourself discovering new paths forward.
Second, your subconscious mind (another great topic of research) begins to program itself around your visualizations, which changes your behavior patterns and helps to move the trivial and negative things in your life into the background, while you focus on what you want.
This can literally change the way you see the world, and you will find yourself being a happier, more driven, and success-oriented person.