Imagery is powerful. Consciously exercising the direction of your imagery is a hallmark of mastery—in sports, business, or frankly any aspect of your life. Mental pictures, combined with rich emotional texture, have proven to be highly effective tools for enhancing perception and performance, whether on the track, in the boardroom, in relationships, or simply your general well-being.
We are always imaging to ourselves. Research has shown that we talk to ourselves on an average of 300 to a thousand words per minute. It has also shown that for the typical adult over 75% of that self-talk is negative. We are also always going towards something. Our very nature is goal-seeking and directional. We are constantly being pulled toward whatever we focus on, whether we like it or not.
Controlling that inner dialogue (and the automatic vectors it creates) to produce more positive experiences, more consistently, is the purpose of image management.
Numerous techniques are available for assisting directed focus, and they all essentially do the same thing: hold your mind steady on a specific picture instead of something else. Different formats may be more or less comfortable for you to use in certain situations about certain things. “A comfortable living environment that supports my work, health, and creativity” may seem more appropriate as an ideal scene than a goal. “Launch the new marketing program” might be more of an objective for you than an intention. But they all perform the same function of re-grooving your neural patterns.
Consistent engagement with the desired pictures is a big key. One affirmation of being at your perfect weight may not perceptibly alter your self-image. Repetition, especially when coupled with dynamic emotional content, seems to be critical if you want to effect a change in your internal set points.
It’s challenging to be consistent with a focus on still unfamiliar images and experiences, however. Often we get inspirations in flash moments or while we are in a particularly good mood, and those don’t last. So, to be really clever, when you are feeling particularly intelligent and inspired, grab that idea, picture, or intention—express it and park it somewhere that you’ll revisit almost in spite of yourself. One of the great challenges of life is that when we most need our own inspirations, we don’t feel like it! When we’re down, happy thoughts can be irritating! But if you’re smart enough to realize that, you will build in your own triggers for bootstrapping yourself back toward where you really want to go.
When I’ve been diligent enough to keep track of my visions, my goals, my affirmations, and my hunches, and clever enough to revisit them later on, it has provided a powerful motivation to do more of that kind of structured thinking about what I want. Invariably what I envisioned, though somewhat of a fantasy at the time, came to pass, and often in quite extraordinary ways. What a great reminder—to keep stretching into unknown territory, and to be willing to see myself having, doing, and being things, without the foggiest notion about how to get there.
And, because of how our brains work, if you don’t see yourself doing it, you’ll never see how to do it. So take the plunge—imagine your future before you know the path to get there.
If you want a way cool way to create more of what you want through your imagery, check out the Intention Journal we built in to GTD Connect.®
This essay appeared in David Allen’s Productive Living Newsletter. Subscribe for free here.