This month, we’re talking about tools you can use to make healthy or positive changes in your life, especially changes you find hard to make. Yesterday we talked about changing your mind about change and creating a mindset that works for you, not against you. We also talked about ways that your mindset can make or break your progress on making healthy or positive changes.
Today, I want to tell you about a simple tool you can use to begin to create that kind of mindset – visualize the change you want to make and the results you want to achieve.
Visualizing sounds like it might be something weird, but actually it’s very normal. In fact, we visualize things all the time. The problem is, most of us are experts at visualizing negative outcomes, but complete novices at visualizing positive outcomes.
That’s certainly the case for me – I’m an expert at seeing, imagining, and picturing the absolute worst outcome in almost any situation. (“Oh, you have a bad headache? It must be a brain tumor.” “Oh, he’s late getting home. He must have been in a terrible accident!”) This runs in my family (my mother was a pro at this and my sisters are too!), but I think that many women tend toward visualizing the most negative outcome.
On the other hand, I’m terrible at visualizing the most positive thing that could happen. Even if I think that something positive is possible or even likely, I tend not to picture the best thing outcome or the thing I really want to happen. Again, that’s a protective mechanism, at least in part – a way of hedging my bets against disappointment if the thing I was visualizing doesn’t happen.
So I need to make a real effort to visualize what a change I’m making will look like when things go well. And maybe you do too.
Because the reality is that practicing visualization can help you do the things you really want to do. In other words, “Being able to do something in your head, greatly increase your chances of being able to do it in real life.” (Dr. Janice Vilhauer)
If you’re serious about making a lasting healthy or positive change(s) this year, here are three simple things you can do to get started:
1. Create a mental picture of the outcome you want to achieve. Visualization can focus on the outcome (what you want) or the process (how you get there), and you need to do both. But first, focus on the outcome. You want to do something new or different for a reason – you want something to change. You may be trying to lose weight, reduce the stress in your life, turn your hobby into a business, write a book, improve your marriage – or something else entirely.
But on the other side of making those changes, what do you really want? What does it look like? If your goal is to lose weight, is it just the number on the scale ? (Maybe.) Or is it something more? If you want to use a skill or hobby to start a business – why? What’s the outcome you really want?
I’ve mentioned before that I want to lose weight this year, but the number on the scale isn’t my real goal. What I really want is to feel stronger, slimmer, and more comfortable in my body. So that’s what I need to focus on and begin visualizing.
2. Connect your vision to emotions and feelings. Now that you’re visualizing the change you want to make, tap into your emotions and feelings. How will you feel when you’re making progress, doing the things you’ve set out to do this year? How will you feel when you’ve reached your goal?
Emotions and feeling are powerful, and they can help us connect more strongly with our goals. What you think about the change you’re making is important, but how you feel about it may be even more important. Generally you think first, then feel, then take action.
So take some time to envision what you’ll feel as you’re working on making changes and achieving your goals.
3. Envision the process. Every day, rehearse in your mind what you’re going to do to make the changes you want to make. Picture yourself doing those things. Envision how you’re going to do them and how you’ll overcome things that get in your way. This is especially important for changes that require you to do things differently from the way you’ve always done them – for example, a new way of eating, a different way of managing your time, or a new way of approaching relationships.
Whatever you want to achieve this year, begin thinking about it and imagining it this week. Use the thoughts and images in your mind to establish a positive mindset – in other words, to begin training your mind for the outcome you want to achieve.
Use the Tool – Starting today, spend 5 minutes every day this week visualizing the most important change you want to make Create a clear mental picture of that change, let yourself experience how it will make you feel, and rehearse the steps you’ll need to take to make it happen for you. Re-evaluate after a week, but don’t five up the habit. Instead, refine it and continue to visualize for a few minutes every day the outcome you want to achieve and the process you’ll use to get there.
I’d love to know what you visualized and how visualization works for you (it’s not always easy – I’m not good at it!). Leave a note in the Comments, or email me at hello @ healthylifetoolbox.com.
You can find all of the tools in the Healthy Life Toolbox here.